Criticism of ‘Sex and the City’ Is Mostly Sexist

"Sex and the City" the movie has done so well at the box office already it's hard not to get carried away. It opened with $56.8 million last weekend, the highest-grossing debut ever for a movie starring women. It's also the first tent-pole blockbuster to rest squarely on a female demographic—85 percent of the audience on opening night, according to a studio estimate. As I wandered into a Manhattan theater on Saturday, crowds of women swarmed and sat in a long hallway, as if they were waiting to pick up the next Harry Potter book. A door opened and out popped a group of newly Sexed fans, who left a screening misty-eyed and jubilant, deeply satisfied to have spent 145 minutes with some old pals.

"Sex and the City" the TV series was a revolution, yadda yadda, because it was one of the rare forms of entertainment that showed women in the flesh (and flesh), with all their vulnerabilities, anxieties and intelligence. But when you listen to men talk about it (and this is coming from the perspective of a male writer), a strange thing happens. The talk turns hateful. Angry. Vengeful. Annoyed. It's not just that they don't want to accompany their significant others to the movie. How dare Carrie and her girls hijack the box office during a time when the Hulk, Iron Man, Indiana Jones and the good old boys of the summer usually rule?

Is this just poor sportsmanship? I can't help but wonder—cue the Carrie Bradshaw voiceover here—if it's not a case of "Sexism in the City." Men hated the movie before it even opened. They flooded IMDB.com, voting early and often, so that the movie would have a low rating of 3 out of 10 among users before Friday (although now that number is higher, at 4.8). Movie critics, an overwhelmingly male demographic, gave it such a nasty tongue lashing you would have thought they were talking about an ex-girlfriend. "Sex" mustered a 54 percent fresh rating on RottenTomatoes.com, compared to the 77 percent fresh for the snoozefest that was "Indiana Jones" (a boy's movie! Such harmless fun!).

What's surprising is the lengths men go to push Carrie off her Manolos. "How much do you want to bet 'Sex and the City' drops 70 percent this weekend," said a guy colleague of mine, gleefully. Roger Ebert, in a scathing one-and-a-half-star review, wrote, "I am not the person to review this movie … I was lucky I know who Vivienne Westwood was, and that's because she used to be the girlfriend of the Sex Pistols' manager." Anthony Lane, of the New Yorker, called the women "hormonal hobbits, and all obsessed with a ring." James Berardinelli, of ReelViews, said, "Watching grass grow is dramatically more satisfying." A Web poster named KingVahagn—indulge me for thinking he's a he—summed it up best: "Poor boyfriends everywhere."

The movie might not be "Citizen Kane"—which, for the record, is a dude flick—but it's incredibly sweet and touching. If it's not your cup of tea (or Cosmo), must you really attack it so vehemently? Rodney Dangerfield always complained about not getting enough respect in Hollywood, but the real victims seem to be women. Not just because they're usually sidelined as the blinking love interest (Gwyneth Paltrow in "Iron Man" or Liv Tyler in "The Incredible Hulk"). The blog "Women and Hollywood" features telling statistics: last year only five of the top 50 films of the year had major roles for women. Only 15 percent of directors, producers, writers and high-ranking staff are female. Thelma Adams, film critic for US Weekly, tells the site, "The point here is can women open movies? Meryl Streep can't. Jodie Foster can't. Julianne Moore can't. Julia Roberts can't." But Carrie? Yes she can.

Speaking of which, it's tempting to draw the parallel between the "Sex" haters and the Hillary haters. Ms. Clinton argued that sexism took down her campaign. No way, taunt the Obamaniacs. Fine. But we can all imagine a lunch between Hillary and Carrie, perhaps at a diner somewhere on Manhattan's Upper West Side. What would they talk about? Were the guys who held up the "Iron My Shirt!" signs for Hillary the same ones who voted Sarah Jessica Parker the unsexiest woman alive? And were they the ones who refused to vote for Hillary at all? Carrie once said, "Man may have discovered fire, but women discovered how to play with it." And long ago Hillary said, "I'm not some little woman standing by my man, like Tammy Wynette." She was more like Carrie: too big for that.

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