‘Sex and the City’ Box Office Explained: They're Superheroes

Photo: Photo illustration: Getty Images; Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Hollywood's "mystified" response to Sex and the City's $55 million opening weekend — who knew women liked to see movies with their friends? — proves once again that despite being more than half the population, women are still a niche market in the movie business. After helpfully identifying which moviegoers contributed to SATC's success ("women"), bewildered Hollywood number-counter Paul Dergarabedian added, "This was to women what Indiana Jones and Star Wars, let's say, are to men." The only people who aren't surprised at SATC's summer-blockbuster numbers are women — who've known all along that Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte are, in fact, superheroes. No, not the kinds of female superheroes invented by men for men, vinyl-clad fantasies like Electra or Catwoman. The women of SATC don't fly or have awesome weapons or even drive very often — but they do save each other from bad guys.

The media frenzy leading up to last week's release of SATC — in newspapers, magazines, and “dudeblogs” — 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 horror show with men as its victims. But early in the film Candice Bergen, as Carrie's imperious Vogue editor, Enid, nails the movie's real aesthetic when she asks Carrie to pose for the magazine's pages as a 40-year-old bride, saying she's the only woman her age who could do the shoot "without the Diane Arbus undertones." Superheroes exist outside the laws and boundaries the rest of us have to abide by; 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?

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 of the movie entirely. Why is it okay for Iron Man to collect expensive cars but materialistic for Carrie to collect shoes? Surely her carbon footprint is the smaller of the two. Politely, 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? Sam Jones is no more a real cougar than Dr. Jones is a real archaeologist, but they're both good summer fun. So wise up, Hollywood, and start giving us some more female superheroes. And please, take a hint from Sex and the City, and dress them in Vivienne Westwood, not vinyl. —Annaliese Griffin

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