Two Poor Women’s Sex and the City

In the vacuum left by the end of Sex and the City’s run, we are faced with two series attempting to fill the void: Lipstick Jungle and Cashmere Mafia. Don’t think of this as the dearth of fresh ideas leading to re-hashed pabulum, but rather one idea split between two shows.

“I find it offensive that women always feel that we have to apologize for our success.” –Niko

Coming from another book by Sex and the City author, Candace Bushnell, Lipstick Jungle features a trio: Wendy (Brook Shields), a powerful movie executive; Niko (Kim Raver, Third Watch, 24), a high-powered editor; and Victory Ford (Lindsay Price), a fashion designer. In this princess fantasy, the moral of the story seems to be that while you are waiting for your prince, you are to pursue success, but not be too successful because men will either leave you or conspire against you.

The show went out of its way to find three friends who were so boring. For such powerful women, everything about their lives seems out of their control. In its attempt to portray strong women, what they end up showing is women of little substance, unable to manage their jobs, their relationships, or their children. It lacks energy, drained by taking itself so seriously, especially compared to the pop of Cashmere Mafia.

“Four friends who can have it all as long as they have each other.” –tagline for Cashmere Mafia

From the same producer of Sex and the City, Darren Star, Cashmere Mafia also features career women with over packed schedules who don’t know the meaning of the word relax. The show proves to be just as busy, with the four cliches cut from the same cloth, indistinguishable except for their personal situations.

Lucy Liu is Mia, an aggressive magazine publisher and alpha female of the quartet. Serial dater Caitlin (Bonnie Somerville) is a cosmetics executive. Juliet (Miranda Otto) is the COO of a hotel group and walking Lifetime movie situation. Zoe (Frances O’Connor) is the over-scheduled mother of two. They go through the same motions, coming to the conclusion that they always need to make time to nurture their relationships .

“We are far from the idea of a wife he grew up with as it is possible to be and still wear his ring and go by his last name.” –Juliette

The shows want to be about shattering people’s ideas about roles of women (or at least capturing the zeitgeist of Sex and the City). They are industry leaders, not defined or restricted by patriarchal definitions of their place in society. These social climbing BFFs are slaves to fashion (other people’s idea of what beauty is), girls night out bonding over drinks, always working (yet rarely seeming to actually be doing any work), and prone to vacuous navel gazing. For all of their asserting of their independence, equality, liberation, superficial and the right to sleep around, they live in a quest of the desire to be loved.

Both shows reduce women’s empowerment to “beach read” television. Lipstick Jungle has the stronger cast and less to work with. Cashmere Mafia has more pop, but is still ultimately innocuous. They lack the pathos to be memorable. Their zingers don’t zing, the emotions they attempt to explore don’t go much deeper than visceral interludes. In short, they lack the gravitas necessarily to be taken seriously, much like their characters. We were faced with a showdown of two Sex and the City clones, and in this battle, everyone loses.

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