Monday, March 28, 2005

FAKES AND THE CITY:

I don't understand why 'Sex and the City' should be such a popular show with any sane minded person. I have no argument with the people who watch it simply for entertainment and leave it at that. However, there is a major clique of people for whom the show sets new trends. Of course, that's the case with any show. But somehow, 'Sex and the City' really gets to me because I think that it is a 'danger for feminism and all that it stands for'.

The show essentially revolves around four hep, trendy New York single women. All the time in the show, it appears that they are obessed with only one thing; men and relationships. My problem is not with what the show portrays (In fact there certainly are both men and women like that in real life). In fact, some of the humour in it is quite good and intelligent in its own context. My peeve is with what the show PUPORTS to portray. As far as I can see it, and I may be wrong here, it essentially exhorts casual sex and casual relationships more than anything else. Worse, it portrays all of this under the name of humour, feminism and woman-power, and worst of all, sophistication. We are led to believe that this is, and should be, the life-style of respectable, sohpisticated and well-educated single women in the great progressive cities of America and finally the whole world, and that they could well be role models for women in the real world. What comes through after even a little thought is nothing more than hubris-loaded hypocrisy. The four protagonists seem to be women in search of the 'perfect one' but in fact they are little more than pleasure seeking sybarites, engaging in all their escapades under the guise of innocent efforts, modernity, and high-culture. They also act like they are the epitome of the fashionable, forward looking women of the world, who would set the trend for their counterparts in the rest of the world. Actually, I think that they are worse than the most obvious hooker in Harlem, who at least does not hide the fact she is one. So, ironical as it may seem, I would probably pay due respect to Samantha, one of the characters who is a professed sex-maniac, but at least one who does not hide her obsession and intent. As for the other three, "relationships" seem to be only ways of embarking on flagrant adventures. In all of these, the supposed aim is the search for true love, the desire propelling it is a purported restless angst for a tranquil connection with the man of their dreams. Appalling!

Arthur Holden's comment in "Memoirs of a Geisha" is revealing. I don't remember the exact words, but he says, "It is ironical that women in the Western world who get into 'relationships' with rich, older penthouse-owning men, sneer at Geishas, when actually, the Geisha's are much more dignified and honest than them". This comment could perfectly apply to 'Sex and the City'. I don't mind blatant and scandalous sensationalism and portrayals. What I truly despise are hypocritical guises of progressive culture, donned to hide the crudity beneath the ostentatious exterior.

Is all this done for humour? Well, when humour becomes an instrument of social change, you better watch out for what kind of humour you portray on screen, especially when it is propagated through such powerful mediums as television and cinema.
From Sex and the City to 'American Pie', I believe that American films and shows are losing even the iota of quality that they had before. Outrageousness substitutes for intelligent humour, simply because the writers and directors have run out of good ideas. Morbid fascination is guaranteed to draw audiences, at the cost of genuine quality. Non-sexual comedy is almost forbidden, and is supposed to be 'old-fashioned'. But it's even worse when all that morbid fascination and outrageousness starts setting the trends for future generations, all under the name of "freedom of speech" (I don't even know anymore what that phrase really means). 'F.R.I.E.N.D.S.' is one of my all time favourite shows. That certainly does not mean that I would want to adopt the lifestyle portrayed in it, or even approve of it. Unfortunately, considering the impact that films and TV shows have, the gratuitous humour and the casual sex does not leave your mind when you walk out of the theatre or switch off the TV. You begin to think that since it's portrayed so frequently on the screen, it's normal and in fact should be a part of reality (if it is not already). This is a very serious state of affairs, and I don't see how it's going to improve in the next few years, with competition increasing even more, and advertisers, moviemakers, and producers wanting to buy people's minds and hearts at any cost. We are already living in a world where many of our actions, even at an unconscious level, are dicated by the vagaries of corporate movers and shakers. It is very easy to influence the mind of the public, as a hundred years of enormously successful advertising can easily prove. However, again and again I think we must keep in mind, that when relationships start becoming the handmaidens of the whims of propaganda, especially when it's diabolically hidden under the guise of culture, sophistication, freedom, innocence, and even dignity, things start to get extremely problematic.
After a thousand years, if we are sustained in a 'relationshipness world' (although I cannot imagine what kind of draconian future that will be), I am sure that looking back, we will surely think that 'Sex and the City' really wasn't worth it at all...

8 Comments:

Anonymous Sampada said...

You're right about "Sex and the City." It's one of the shows that tries to show that women are incomplete without a man in their lives. Their hunt for a potential partner is pathetic and most of the times improbable (notice how they "bump" into someone and then go out for a date?) It just wrongly portrays an artificial life that some of the women want to live. Little do they know that what they're seeing is balderdash

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Sumedha said...

I still haven't seen a single episode of 'Sex and the City'.
It seems to be a warped kind of pseudo-feminism. "If men can do it, so can we!" is its rallying cry. What's the point of making the worst possible use of personal independence?
I'd made it a point to include Sayuri's observation on American high society women in my review of the book some time back :)
BTW, I wonder what men see in Sarah Jessica Parker :P

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Sumedha said...

I still haven't seen a single episode of 'Sex and the City'.
It seems to be a warped kind of pseudo-feminism. "If men can do it, so can we!" is its rallying cry. What's the point of making the worst possible use of personal independence?
I'd made it a point to include Sayuri's observation on American high society women in my review of the book some time back :)
BTW, I wonder what men see in Sarah Jessica Parker :P

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Sumeet said...

I haven't seen the serial, and am not likely to either. But this has been one of my peeves for some time now. That gives me an excuse to unload in your comments.
(I think this comment is more relevant in the Indian or Indian-American context)

This overused, misused, abused and beaten-to-death word "independence" - of women. (I sound like Jackie Chiles now I think!)
Too many women (pseudo-feminists as sumedha pointed out) seem to think independence is all about smoking, getting drunk and having multiple partners, as against being independent thinkers, being self-reliant and being able to make sound life decisions of their own. Sure men and women are allowed in equal measure to be morons, so go ahead - smoke, get STDs - but don't insult the real women of substance by equating yourself with them - the women who have actually done something with their lives. Watching or aping Sex and the City doesn't make you independent, if your thoughts aren't anywhere beyond the level of the Saans-Bahu serials. Heck if you were able to make independent choices, you wouldn't be fooled by Sex and the City to begin with.

The trouble is, this fake independence stereotype extends over to many men as well. Supposedly modern men want women (in the Indian context read wives) who are "independent". They should be independent enough to know the moves on the dancefloor, but also sati-savitri to be able to do all the housework. Admittedly, this comes from a particular example I know, so it;s kinda anecdotal, but I dont think there is a dearth of such men around.

While on the subject of feminism for its sake, what about dating for its sake? (also connected to your earlier post) .. or bashing arranged marriages for bashing's sake? Every kind of marriage/partnership has a context in which it is formed, and how it is allowed to form is an objective and individual thing...Just for the sake of looking like a rebel, people with go great lengths to pitch stereotypes against each other (the favourites in this context being the chauvinistic desi fresh-off-the-boat male v/s the "liberated" sex-and-the-city ABCD female). take a look at this and puke in disgust at the exaggerations and the stereotypes.

Then there is this other one...this is a well-written blog, and I might be too naive to mistake a well-written piece of fiction for allegedly heart-wrenching tragedy, but if it is indeed true, then here is one pathetic loser, who deserves all she gets for allowing herself to be treated as she is. So much for being an independent New York woman!

Sex and the City? Gimme Elaine Benes any day! She is such a fantastic parody on these fakes!

10:24 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Whoo, ah!! That was some detailed analysis Sumeet! A comment almost as long my post. I agree on all points, and also realise that most men are no better (probably worse) than such women. But interestingly, I think it's always (conveniently) easy to dismiss men's behaviour by assuming that it is in their nature to indulge in all kinds of escapades.
One quality many of these women have is that they don't have particularly enviable careers. The day that has happened is the day I belive these women have already eschewed the main tenets of feminism.
Pseudo-feminism is the right word Sumedha. Unformtunately feminism, just like human rights has become a much abused word, always probe to be used as a shield to hide true intentions.
Interestingly, if we take a look at the 1960s, sexual liberation was seen as a major symbol of feminism. But today, the tables have turned, and feminism is being used as an EXCUSE for sexual 'liberation' instead.
Sumeet, I had a look at both the protagonists of the blogs which you pointed out, and I can only agree with you and say that they are both hypocrites, and ultimately losers, who feminists would be proud to disown.
And after the air clears (if it does at all), I don't understand why there should be such a big hue and cry about feminism in the first place at all. Feminism means equal rights, not special rights as some seem to think. Paradoxically, once the advocates of feminism start demanding special rights, they themselves are displaying a proclivity towards being patronised! It's just like minority rights. It's all well and good in times and places where there is real injustice being done. But later, it just becomes a great excuse for pandering to everyone's indulgences.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Sumeet said...

you draw a good parallel with human rights...

the trouble with these kind of -ism's (not just feminism but also secularism for instance) is that their very existence is contradicts their supposed purpose, because in a way these terms only serve to reinforce the differences they urge us to show disregard for, such as sex,religion or caste.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Sumedha said...

I have seen worse blogs than 'Bridal beer', although that was pretty bad.
I was appalled by the idea of 33% reservation for women in Pune engineering colleges. It was a potential blow to my ego: what if somebody thought I got in on that quota instead of on my merit?
On the same principle as I politely disown other forms of reservation, I disown reservation for women in Parliament, professional colleges et al.

7:39 PM  
Anonymous theidiot said...

a comment to a comment :
this is about someone who said they wanted to puke in disgust at anita jain's article. seriously beats me. yes there are stereotypes, but then shes a woman who grew up in a country whos origin is not the same as your or her parents. why is it surprising that she thinks like an american, and whats wrong with it?

what surprises me is that indians who emigrate to the US have a particularly acute sense of disgust for indians who have gone there (or born there) and became more american than they themselves have. why? beats me!

as for me i thot it was a pretty well written article. its about someones 'experience' please dont expect others to interpret their lives according to your values.. thats expecting a bit much...

6:40 AM  

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