“You remember the episode where Carrie spills the cappuccino because she’s looking after the dog and has lost the manuscript with a description of oral sex with the Russian and then oh my God she bumps into Big who she hasn’t seen since that time with the martini olives and the hemorrhoids? Well, if you look to the right, that’s the café, and it’s like oh my God bad hair dog blow job cappuccino hell. You remember that of course.” Of course they remember that. It’s like asking Taliban summer-school students if they remember the bit where Muhammad smote the gay Jews. “And if you want brunch or something, I can recommend it.
“Now here on the left is the restaurant where Samantha found out she was pregnant with cocker spaniels and then swallowed her contact lenses and the hot doctor at the next table offered to get them all out for her. You remember that?” They remember that. Corresponding clips from the series are played on the tiny, milky overhead screens. It’s an oddly disembodied sensation of traveling in a magic-realist bus, or coming around from an anesthetic. After an age, we stop. “Ladies, I’m very particular about time. If you’re not back in 17 minutes”—she checks her watch—“we will leave you behind.” And for a moment we all consider this. We could be left behind in the parallel land of Sex and the City, like an episode of Star Trek, to live forever in this mythical New York of endless brunch and always fornicating on top wearing a black bra. We’ve pulled up next to a sex shop. Apparently, we all remember that someone once bought a Rabbit vibrator here. We get off the bus and file into the shop, which is odd. Sex shops are generally solitary, furtive, and male. The Rabbits are piled high. That is the nature of rabbits. There’s a buzz of anticipation. They were expecting us with a discount, and a couple of women get out their credit cards. I suppose a vibrator might be an impulse buy, and buying yourself one in front of 50 strangers with whom you then have to share a bus journey might be considered the height of liberated insouciance. But buying a sex aid because some actress has faked an orgasm on TV with it is evidence that there’s more wrong with your social life than can be fixed by a dildo. We get back on the bus. I can’t tell if anyone’s chosen to stay behind and live on Mr. Big Island forever: “No, you all go on. My place is here.”
If I were a French philosopher, un philosophe français (and it’s certainly a request I’m putting on the form for reincarnation), I’d say that perhaps the Sex and the City bus tour is really how postmodern epic sagas are conceived: popular prose poetry, stories of wish fulfillment and inspiration, shaped by the repetition of gossip and the lives of heroes. It’s probably what Homer did. You could see this bus as an air-conditioned Odyssey workshop, and it’s only a cultural snobbery that makes us regard it as any more risible than guided tours around Brontë country or the classic ruins of North Africa, invigilated by some bitter, tight, redundant academic. But then, if I’m going to be a French philosopher, I’m going to have to inflate my cultural snobbery, and not by any stretch of the Zeitgeist, or Homeric blindness, is Carrie Bradshaw Helen of Troy. And Sex and the City ain’t a chic, ironic take on Wuthering Heights. These women on the bus are missing the point. The storyville they’re looking for doesn’t exist and never did, and trying to search for the literal in literature inevitably kills the object of affection, murders the fiction stone-dead.
(Gill also wrote a funny piece about wealthy Indian artistocrats who collect cars).
By the way, I’ve been fascinated by Sex and the City as a cultural icon (see my piece on the show’s demise). I recently picked up Candace Bushnell’s book and looking for how it was adapted onscreen. It doesn’t seem like high literature, but the action stays on the surface and is highly readable. I have watched SITC a good number of times (and noted cases of vomiting—take heed!). Each time I watch the show, I am spellbound by the elegant camera work and the gay sensibilities (the two lead writers were openly gay). I think some of the plot setups are clever, but the Mr. Big character seems to be one of the dullest male characters on American TV.
(Wow, I thought my weblog categories were sufficient to cover any topic I dream of, but this post and the previous Higgs Boson post seems to cry for a new one).