Style / Substance / Sex / City


sexcity300There have been countless articles recently bemoaning the lack of female characters in the summer movie slate. Even A-listers like Gwyneth and Cameron are slumming it in movies barely tailored to their star-power. It’s enough to make a grown-girl moviegoer cry.

That’s why just about every person of the female persuasion that I know has already (yes, already) bought tickets to see Sex and the City, which premieres May 30. Desperation? Perhaps, but the show was sui generis, the first of its kind to take female sexuality front and center, and to make it funny. Cashmere Mafia and Lipstick Jungle have tried their best to fill the gap left by Sex and the City’s TV demise, but Cashmere’s been pulled and Lipstick’s ratings suggest that the girls have gone elsewhere.

At a Lear Center panel about fashion and TV, Sex and the City scribe Michael Patrick King told us about the challenges of writing a show in which fashion itself served as a kind of character, alongside four appealing leading ladies. The writing staff of SATC had a certain amount of control over the scripts, but so did Pat Field, the show’s costume designer, who would transform the meanings of scenes by incorporating sly and outrageous fashion statements.

And here, I think we have one of the reasons for the great anticipation for the SATC movie: the TV show didn’t treat fashion as window-dressing. It wasn’t just a marketing ploy to move more Manolo Blahniks. SATC did more than offer depictions of women’s fashion fantasies – it validated the connection that many women feel between style and substance.

Perhaps this is a nasty hold-over from America’s Puritanical roots, but an interest in fashion is still considered to be shallow – a sure sign of superficiality. While Project Runway has helped to change this preconception a bit, Tim Gunn and company owe a debt to SATC for dramatizing the deep connection between personal identity and clothing. Yes, SATC was a comedy, but it grew more introspective over the years, and its commitment to depicting fashion as a full-fledged cultural and psychological force never waned. The show treated fashion in a way that resonated with women who recognize fashion as a powerful communication device, capable of broadcasting your passions and predilections, and, yes, your sexuality.

So will SJP and her posse kick some bootie at the box office? No doubt it will be the perfect antidote to Indy and all that drab khaki, and, with Project Runway between seasons, and a steady diet of Hillary Clinton pantsuits in the news media, my guess is that fashionable women are starving for some fabulousness. And unlike all the best picture nominees from last year (except the exceptional Juno) we can be pretty sure no one’s going to die.

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