Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Role of Men in Sex and the City & The Hills

After examining Arthurs' article on Sex and the City and Levine's article regarding MTV reality shows such as The Hills, I would like to examine the role that men play on these television shows. Although both shows are centered around women, in Sex and the City the storyline narratively follows the lives of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda in New York City. Likewise, The Hills essentially follows random events in the life of Teen Vogue intern Lauren Conrad, along with her best girlfriends, Heidi, Lo, and Audrina. Although we don't usually think of "men" when discussing these shows, we should not ignore their presence and their significance. I believe that men play a significant role in the vast success of these shows most importantly because they seem to be the root of all the drama and desire among these women.
For example, in Sex and the City, although the women are praised for being the non-typical housewife and instead possess this glamorous ideology of being a successful, single women outside of the home, we cannot ignore the role that men play in their lives. Although Carrie may not NEED a man (she is successful and stable in her career without one), it is evident that her happiness fluctuates with how well her relationships, specifically her relationship with Big is doing. For example, in the Sex and the City movie we see Carrie go from being the happiest bride-to-be in the world as she poses in Vera Wang for a magazine spread to her being so down in the dumps that she sleeps for days on her what should of been honeymoon and then drowns herself in alcohol any time she gets. The article talks about during the Sex and the City show, "Carrie's sex life and those of her friends act as research for her weekly newspaper column" (315). Since this show is based on white, heterosexual characters, the sex life of these ladies, and thus, the success of Carrie's column, is completely dependent on the characters' relationships with other men. Let's face it, the different men Samantha is sleeping with every weekend or the struggles and drama related to Charlotte finally finding and marrying her prince charming and becoming pregnant by him make for great television, but the show would not be half as exciting without the drama these women go through in their many relationships. Arthurs says, "the women's single state is a necessary precondition for their central preoccupation-sexual relationships, and how to achieve sexual satisfaction" (317).
Likewise in The Hills, Spencer, the lead male role, possesses great power in the show because he somehow has the power to manipulate Heidi into thinking her relationship with him is worth losing her relationship with Lauren, ultimately adding to the drama as the show's producer's create awkward run-ins between the couple and Lauren. Spencer's ridiculous sayings and actions make for great television because people can't get enough of how full he is of himself and how crazy he acts, so, he draws a lot of viewers to the show, and I hate to say, but without him there would be much less drama and the show would be less entertaining.
All in all, I agree with Levine and Arthurs that the shows are centered among and targeted mostly to women, however, the male roles in the show bring in most of the drama that young teenagers today seem to obsess over, and I feel like we overlook how powerful their influence can really be.


  1. I think this is a really interesting concept to think about. No one really thinks about the men that are involved when they first think of a show like the Hills. It's all about the women and their drama, but it is so true that their drama is surrounded by the men in their lives.

  2. yeah, I agree.
    I think that even though many "men" would want to deny it, they ARE the source of all the drama that arises in the lives of women. And Sex and the City clearly depicts that.

  3. I have to say as a male fan of sex and the city ( i don't think i've missed an episode) that though the central characters of the show are women they interact in many ways like men and in certain respects have swapped role with men rather than redefined them (consider miranda's relationship early on with skipper (the computer programmer) or even with steve.) These male characters are immasculated and assume feminine positions while Miranda asserts herself not as a powerful woman but as a man.

  4. This is a great post and a very good point.

    Dylan, didn't one of the first episodes ask if women can have sex "like men" (e.g. casually)? It's interesting to wonder if we automatically view powerful roles as male-like. Miranda is an interesting question, because in some ways she's the least conventionally attractive of the four, and the most high-powered and usually the most aggressive, but then she ends up being the first one to have a kid and really settle down.

  5. In the notes section of the Arthurs article: "In a series of interviews with writers of the series that appeared on the website in July 2001 they were asked which characters they identified with most strongly. They all chose Miranda."

    It's interesting that the "most masculine" of the characters is the one that is most relatable with the show's writers.