The Coolest Insights from the Academic Anthology ‘Reading Sex and the City’

51FqT0RkNKL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_As part of my research for my upcoming book about Sex and the City, I read the 2004 British anthology Reading Sex and the City, edited by Kim Akass and Janet McCabe. It collects 17 academic essays in an attempt to take Sex and the City seriously “as a text,” as the professors like to say. It mostly succeeds. Granted, it often gets bogged down in academese—you wouldn’t believe how many things can be diegetic and extra-diegetic in addition to being intertextual—and the mind reels at (and questions) how much meaning can be excavated from the title sequence alone. But I got through the whole thing in a few days, and found some truly fun insights:

  • There’s a direct literary relationship between Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and Carrie Bradshaw. (from “Sister Carrie meets Carrie Bradshaw: exploring progress, politics, and the single woman in Sex and the City and beyond”)
  • Sex and the City explores New York subcultures beyond the white, relatively wealthy main characters in a very specific way, allowing one of the four women entree into, say, the “power lesbian” circle to explore for one episode, then whisking them right back out to the “safety” of their own kind. Whether this is done well and what it’s trying to tell us is up for debate. (“Sex and the citizen in Sex and the City‘s New York”)
  • Manolo Blahniks are works of art. (“‘My Manolos, my self’: Manolo Blahnik, shoes, and desire”)
  • Those early seasons when Carrie directly addresses the camera are a straight lift from Woody Allen techniques, and some critics apparently prefer this attention to form to the later seasons’ more naturalistic approach. (“Neurotic in New York: the Woody Allen touches in Sex and the City“)
  • Sex and the City‘s most pleasurable aspects—fashion, self-adornment, and confession—mirror the most pleasurable aspects of women’s magazines. (“Sex, confession, and witness”)
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