In case you haven’t picked up a magazine or turned on a television in the past few weeks, the long-awaited Sex and the City movie is due to be released this Friday. Touted as “the women’s alternative to Indy,” (because clearly women never watch movies like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), it’s gotten more than its fair share of puff pieces in print, televised and web media. The once-edgy, now kind of lame Entertainment Weekly dedicated a mind-blowing 63 pages to it in a recent issue, recycling much of the same material used when the show went off the air four years ago, followed in the next issue by a review of the film that was so gushing and fluffy one wonders if it was printed on strawberry-scented paper and dusted with glitter.
Sex and the City…is 2 hours and 22 minutes of love, tears, fashion, depression, lavish vacation, good sex, bad sex, and supreme tenderness. It’s as long as five series episodes, a big sweet tasty layer cake stuffed with zingers and soul and dirty-down verve…
Just reading those couple of sentences makes me feel like I’m about to break out in hives, but what can I say, I never got into Sex and the City. For me it was similar to Seinfeld and Friends, a wildly popular show with an appeal utterly lost on me, even after a few attempts at watching it. Yet like its predecessors I was constantly reminded of how “important” the show was culturally. My failure to embrace its “importance” made me continue to wonder if perhaps I exist in some sort of secret society, and if I shouldn’t try to create a special language and handshake for the other four or five people who exist in it with me. Bonk bonk on the head.
Nevertheless, with those who come to praise Carrie Bradshaw, there are also those who would bury her. This article reports on the growing trend of young women, under the influence of Sex and the City, embracing the perceived glamor of a promiscuous lifestyle. Given the chiding, alarmist tone of the article, you might think it was written for Focus on the Family, but no, it’s affiliated with ABC News. The article focuses mostly on “Lisa” (not her real name), who at the tender young age of 14 was so taken with the program and its sophisticated, sexually confident characters that she set about fully emulating them, but only, as is carefully pointed out, their negative behavior, namely drinking heavily and sleeping around.
She soon graduated to ordering cosmopolitans at bars she snuck into and cheating on her boyfriend with up to seven other guys — in one week. “When you’re that age you try to emulate people on TV. Carrie smoked, so I smoked, Samantha looked at hooking up with random people as not a big deal, so that’s what I did too,” said Lisa, now 22.
Actually, it’s not so much like the Force as it is the Schwartz.
Colonel Sandurz: But your ring! Don’t you have the schwartz too?
Dark Helmet: No, he got the up side. See, there’s two sides to every schwartz. He got the up side, I got the down side.
Let me just say right now: I love Youtube. Every time I see my cable TV bill, I have a little moment where I seriously ask myself why I’m still paying for it. As a child of the Eighties, Youtube is my MTV; it is everything that MTV could have been if, back in the early 90s, someone took a real stand for humanity and said “The Real World, huh? Get the fuck out.” Did you know that MTV still plays videos? They do. Finding them is a little like trying to find your cell phone after you’ve dropped it into that toilet from Trainspotting, but they actually do show videos for a half-hour or so each day. Let’s just say they don’t, it’s easier. But Youtube isn’t just that. It’s also my go-to for my Holy Shit That’s Funnier Than I Remember It Being, my What the Fuck Is Going On Here, the list goes on without the slightly icky feeling of reading a TV Guide. I fucking love it.
Look… there’s a song out there by someone named “Peaches”. The song is called, well, “Fuck The Pain Away”. Now, I’d never heard it before. I’d never even heard of it before. But if you’re going to hear a song called “Fuck The Pain Away”, you might as well hear Miss Piggy sing it, because really, life is too short. Youtube provided this to me the other day. NSFW, obviously.
Youtube has also made available some incredibly clever independent shorts, like here and here, things that you wouldn’t ever find on the ol’ (and it is old, like sagging) boob tube. And to top it off, it singlehandedly made Rick Astley a household name again! So you could say that Youtube is kinda like the Force in that it is truly awesome in many ways. Like this:
Yes, the Star Wars prequels may have been the cinematic equivalent of two midgets having rough sex on your favorite R2-D2 bedsheets, but when it comes to Yoda kicking ass, well… are you going to choose the majestically boring sight of Luke’s X-wing gliding through a smelly bog from Empire or the spastic green fury of Episodes II & III? So there’s your up side.
But there’s always a down side. Yin and yang, light and dark, good and bad, plain and with almonds. Having a nice green lawn but having to spend more money dumping water on it. Being a fan of Jeremy Irons but having to deal with him showing up in stuff like Dungeons & Dragons. Or, my new favorite example, eating a South American fruit called a cherimoya. Some people liken the flavor to a combination of banana, pineapple, and strawberry, or even bubble gum. Doesn’t that sound awesome? But the seeds are poisonous, and the skin can apparently cause paralysis for up to five hours.
The awesomely named Paul Kix of Salon writes an article lamenting the increasing irrelevance of hip hop. It’s a maddening little piece that had me alternately rolling my eyes and occasionally nodding in agreement. Let’s address the chaff before the wheat, shall we?
1. If I’m doing my math correctly, Kix was born in 1981, which makes him barely 27. It seems a bit fatuous for someone who is still very much a part of the most heavily marketed generation in entertainment and business to be complaining about the current state of the music industry with a distinct “what’s the matter with these kids today?” tone. I realize that we as a society are constantly chasing our own tails, particularly when it comes to pop culture, but if someone who didn’t even enter high school until 1995 is already claiming things were better when he was a kid, we’re in a lot more trouble than we think.
2. I find it unlikely that an eight year-old, in the middle of Iowa or otherwise, would have been listening to N.W.A. This sort of claim is as dubious to me as anyone who claims to have started smoking at age seven, or willingly lost their virginity at age 12. Oh, he could have been aware that they existed, and may have even heard a track or two from them, but I must take pause with the notion that at such a young age he somehow understood what the music was about, and what an impact it had on American culture. I bought a 45 single of ‘Rock the Casbah’ with my own money when I was about ten, not because I embraced the politics of the lyrics, or knew that the Clash was one of the most important bands in the world at the time, but because I liked the video, which had armadillos in it, and which was played on MTV seemingly once every hour or so. It wasn’t until I was nearly an adult that I realized they were actually saying something.
3. Really? Honestly? Hip hop getting every last bit of relevance squeezed out of it in order to appeal to a more mainstream (yeah, go ahead and read it as “white”) market is nothing new. Back in my day (and I’m nearly 36, so I’m allowed to speak in a “GTFO my lawn” tone), there were three kinds of hip hop/rap: the underground club stuff, i.e. Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaata, which nobody much listened to outside of New York City, the political groups like Public Enemy and EPMD, and the goofy novelty acts, like The Fat Boys and 2 Live Crew. Guess which of these made the most money? For Kix (and I keep wanting to spell his name with an extra “x” in honor of the hair metal band of the same name) to suggest that the late 80s-early 90s was a halcyon period of educated music consumers buying up The Geto Boys is simply inaccurate. Vanilla Ice’s To The Extreme, the album that featured the immortal ‘Ice Ice Baby,’ went platinum seven times between 1990 and 1991. That means it sold over seven million copies, and stayed at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for an astonishing four months. It is still one of the biggest selling rap albums of all time. People outright deny now that it was ever that popular, but it was, you couldn’t get away from that song, and it took a lot longer than it should have to discover just what a phony tool Mr. Rob Van Winkle really was. During that same period, Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, EPMD’s Business as Usual, and A Tribe Called Quest’s People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm were released, only the first came anywhere near cracking the top 20 Billboard chart. The average American simply was not interested in hearing ‘Welcome to the Terrordome’ when he or she could have been listening to ‘The Humpty Dance’ instead. They wanted to feel cool and with it by claiming they listened to rap and hip hop, they just didn’t want to listen to the kind of rap and hip hop that presumably endorsed rioting and killing white people.
Before I go any further, let me advise you that my opinion on movies like Speed Racer cannot be trusted, because I liked the first Matrix sequel. Admitting you like either of the sequels to The Matrix is sort of like admitting you like headcheese: you know there have to be other people out there who feel the same way, but you’re the only one foolish enough to say it. At some point when I was sitting in the theater watching The Matrix Reloaded, I thought “You know, I’m never going to understand all this nonsense about Sentinels and Keymakers and Merovingians, so I’m just going to shut my brain off and enjoy the sight of a couple of 18-wheelers spot-welding into each other on a freeway.” And it worked! It wasn’t a great movie by any definition, but it sure was fun to watch. For most other viewers, however, it was a huge disappointment to have spent $10 at the local octoplex to see a movie with a plot that seemed to have come from the bottom of a bong in the Wachowski Brothers’ basement.
If Speed Racer is any evidence, it would appear that Larry and Andy Wachowski have traded in their bongs for crystal meth and Red Bull. The best word I can come up with to describe the look, the pacing, and the style of this film is “frantic,” and by “frantic” I mean it feels like you’re stuck in a German disco that has far exceeded its legal capacity. Not only that, but you’ve pissed off the disco’s lighting guy, let’s call him Hans or Erich or Jurgen, so he’s taken it upon himself to engage every effect he has at his disposal, aiming them right into your face until you collapse in a twitching, foaming at the mouth heap. It’s what goes on inside the brain of a seven year-old after he’s eaten 39 Pixy Stix. It’s like riding Space Mountain on Ecstasy thirty times in a row. It’s like being beaten over the head with a kaleidoscope, and then run over by a fluorescent pink car driven by Willy Wonka and the PowerPuff Girls. Instead of offering medical assistance, a neon-trimmed ambulance arrives and releases a spider monkey that proceeds to blow toxic glitter in your eyes and then pelt you with Hot Wheels cars.