Toby Young: Sex and the City Depicts An "Essentially Pre-Feminist Society"

One of the things that stuck in my craw about the Sarah Jessica Parker profile in New York Mag was when SJP claimed that Carrie didn't care about Big's money. "I really don't think that money was a criteria," Parker told writer Emily Nussbaum. "It never would have occurred to her to take money from a man." British writer and Candace Bushnell buddy argues that Carrie does indeed care about money. In fact, she and the other SatC heroines care so much about money that, Young writes, "once you remove the pixie dust of female camaraderie, contemporary New York emerges as an essentially pre-feminist society in which the courtship rituals are strikingly similar to those depicted in the novels of Jane Austen."

Young, the author of the memoir How To Lose Friends and Alienate People, continues:

[In New York] Women are second-class citizens who are expected to use their youth and beauty as commodities in order to secure their economic wellbeing. Sex and the City is set in this world, but it conceals its brutality behind a veneer of cocktails and laughter. In reality, female friendship is the first thing to be sacrificed in the cut-throat competition for rich husbands. To my mind, Sex and the City is the equivalent of one of those Soviet propaganda films in which the factory workers are depicted as happy, singing citizens of tomorrow. The truth is that women like Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda are wretched, unhappy and isolated. The key to their survival is not the sisterhood, but a combination of slimming pills and anti-depressants.

I think Young exaggerates a bit — he sounds like he was scorned by many of these ruthless husband hunters — but for the most part, I agree with him. Anytime one of the Sex and the City characters dated a man with bleak economic prospects she was ultimately punished. When Carrie dated Berger, the relationship ended because he couldn't deal with her monetary success and his relative literary failure. As for Miranda, her relationship failed with Steve when he was just a bartender with no ambition, but was revived when he became a successful bar owner, despite his middle class roots. Of course, most women want to date men who have the same level of education that they do, but why didn't any of the women ever date a teacher? Or someone who worked for a non-profit? The reason is pretty obvious. Even though Sarah Jessica Parker thinks that Carrie didn't care about her boyfriends' money, the glittering aura of wealth is part of the Sex world, and very much defines its social rules.



So Did It Teach Us Anything That Came In Useful Along The Way? [Guardian]

Related: Sarah Jessica Parker On 'Sex And The City' [Premiere]

Sarah Jessica Parker Would Like A Few Words With Carrie Bradshaw [NY Mag]

'How To Lose Friends' & The NYC Media Dreamworld