Oversexed, underlovedFATHER RAYMOND J. DE SOUZA
To great popular culture fanfare, the Sex and the City movie opens tomorrow. I don't expect that I shall see it, so I thought I might offer a comment beforehand.
Indeed, I rather missed the entire television series, but for a rather extraordinary confluence of events.
Some years ago, I was asked by my friends at Maclean's to arrange for the participation of Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec City, for their big 100th anniversary bash in Toronto. The program featured leading Canadians from industry, literature, science, show business, politics, etc., all giving various summaries of the decades of Maclean's history. The cardinal was to arrive late from the airport, so he was assigned the last decade. Which was just as well, as the 1960s were introduced by Canadian actress Kim Cattrall, of Sex and the City fame, but of whom I was only vaguely aware. She did her bit in character, and had I known her character, I would not have wondered why a woman would present herself in public as more than a little bit trampy. At any rate, I was relieved that I did not have to explain to Cardinal Ouellet why I had asked him to be part of such a production, and nothing was said when he finally did arrive.
My interest was piqued and over the intervening years, thanks to the world of endless reruns in syndication, I have seen about a dozen episodes, including the pilot. I don't know if they were representative of the six-year run of the show, but I was intrigued. Intrigued not because I am terribly interested in Manhattan night life or high fashion, but by the popularity of a self-consciously libertine show that was an unwitting but searing indictment of the sexual revolution.
The premise of the show is that four affluent, professionally successful, attractive New York women are wholly independent. They do not need men, and so can treat them on their own libidinous terms. In the pilot episode, the lead character, Carrie Bradshaw, goes for a mid-afternoon liaison purely for the sex, no interest in anything else. To the famous question posed by the more decorous Henry Higgins -- Why can't a woman be more like a man? -- Carrie and her friends answer that she certainly can be, at least like the caricature of the man who seeks the unholy goal of sex without commitment, without relationships, and, just possibly, without names.
All of which is hardly remarkable from libertine Hollywood, celebrating as it does the sexual revolution and its decoupling of sex from any intrinsically deeper purpose. Yet the show is more preachy than most actual preachers about the utter emptiness of it all. The women are manifestly unhappy. The heart of the show is not the series of conquests, promiscuously and enthusiastically accomplished, but the four gals having coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert -- a lot of eating for preternaturally thin women! -- and talking, assailing, whining, crying, bitching, about the men who love them, the men who don't, the men who cling, the men who flee, the men who are beastly, the men who are gallant, and above all, that highly desired man who will finally make them happy.
These are women who are assertive and confident, but are constantly fretting about men. These are women who have more sex than your stereotypical frat house, but are achingly searching for love. These are women with money and professional success, but who find their lives incomplete. These are terribly insecure women. They are fragile. These are not women little girls want to grow up to be. And that's not me talking, but Hollywood.
"They say nothing lasts forever, dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style," purrs Carrie in the movie trailer.
Actually, friendships mature as people do. But the Sex and the City girls are stuck in perpetual adolescence, still talking about the cutest boy in class, and wondering if he has noticed them, and not yet having figured out that the trampy girls get attention, but little respect.
The friendships celebrated in Sex and the City are the worst of the adolescent kind, suitable for a life lived not in accord with love and responsibility, but as a series of fleetingly superficial experiences. The lasting accomplishment of the sexual revolution was to remake society according the desires of corrupted adolescent males, with plenty of pornography, easy women and disposable responsibilities, facilitated by contraception and abortion, cohabitation and divorce.
Sex and the City told the story of women who adapted themselves to this world, but found no happiness there. That's a big admission from Hollywood. The movie is apparently about marriage and motherhood, a rather more ancient and wiser path in the pursuit of happiness.
Father Raymond J. de Souza, " Oversexed, underloved." National Post, (Canada) May 29, 2008.
Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.
Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.
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