"I'm going to miss you, you cunt."-Samantha to Carrie in "An American Girl in Paris: Part One"

"This one's too big. That one's too small. Who are you? Goldicocks?" Carrie to Samantha about her last two love interests

"I really want to go out and get dressed and have a 'Sex in the City' kind of night.'"-a friend explaining to me what she wanted to do this weekend

Well, the last episode of "Sex in the City" has just aired. I've never been a big fan. In fact, my watching has been sporadic at best, but "Sex in the City" seems to have touched something in the viewers, or maybe more accurately the young women of urbania.( And by extension many of the boyfriends of the young women in urbania. I know many a man who has been pressed into service tonight to tape the show or to help host a "finale" party.) The other night I was walking by a store, and in the window were four mannequins. Each wore a tank top in a different pastel shade (oh how I wish we could forget that part of the 80s) and proudly pronounced "I am a Miranda", "I am a Samantha", "I am a Charlotte", and "I am a Carrie." I was struck by the juxtapositioning of such a forceful assertion of identity (I am) with submergence into a group. Isn't the whole allure of these characters supposed to be that they are unique? And what the hell is is one saying when one says "I am a Samantha"? It is as simple as saying " I'm a woman who is ok with taking purely sexual pleasure from a man" or is it a more complex identity that the woman is assigning herself? In short, what is the "I am a samantha" short hand for?

The other day I was standing in the line for the elevator and two young girls were talking about "Sex in the City" behind me. I was surprised to hear them talking about it in such an animated way as generally I think of the show being for somewhat older women ( in other words women closer to the ages of the character on the show). But what struck me as even more interesting was the passion with which they discussed the situations of the characters. (Both were adamant that Carrie shouldn't have gone to Paris, but that Miranda should have been more supportive of the move. "After all, she DOES have a family to think about now.") Had I not known they were talking about "Sex in the City", I would have thought they were gossiping about friends.

Robert Scholesin his essay "On Reading a Video Text" has suggested that the analysis of video, including commercials, should be taught in schools. In fact, he argued that it is of more value than instruction in analyzing written texts. ( He classified novels in the same category as Homeric epic- a dead form.)

Part of what made the show such a success was that many individuals identified with the characters on the show. (Perhaps why the show failed for me was that I was never able to complete that identification.) Identification with characters and emotional investment in the outcome has, for me, generally been a property of literature, but if Scholes is correct, television has overtaken that role for the majority of Americans. Jung argued that in order for art to be successful it needed to fuse archetypes with the particular needs and conventions of the culture and time period. ( On a side note, he also claimed that what a culture most lacks is the most over-represented in its art, but that's a different post.) Such a claim would support the transformation of fairy tales and fables into cartoons that stress the importance of accepting multiculturalism. For example, the "Ugly Duckling", originally a Hans Christian Anderson tale, was transformed into the "Queer Duckling" for HBO. According to Scholes, Jung didn't quite go far enough. It isn't just the form the characters take that changes with the needs of the culture, it is the format in which the story is presented. In other words, it isn't just the shift from "ugly" to "queer", but from print to video.

So if we accept the claim that video texts are indeed as legitimate as literature and serve a similar function (catharsis, identification), then hasn't "Sex in the City" become a classic?

In an essay entitled "Why Do We Still Read Homer?", by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, he talks about when "classical antiquity still served as the matrix within which leading intellectuals could debate the most urgent issues of their own time....No matter what profession a student was preparing for, he or she was expected to have some acquaintance with the classics." It seems that in the modern era television has replaced the classics. It has become a way for us to discuss all kinds of material including politics, mythology, and gender roles. It seems "Sex in the City" has been, for many people, a way to talk about sex, relationships, and careers in the same way that in the "golden age" politicians could use classical texts to argue the legitimacy of divorce. Perhaps "Sex in the City" is the new Homeric epic. It has it's own mythology (for example it keeps the romantic mythology of "the One" intact), but it also has managed to capture some of the truth of the single girl's existence. (I was totally down with the "post-it" break up episode. Carrie's claim that "Do you not see that it is your refusal to be the bad guy is what, in fact, makes you the bad guy?")

No matter the verdict, it is clear it has had a huge impact of quite a few people.

It will be missed.

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