When I began conceiving of Jezebel, one of the first "Don'ts" on my list concerned one Julia Allison, sex columnist, media figure and self-promoter extraordinaire. Not only was Julia amply covered by Jezebel's big brother site Gawker, to me, she represented everything that was wrong with young women in the 00's. Called "Scary Sadshaws" by former Gawker editor Emily Gould, these ladies worship at the altar of Manolo Blahnik, regard writer Candace Bushnell as some sort of saint, and, of course, take instruction from a certain HBO series that bore no similarity to how life is lived by the majority of single women. Scary Sadshaws are NYC's version of the stars of Girls Gone Wild, except that Patrick McMullan is their Joe Francis, and they substitute luxury goods for bare breasts. In my mind, they were not only ruining New York, but ruining what it means to be a serious young woman with ambition in the turn-of-the-century America. They were ruining everything for all of us.
The edict against Julia was lifted once — in a stunt carried out during New York Fashion Week last September — but for the most part, no mention of her was made. Readers (most of them, no doubt, New Yorkers) wrote in unsolicited after the blog launched to request that we not mention her, which only served to underscore that I'd made the right decision in keeping her off our roster of blog-worthy media and cultural personalities. Except when I spotted her and her (admittedly adorable) white dog from afar at some media clusterfuck, in my mind, it was (almost) as if she didn't exist.
The thing is, Julia Allison and her sisters in conspicuous consumption and shameless self-promotion do exist, and it's getting harder and harder to ignore them. Their latest assault came via the NY Times' "City" section, which devoted some 2,000-plus words (and multiple four-color photographs) to Julia in a piece titled "Channeling Carrie" yesterday. My reaction to the piece was not unlike the expression shown on a woman shown standing behind Julia in a photograph taken at her 27th birthday party in NYC's West Village: a mixture of curiosity, uncertainty, discomfort and mild disgust. (Or maybe I'm just projecting.)
In the article, Julia practically crowns herself the new queen of New York narcissism: "If Carrie Bradshaw were coming to New York today," the Times quotes her as saying, "she would be me." To a Times reporter interviewing her on video for an accompanying web feature, she strikes a more humble note, explaining that being "compared to a character who has inspired a lot of women by opening herself up and questioning the issues that concern not just single people in their twenties and thirties but of all ages, that's a compliment."
Maybe so, but here's the question that no one seems to be asking regarding both Sex and the City and the Scary Sadshaws it has spawned: What important issues did the series identify and illuminate? What barriers did it break? What did the characters ("Carrie & Company") ever do for anyone outside of themselves? What, praytell, was so damn groundbreaking about a group of narcissistic rich white women with a love of shopping and gossiping about their sex lives? (Despite what Candace Bushnell thinks, the themes of no-strings-attached sex, female friendship, conspicuous consumption and social-climbing had been amply investigated long before she came on the scene.)
I'm willing to admit that it's possible the problem isn't with the Scary Sadshaws but with me — perhaps, as Julia asserts, I can aspire to be both "serious and thoughtful" while also being "shallow and frivolous", although I don't see how I'd have the time — so last night, I went online and spent $300 on a box-set of every episode of Sex and the City ever produced. (It comes in a suede cover in a hue of hot pink not unlike the plastic case covering Julia's white MacBook.) I've decided to watch all 94 episodes between now and the premiere of the Sex and the City movie on May 30 — around 12 episodes a week — in the hopes that I can embrace my inner Carrie Bradshaw and figure out what all the fuss is about (perhaps I'll even learn to like pink!). At the very least, the next time I see Julia, we'll have something to talk about...although Candace Bushnell can still kiss my middle-income black ass.