Monday, May 05, 2008

did "Sex and the City" ruin New York City?

in a word: YES!

how any thinking person that resides in any borough of the city can seriously imagine otherwise is laughable.

i grew up on a steady diet of scorsese films and gritty urban cop tv shows on one hand and a father who survived the great migration north as a resident of brooklyn in the early part of the 20th century on the other -- so when i decided that i would move to new york city from the south, i had absolutely no illusions of grandeur. i knew that the rats and roaches would meet me at the airport, that it would be a filth hole beyond anything i could possibly imagine -- with crime everywhere, a rude sullen embittered poverty-stricken populace and an unholy stench that would rise to meet me every single day. i knew this because my father promised me that it was all one gigantic toilet, a cesspool of idiocy, because why would anyone pay what amounts to the cost of a home mortgage every month to live in a tiny apartment?

was it that bad when i got here? almost.

i lived in the ghetto of west harlem before this latest wave of gentrification, the one that's got hipster white people leaving the lower east side and moving uptown to buy and rent property because this area feels a lot like their old neighborhood did in the 90s: a strong mix of latin cultures, working class black folk and artists. mostly, there's an element of danger, set firmly in place to remind them that they're in new york city -- not the suburbs.

more and more, the city feels like surburbia. it's cleaner and quieter than ever, with more of a police presence on the streets, to make white people and tourists feel safe (because blacks and hispanics certainly don't).

do people believe that new york city is just like an episode of "sex and the city"? truth be told, there is a steady stream of white people from God knows where who are basically hipsters in training -- dilletantes for the most part who are willing to sacrifice their youth to affect a trendy urban lifestyle for the sake of cool and some semblance of culture that they probably never had. in the meantime, the things that really are cool about the city -- mom and pop stores and shops and eateries and the like, and the ethnic diversity of the populace that made this city what it is -- are vanishing. there's a starbucks on every corner. there's a crate and barrel in every neighborhood. african americans are moving south in droves. it's over.

the problem is, it's still new york city -- it's just as foul as it ever was. maybe even more so, because people aren't taking it as seriously as they should.

don't believe me? wander down ludlow street on any given saturday night after 1 am. i haven't seen that many fully trashed expensively well-dressed white people staggering down sidewalks since i went to the university of texas at austin and lived in west campus, surrounded by frat houses. is it really smart to get drunk and bar hop in new york?

lest we forget, there have been several high-profile murders of white females lately who were at play in the city: imette st. guillen from boston, whose friends left her drunk at the pioneer bar because she wanted to barhop through soho; jennifer moore from harrington park nj who, along with her best friend, went barhopping in chelsea (both of them were minors); and last but not least nicole du fresne from minnesota, who was drunk enough (at 3:15am in the lower east side) to berate a mugger with a gun pointed at her by saying, "what are you going to do, shoot us?"

the bottom line is, people believe what they see in the movies and on tv. as an artist, i want to make art that's impactful but it's fairly obvious at this point that if i want to change the world, making music or taking broadway by storm isn't the way to go about it. everyone watches television. you wanna change the world? write/produce a sit-com.


'Sex and the City' cast: Not our fault


Cynthia Nixon, Kristen Davis and Sarah Jessica Parker star in 'Sex in the City.' (handout)

The decade since "Sex and the City" premiered saw the transformation of New York into a real-life set for the show, with gaggles of cosmo-swigging young women chasing the lifestyle it depicts.

The city now teems with glass tower condos and swank shops that have displaced affordable apartments as well as small businesses that cater to longtime New Yorkers.

So is it the show's fault that your corner diner was knocked down for a condo and places like Third Avenue in Murray Hill are overrun with Samantha clones? No way, says the actor Chris Noth, who plays Mr. Big on the show and in its big-screen treatment, which premieres May 30.

"Look, there's always been plenty of fashion in New York, and it's never going to die," Noth said yesterday at a roundtable discussion with the film's cast and director at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. "But this show didn't create 40-story tall buildings and it doesn't negate [that] either."

Cast members yesterday conceded that they were familiar with the critique that "Sex and the City" helped launch these changes by drawing out-of-towners hell bent on living the life at all cost.

High-priced designer labels and extravagant lifestyles have been as much a part of the series as its four female stars -- Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon.

Nixon, for her part, is all too familiar with these bright-eyed girls.

"When people come up to me on the street and say, 'I just got here from Iowa two weeks ago. Your show made me come. I'm like, 'Oh no,'" said Nixon, who plays reprising Miranda Hobbes. "People do come here looking for love, but what do they find?"

Quite possibly bad luck in love, cramped apartments, shopping trips that don't include Fifth Avenue and life in a borough other than Manhattan.

In contrast to Miranda's experience where a cab driver wouldn't even cross the Brooklyn Bridge, that is not the case any more. And what was Miranda's unthinkable move to that "other" borough is now the norm for many 20- and 30-somethings.

In a city facing relentless neighborhood gentrification, Noth says he is a strong advocate of old New York. The actor mentioned his support of a movement to keep the 13th Street Repertory Theater and other city mainstays alive.

"We're losing a lot of our stoops and coffee shops and things like that," Noth said. "These are places to come together. It's hard to get together under the shadow of a 40-story building."

Michael Patrick King, writer and director of the film, said fans should keep in mind that the series and film don't exactly reflect reality. They should, in a sense, watch with a shaded view -- even if those shades are Gucci.

"I think the movie reflects your life but with a really big budget," King said. "It is a fantastical reflection of the lives of women around the world."

No comments: