Editor’s Note: Following our previous post about books in TV shows, here is a post about a TV show that once was a book, Sex and the City. Our author responds to Emily Nussbaum and her contention in the New Yorker that the show has not gotten its due, especially side-by-side with other shows like The Sopranos. As our author makes clear, “I like Nussbaum. I like Sex and the City. I am a man,” we shall also make clear that his views do not necessarily reflect those of everyone at Fiction Advocate (especially in my case, since I have not seen more than a few episodes of either show) though we all agree that they are worth reading. – MM
With the sudden death of James Gandolfini and the return of Breaking Bad for its final season this week, the internet is replete with nostalgia for the golden age of television, pre-obituaries for our era’s amazing serialized dramas and their signature anti-heroes: Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Jimmy McNulty, Walter White. Writing in the New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum nominates an addition to the list: Carrie Bradshaw.
In her defensive paean to the show that brought zipless fucks into the twenty-first century, Emily Nussbaum argues that both Carrie and her vehicle, Sex and the City, haven’t gotten a fair shake. But the aim of her essay—a pushback against “the reflexive consensus on the show,” that it is merely a “guilty pleasure” inspiring “self-flagellating conversations”—is much broader than the resuscitation of a lone, storied series. It is peppered with implications, never quite made explicit, about the rampant sexism of television criticism and American culture generally. It’s there in Nussbaum’s complaint that any show will be considered inferior if it’s “stylized (or formulaic, or pleasurable, or funny, or feminine, or explicit about sex rather than about violence, or made collaboratively)” and in her lament that new shows with female protagonists must be distanced from Sex and the City rather than compared to it. (And yet, reading this, one wonders how many Hollywood pitch meetings have begun, “It’s Sex and the City meets…”?)
But because she is so reluctant to make this argument explicit, what she says is so narrow as to be absurd: that Sex and the City was just as good a show as The Sopranos. That SATC’s reputation is unfair and unwarranted and sexist and would be as good as its HBO brother if only so many critics weren’t men. Continue reading