I don’t know much about the Sex and the City series, or the film, so feel free to get your opinions elsewhere. But, watching the newly-released trailer for Sex and the City 2, I was struck again by one of the brand’s notable features: its portrayal of theme-park New York. It’s an old claim, from Robert Fitch to The Suburbanization of New York, that urban renewal and real-estate shonkery has altered Manhattan’s physical and social makeup. Small-scale craft, manufacturing and retail were replaced with upmarket boutiques and art galleries, ethnic neighbourhoods supplanted by bond-trading yuppies, and exciting public spaces were cleansed to make things safe for tourists.
Films, meanwhile, have been portraying disneyfied simulacra of London, Paris and Chicago for at least the last decade (and of Los Angleles for ever). They’re beautiful tourist postcards, culturally rich, and just the sort of place you’d pay to visit. Sex and the City seems the first, or at least the most explicit, to re-imagine New York as this sort of place. Of course many films, not least Manhattan, have presented audiences with seductive, loving shots of the city’s tourist landmarks. But Woody Allen, urban chauvinist that he is, sought to portray NYC as an actual city, with actual public spaces, physical proximity, ethnic heterogeneity etc. Theme-park New York, on the other hand, shares only visual references with the real city, which it turns into a glamorous backdrop for upscale consumption.
Of course, Carrie’s world is self-conscious of its fairytale elements, and that’s part of the brand’s appeal. But that still doesn’t explain why anyone should actually want to make a fairytale about an ethnically homogeneous, crassly stylised New York. It merely admits that they did.