Zahra reflects on the implications of selling sex on TV.
Someone asked me the other day which one I am out of ‘Sex & The City’ and I said, “I think I’m The Sex.”
It turns out they meant the HBO show that ran from 1998 – 2002 and starred Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall and, the other two. The sheer memory of this show existing made me immediately run home, so excited to binge watch the entire series and the two films.
As I watched the very first episode of the very first series of ‘Sex And The City’, I felt such a surge of nostalgia for my 13 year old self and such a spark of gratitude, that now, as a 33 year old woman, I could finally, fully identify with all the sexual encounters and escapades. Well, the sexual experiences of Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte. Not Samantha, I mean I’m not a pervert. (Well, apart from that one time).
I must admit, I was worried about re-watching. I had slight trepidation that, like the ‘Gen X’ers’ watching ‘Friends’ on Netflix for the first time, it would be revealed that ‘Sex And The City’ also hasn’t aged in the most ‘woke’ way.
Surprisingly, everything about the very first episode of ‘Sex and The City’ seemed very current to what is happening in women’s lives’ now, in 2019, despite the episode airing over twenty years ago. Had it not been for the excessive use of landlines and the absence of Tinder, it could have been mistaken that the episode was made post #metoo. It references toxic masculinity. It’s 1998! Most people those days thought that toxic masculinity was a lyric in a Britney song. The very first episode left me marveling at how incredibly ahead of its’ time it was.
I was surprised because my last memory of ‘Sex And The City’ was the two abysmal franchised films, which as a feminist I found to be an utter embarrassment to my gender. Particularly the second film which makes ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and ‘Bride Wars’ feel like a Margaret Atwood adaptation.
From my binge session of the entire collection, consecutively from season one to the second film, what dawned on me was that the initial seemingly innovative and revolutionary production values evident in the first episode, do not escalate but deteriorate. The first season of ‘Sex And The City’ starts off strong, punchy, ahead of its’ time; empowering, only to dwindle into quite literally a cliche Cinderella story. By the time you come to the films -it’s just pink cocktails, Weddings and expensive shoes.
So what happened? How come the show digressed instead of progressed? Like everything in life the world is controlled by two things: Sex and Money. If you ask me the show dwindled because it became less about the sex and more about the money. Both on screen, the show became an unapologetic display of austerity and privilege-I mean, would it hurt to show Carrie getting the odd pair of shoes from ShoeZone once in a while, and off-screen-the budget for each film was 65 million dollars. This is roughly about five pairs of Manola Blahniks.
Want to find out how much of how much of a Sex and The City fan you really are?
Is a Manolo Blahnik
A) Mr. Big’s real name
B) a type of wood that Aidan used in his furniture store
C) what Samantha yelled when she climaxed whilst having sex with a Swedish masseuse
D) a shoe
E) all of the above
Money has often ruined a TV show. Just look at Keeping Up With The Kardashians. I used to enjoy it in the days of Season 1 when it was all about Kim’s Sex Tape and back when Kylie had her regular, old, thin lips. Those were the episodes that were all about family values and Kris Jenner pretending that she didn’t know her husband was trying on her clothes when she wasn’t looking. So wholesome. Then, what happened? They got too much money. Now you stick on an episode and it’s all private jets and Kendall modelling during Paris Fashion Week, only to get upstaged by Kim being held at gunpoint, whilst being robbed of her diamonds. It’s jarring. It’s unrelateable.
And don’t even get me started on Rob’s descent – bipolar / depression/ feud with Baby Momma/ sock business. Season 1 he was blissfully in love with that girl who looked like a poor man’s Jennifer Lopez. Season 10 he’s crying over his volatile split from Blac Chyna, a poor man’s Snooki. Money has made his life (and the show) worse.
Too much Money ruined The Kardashians and it ruined Sex And The City. The ‘jumping the shark’ moment for The Kardashians was probably Kim marrying Kanye in the Palace des Versailles – ugh, puhlease. For Sex and The City, it was, well, two words: Alexandr Petrovsky- who I guess I should be grateful to for helping me drop a dress size circa 2004 because every time he came on screen I threw up in my mouth a little bit.
Even Big Brother got crap when they had more budget to spend on the sets. The more it started to look like a futuristic Ikea showroom and less like a rehabilitation centre for young offenders I knew I was ‘out’.
This whole money ruining perfectly good things that are going well, got me thinking, Feminism is really good at the moment. We’re in the realms of fourth wave and rapidly approaching fifth wave, (I don’t know what this means, but what woman doesn’t love a wave?). Feminism is so advanced these days, new glossary of terms are being made up all the time. A particular favourite is Jamela Jamil coining the term ‘double agent to the Patriarchy’. This is in reference to women like the Kardashians, who do little for the Feminist cause because they push the patriarchal narrative that a woman’s value is only in her looks, with things like weight loss teas and lip-fillers. They are ‘double agents to the patriarchy’ because we (women) trust them because they are one of us, but they are actually supporting the Patriarchy.
I use ‘double agent to the patriarchy’ as a sophisticated insult to anyone who asks why I am not married or have any children. Last time I did this was at a family barbecue to my 8 year old cousin. He was totally flummoxed.
Feminism is doing so well, not only do we have new fun words being made up everyday but I can actually see the fear in men. Men are so scared they are going to get #metoo ‘ed, they are literally tiptoeing around us, like they’re walking on broken glass, (from all the ceilings we are smashing). We’ve never had Feminism so good. Which is why I’m really worried that Feminism will go the same way as Sex And The City. What I’m saying is I really hope Feminism doesn’t get a movie deal.
Fortunately with the demise of Weinstein this doesn’t look likely. Phew.
NB I’d like to wish my sincerest apologies for the delay to this piece. I was knee deep in Kristin Davis’ Instagram account for quite some time and when I made the decision to finally leave I had lost all sense of direction and purpose. Fortunately after much scraping, scrabbling and indeed scrolling it was the light from Kristin’s oh so effervescent smile that led me out of the darkness and back out into the real world. Thank you, Kristin for bringing me in but also setting me free and making me believe for a brief moment that I can fly. You are to me what R Kelly is to 16 year old girls.
Pre-order · Daughters of the Nile
A bold multi-generational debut from Zahra Barri, exploring themes of queerness, revolution and Islamic sisterhood.
Available in paperback or ebook.Order now