The superheroes of "Sex and the City"

Are Carrie and the gang the high-heeled equivalents of the Incredible Hulk?

Published June 3, 2008 8:30PM (EDT)

My main memory of "Sex and the City" is of an evening spent watching the series finale with a friend and his mother, the three of us sitting together on the couch staring at Samantha's naked boobs shaking up and down as she humped her boyfriend.

It was an awkward moment. But when I look back on the episodes I've seen, the frontal nudity is not what's most surprising. Instead, I remember always being shocked by Carrie's apartment. What young, single writer in Manhattan can afford that kind of place? I could accept the idea that she spent more than my yearly income on shoes. I could even convince myself, if I tried hard enough, that there are women out there who would find Mr. Big attractive. But that apartment? Come on. I can't suspend all my disbelief.

I bring this up because there's an article in New York magazine's entertainment and culture blog that explains why Carrie is able to afford a high-ceilinged one-bedroom -- as well as why we shouldn't be surprised that, as Rebecca Traister discusses here, women are flocking to theaters to see the new movie: Its stars are superheroes.

No, they don't have magical powers (unless you count the ability to walk in stilettos). To quote from the piece: "The media frenzy leading up to last week's release of SATC ... provided every possible critique of the fabulous four, as though the movie were a study in social realism, or an Austen-like movie of manners, or (depressingly often) a nightmarish show with men as its victims." But, argues Annaliese Griffen, it's really just a female version of "Iron Man." "Superheroes exist outside the laws and boundaries the rest of us have to abide by," she writes. "While men want to see themselves flying and fighting, women are more interested in pushing other limits. How old can you be and still be hot? How many times can you break up and still be in love with someone? How many hours of the day can four working women conceivably spend together?"

As for my real estate question? "Pointing out that Carrie could never afford her apartment, let alone her wardrobe, is about as useful as questioning Robert Downey Jr.'s ability to create cold fusion in a cave in Afghanistan -- it misses the point entirely," she writes. "Why is it okay for Iron Man to collect expensive cars but materialistic for Carrie to collect shoes? ... We don't ask what the Hulk says about American men and their relationship to rage, so why should we tolerate attacks on Samantha's legendary libido?"

Sure, you could argue that you can't have a superhero movie without a computer-generated character, or say that it's sexist to assert that women's fantasies revolve around Manolo Blahniks, not world domination. But I like the point that just as it's silly to quibble over whether Harrison Ford's character is a "real" archaeologist, it's dumb to focus on Carrie's monthly rent. Instead, we should take all these movies for what they are: exaggerated, unbelievable ... and, depending on your taste, fun.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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