Written by Sam Marsh
Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Sex and the City.
All have a few things in common: loyal fans dress as characters for parties and movies. All are entertaining works of fiction that glamorize alien worlds to be dreamed of fondly. All are financial bonanzas that have successfully co-opted and exploited their target audiences.
The financial co-opting of nerds began in the late 1960s, at the same time as the free loving, questioning and non-working hippies were being converted into hard-working and non-questioning yuppies (later known as the baby boomers that have, as their most recent accomplishment, irreparably messed up the financial system).
The Star Trek television series catered to the needs of the average nerd, putting on the small screens science fiction that had previously been limited only to novels and comic books.
That, followed by George Lucas’s rather successful trio of movies in the 70s, gave birth to a fully-grown wookie of an underground culture that has paid for Skywalker Ranch and made many other acne-ridden fortunes.
But I digress. Sex and the City earned record-breaking profits from a market that is offended if referred to as a homogenous group, that is, “independent” and “free-thinking” young women.
Women who relieve stress with appletinis and retail therapy, who will attend college and read about the exploitation of women in feminist studies classes while after class they celebrate their freedom of thought by watching a show that perpetuates many of the stereotypes that feminists campaign against.
When the movie was released this summer, thousands of young women dressed as their favorite characters and flocked to theaters in herds of four – a Carrie, a Samantha, a Charlotte and a Miranda.
Another trend was that the percentage of straight men in the audience opening night was “statistically insignificant.” The movie grossed $55.7 million dollars in the first three days, making it the highest grossing debut of an R-rated romantic comedy ever.
Okay, so it’s successful, what’s so bad about the whole thing? This time I’m going to side with some people I usually clash with.
Feminist author Indira Dammu writes in a recent article about the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate that the selection appeals to a “faux feminism” behind the success of “everything from SATC to the Pussycat Dolls.”
Let’s ask Catherine Redfern, editor of the webzine “The F-Word,” “SATC reinforces the idea that you have to be thin, white and beautiful to be successful.”
Maybe writer Noreena Hertz: “To me, the characters just come across as the same sort of air-brushed, be-make-upped, bland women, no different to all the women on TV before. Not particularly feminist or empowered at all. The level of their empowerment seems to be whether they can book a table at a particular restaurant or snag a certain man. Surely feminism can deliver more than that?”
My next question is, who knows where the idea for the show came from in the first place?
New York columnist Candace Bushnell wrote a column for the New York Observer newspaper along the lines of Carrie Bradshaw’s column, which was eventually compiled into a book named Sex and the City.
You see, Carrie Bradshaw was Candace Bushnell’s alter ego, a name used for privacy purposes. The difference was that the columns were often cynical and dark, questioning very seriously the respectability of such a lifestyle, and asking if such a lifestyle was fulfilling or worth living in the first place.
Not much similar to the sex-obsessed materialistic problems confronted by our air-headed heroine. And in the cases where the small screen columns asked deep questions, they were generally glossed over or given unequivocal answers. At least, that’s what I’ve read about the show, I won’t judge it philosophically, only in how it manipulates women.
I’m not saying that women are the only homogenous group to be co-opted and turned into a profitable audience.
I spoke earlier of hippies and nerds, and many groups of men have been co-opted, such as hunters and golfers. What is amazing is the ease with which it was done.
It took LSD to co-opt the hippies and at least four series/movies to get the nerds. They personally didn’t get me until LOTR.
On the flip side, it only took one television show to get this much larger group of women.
I’m not saying that this show is the Devil and that it should be banned or something like that. It is a show, and I’m certain that it has much entertainment value, but just remember, when you think “Oohh, I’d like that outfit!” or “I want those shoes!” you have just been advertised to, you were just led, dare I say it, like a sheep to the store.While that may not be a bad thing, Giorgio Armani and all of his designer friends thank you, it has been a financial pleasure for them.
That said, Sarah Parker is an inspiration to horse-faced women everywhere.