The camera cuts to a room full of instruments and we learn that Carrie is on a second date with a Jazz musician named Ray. He is obviously deeply passionate about music as we can tell from the mise-en-scene of varied instruments and shelves stacked high with vinyl records. Carrie is wearing a casual jeans and t-shirt outfit, which shows that she is relaxed around the man she is currently dating. However she has accessorised with a pearl necklace which gives us a glimpse of the feminine and sophisticated Carrie that we often see.
The camera cuts to the next scene and we see all of the girls in a busy bar drinking cocktails. The bar is a typical location for the women to meet, and they are often drinking cocktails which denotes their class as cocktails are seen as fancy and are often expensive. The women are dressed in classy evening wear, and are all in black except for Samantha who is wearing a hot pink jacket. The black symbolises sophistication and style, whist Samantha’s hot pink jacket shows her ‘wild’ and sexually adventurous side. They are having one of their typical ‘girly’ chats about men and sex.
Miranda talks about her lack of sex and how she is spending her time doing laundry instead. This may be interpreted as a sarcastic comment from Miranda who is very much the power woman and often refuses to succumb to the feminine stereotype of a girly, cleaning, ‘housewife’, even though she is a single working woman. Carrie talks about having a ‘mind-blowing orgasm’ after only two dates. Charlotte adds a conservative comment about Carrie sleeping with someone after only two dates, which shows her clearly romantic side.
Samantha, the sexually free woman who claims to not be a ‘relationship person’, and is always hungry for more men then announces that she is in a relationship. The women looked shocked enough to hear this, but then Samantha adds that it is with a woman named Maria. She is quite calm when she says this but her body language could be read to be overly relaxed which shows she was nervous about how her friends would react even though she acts to them as if she doesn’t care.
The next scene cuts to the camera in a following Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda as they walk home gossiping about Samantha’s revelation. This is a very typical female thing to do, as gossiping is a cultural stereotype of women which is often applied by men, however women also realise they do it and can therefore ironically relate to the characters on screen. Gossiping exists with both men and women; however stereotypes have resulted in the cultural construction of gossiping as a female trait. Carrie says: ‘How does that work?
You go to bed one night, you wake up the next morning and POOF! You’re a Lesbian? ‘ This shows how the women are somewhat confused by Samantha’s decision, as even though they have many gay friends and don’t appear to have a problem with homosexuality, it is not necessarily acceptable within their tight knit group. This could symbolise the idea that many people still have underlying issues with homosexuality even though we apparently live in a free and post modern society. We regularly punish those who fail to do their gender right.
(Butler, 1990. pp140) However by exploring her sexuality, Samantha is following Butler’s ‘Queer theory’ which states the suggestion that gender and sex are not necessarily connected, but are culturally constructed. Just because you are woman it does not mean that you will automatically desire men. Carrie appears to be annoyed with Samantha, which is conveyed in her overly big hand gestures, as she had big news with her mind-blowing orgasm, but Samantha still managed to ‘up-sex’ her. We cut to Charlotte and Trey in bed.
Charlotte is desperately trying to make her marriage work by fixing the bedroom side of things, however now that everything is working properly, she wants to move back in but is waiting for Trey to ask her. Charlotte is a prime example of a woman who has a culturally constructed gender identity. She follows the stereotype of a very feminine woman, who wants to be looked after by her husband and wants to be the perfect wife who is domesticated and womanly in every way. The next day the foursome meet for lunch and Samantha tries to convince the girls that she is happy in her relationship with Maria.
She says ‘it’s not about being gay or straight’, which once again backs up Butler’s theories that gender and sexuality are not innately connected. Samantha once again shocks the group by saying that ‘it’s not all about sex’, which is usually the basis for any relationship or association that Samantha has. The next scene shows a romantic candle lit dinner with Maria and Samantha. The mise-en-scene is full of reds and burgundies which commonly denote passion, and is full of expensive looking cushions and throws draped over everything.
This soft furnishing as well as the golden glow of the candle light could signify wealth and luxury in which the two women are surrounded and conduct their relationship. The couple go on to have sex for the first time, and Samantha realises that she has both a relationship and sex, which is rare for her. After her lunch with the group, and Samantha’s comments, Carrie starts to feel bad for indulging in too much sex and not trying to make more of her relationship with Ray.
Women are often made to feel guilty and like ‘sluts’ if they have sex on a casual basis or with many partners, and Carrie appears to be surrendering to this stereotype. As a result she decides to try and talk to Ray, but realises that he really isn’t good for anything but sex. She chooses to end the relationship, but indulges herself one more time first. Charlotte becomes ever more frustrated with Trey, and argues with him saying their relationship has become ‘all about the penis’. Although she was dissatisfied without sex in her relationship, she is not happy with merely the sex either.
This could symbolise the idea that we are made to believe by society that if you’re not having sex whilst in a relationship then you have problems. Miranda is also frustrated, but at the lack of sex in her life. She takes to replacing orgasms with chocolate, and once she realises what she is trying to replace she immediately ends her personal sex strike. The high content of sex in the media and our everyday lives has led us to believe that sex is an essential part of our lives and that we cannot possibly be happy without it.
In the morning Trey visits Charlotte to ask her to come back to him. Charlotte is her normal sophisticated and feminine self in her upper class apartment. She ends up with everything she has ever wanted, a relationship and sex. The episode ends on a thoughtful note, as Carrie walks home the next morning after her last night with Ray, she realises that she would not be happy with just sex, and very few people are. What is sex without a relationship? Yet at the same time, Charlotte has proven that it is hard to have a relationship without sex.
I believe this analysis supports Butler’s findings about gender and sex. Surprisingly for the series, it is Samantha who best demonstrates Butler’s ideologies of the subversion of culturally constructed identities, with her open view to homosexuality. The episode also emphasises how sex as an act, is quite clearly a culturally constructed idea which dominates the media and most aspects of everyday life. As a result, we believe sex to be intrinsic to our identities.
We are penalised for having sex, or for having sex with certain people yet we are also penalised for not having sex. I also believe that textual analysis in the style of Barthes was the most appropriate way to examine the text as it allows you to analyse both the mise-en-scene as well as what is being said. I found it easy to conduct as I was fortunate to have the episode on DVD, however believe that it may not be so practical if watching on real time broadcast as it is harder to pause and make notes and therefore detailed observations.
Word Count: 2092 BIBLIOGRAPHY Barthes, R. (1972) Mythologies, London: Cape Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity, London: Routledge HBO. (2008) Sex and the City [Online] Available from: http://www. hbo. com/city/cast/index. shtml [Accessed Thursday 21st February 2008] Sex and the City What’s Sex Got to Do with It? Season 4, Episode 4. (2003) Situation Comedy. Directed by Allen Coulter. New York: HBO. Student Number: 06974612 Tuesday 24th February 2009.