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Discussing the scene on NBC’s Today show last week, Michael Patrick King, who directed and wrote both the film and the TV series, noted with pride, “That’s as dirty as you can get and still be clean.”
The real dirty little secret of SATC is that the little girls understand. “Sex and the City changed everything for me, because those girls would just sleep with so many people.” Lindsay Lohan told a reporter in 2006. The Parent Trap star was only 11 years old when the show premiered.
The show inspired Lohan to create a sexual double standard for herself: She would have sex with whomever she chose, but would draw the line at sharing her male companions. “If I’m going to give my body to someone, I’d rather them not be with other people,” she explained. “But I want to be able to if I like someone else.”
That’s not exactly the freedom Betty Friedan envisioned when she called upon women to escape the “comfortable concentration camp” of marriage and family.
But it is precisely the lifestyle SATC producer Darren Star, who is, like King, an out-and-proud gay man, sought to promote in creating the show. As he told Entertainment Weekly, “I really wanted to do a show that objectified men.”
WHILE CHARLIE’S ANGELS gave me an unattainable ideal of beauty that, had I been more vulnerable, could have caused emotional problems, I believe SATC poses a far more insidious danger to young fans.
To understand the difference, realize that SATC is a fairy tale, and children are naturally drawn to fairy tales. More than that, as Carrie says in the film, it is a fairy tale with “a twist.”
SATC’s fantasy quality comes from its cultivation of the most essential aspect of fairy tales — what G.K. Chesterton called “elementary wonder.” For New Yorkers especially, it’s the wonder at how Carrie could afford her Upper East Side apartment and designer wardrobe on a freelance writer’s salary.
But the fairy tale fractures when it breaks what Chesterton called the “second great principleof the fairy philosophy … the Doctrine of Conditional Joy.” He explained that “The note of the fairy utterance always is, ‘You may live in a palace of gold and sapphire,if you do not say the word “cow”’ … All the wild and whirling things that are let loose depend upon one thing that is forbidden.”
Sex and the City turns the Doctrine of Conditional Joy on its head. Instead of saying, “All this can be yours, if you do not do X,” it says, “All this can be yours if you do X.” All the pleasures of the SATC gals’ lifestyle depend upon that X-factor, literally — they must have sex, or they will lose all hope of happiness. Sex first, love afterwards. Good sex may not lead to love, but sex is a door through which all must pass in order to receive the love that lasts.
That is the message that “changed everything” for Lohan. And that is the message young girls are absorbing as I write, as older siblings and friends sneak them into this R-rated film.
It’s also the message children receive from grown-ups who act immature — and SATC inspires random acts of Teh Stupid like The Rocky Horror Picture Show times infinity.
National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez, who admires SATC’s “honesty,” was shocked when women stumbling out of an after-midnight showing of the film cussed out the theatergoer who beat them to a cab.
“Here’s a movie with suffering and joy and life and cultural lessons,” she wrote, “but some of the people I heard leaving the theater didn’t seem to have been affected.”
I believe they were affected — and that’s why they swore at a total stranger. That, in a nutshell, is the magic of SATC: It makes children act like jaded whores, and it makes adults act like spoiled children.
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