Friends of mine know how much I detest Sex and the City and the loathsome version of New York it celebrates. Among its more repulsive effects: the proliferation of downtown cupcake shops with long lines of midwestern ladies stretching from the Sex and the City tour bus to the shiny glass counters inside, clogging sidewalks, winding around corners. I have nothing against cupcakes, but I do not think you should have to stand in line for them, especially behind people who think that Carrie Bradshaw is someone to emulate.
Thanks to Teri Tynes, author of the always useful and edutaining blog Walking Off the Big Apple, we now know that Sex and the City has somehow managed to go back in time and infect the Village in the early ’80s with an anachronistic love of red velvet and buttery frosting. Writing for Reframe about the Tribeca Film Festival, Teri gives us the down and dirty:
In an early sequence of An Englishman in New York, a film
receiving its North American premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, we
see Quentin Crisp (John Hurt) walking — well, more like floating,
placing one foot in front of another as a ballet dancer on a tightrope,
along MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village. The year is 1981. As he
turns and walks west down the charming and colorfully decorated Minetta
Lane, it’s possible to spot a chronological oddity in the background.
In just a glimpse, a relatively new cupcake shop, opened in a small
storefront in 2007 or 2008, appears on the shot of MacDougal. The shop,
a cultural artifact of a later time, specifically Sex and the City, a cupcake-generating TV phenomenon of the straight girl’s sexual revolution, might appear as an anachronism for some viewers.
Teri turns this anachronism into a smart reading of the film — which sounds like a relevant supplement to this week’s lectures in Writing New York. (The rest of Teri’s piece here.) But the idea of the specialty cupcake’s evil empire heading back in time is enough to make me want to make me run screaming downtown to that as-yet ungentrified neighborhood, Tribeca. Surely I’d still be able to afford a loft there …
I was just wondering why do you HATE Sex and the City, yet in class you said several times that you love Gossip Girl. How can you like a show that displays a much more false, detestable version of New York? I even read seven of the GG books in high school, and now living in NY, I can’t stand the show; however, I still love watching the city unfold before me in SATC. How can you mock such a revolutionary show and not turn your nose up to Gossip Girl?
I had hoped that someone would ask me this question!
I actually don’t think there’s a contradiction at all. I read Gossip Girl as 100% satire of Upper East Side rich kids. I do realize that some preteens (and perhaps some viewers who don’t actually live here) may think that it’s a realistic portrait and/or something to aspire to. However, the screwed up lives, Blair’s snottiness to Dorota, perhaps even the fact that Dorota and DUMBO are the show’s two moral centers, will probably outweigh that misreading in the end. (I HATE HATE HATE the Dove campaign, though, that celebrates “real life” GGs. Blech.)
SaTC, on the other hand, has very little satire or self-consciousness about how shallow and priggish its characters are. People all over the world have come to see that consumer/cupcake/shoe porn as THE way of life in the city, something to aspire to rather than to laugh at. There’s nothing in the show that suggests a world outside these women’s narcissistic little bubble. I don’t think it’s revolutionary at all. I think it’s anti-feminist and, worse perhaps, destructive to the city as it fuels a desire for tourists to come here and buy luxury cupcakes. The Upper East Side would never stand for Gossip Girl tours invading the nooks and crannies of the neighborhood, but we have to endure that nonsense every day below 14th street.