Sex and What City?

Let’s forgive and forget the fashions that would invite an ass kicking -- Newsboy cap at a jaunty angle? With suspenders? A short girl with a parasol? I guarantee any woman who tries that in Manhattan is friendless and will be mugged.

We’ll ignore, too, that no one on Sex and the City ever seems to go to the movies, a bookstore, work, any kind of live performance, a park, a diner, a bodega or a Starbucks, though in my world it’s the rare day when at least two or three of these quintessential New York amenities aren’t visited. (There was one day when I somehow made it to EACH thing on this list, though it was a bad day, to be sure, and not one you’d like to see fictionalized for television.)

In these ways I can accept that my New York is different from the New York of our Sunday night gals. After all, I haven’t worn anything strapless since my high school prom, and these women seem to exist in a world where every night, and most days, is the prom, glitter and all. Clearly, our experiences, probably of both sex and the city, would be different. And in a way, I'm quite grateful for the differences between our lives: While my life is certainly less photogenic than theirs and would hardly shape up into gripping half-hour episodes, I have the sense that it would be tiresome to have to work so hard to keep my hair looking nice.

But if the details of their Manhattan lives and mine are understandably divergent, surely on that little 14-mile island we all call home we would at least bump into some of the same things on the street. For example, though that foursome’s set moves a lot faster than mine, if we happened to be passing through, say, 14th St. and 9th Ave., wouldn’t we all see the hotdog cart on the corner? If we all found ourselves on 32nd Street (they going east, I heading west), would we not all be in Little Korea, where one sometimes finds Koreans? Or, if we all passed a synagogue and went inside at the same time by mistake, would it not be filled with the people of the book?

The answer to these and other similar questions is No, of course, as anyone who is as devoted as I to Sex and the City will know. It is a show without blacks, without Hispanics, without Asians (except the occasional appearance by Margaret Cho), without foreigners and, most significantly for this little Semite, it’s a show about New York City taking place in New York City and it’s got no Jews.

Well, not no Jews. There was that episode in Season 2 where the annoying childhood friend (whose husband got to be too much of a disaster) stayed with Carrie for a bit and irritated the hell out of her. Though it was never explicitly mentioned, the woman’s larger than life personality, jewelry and ass seemed designed to present her as a --- (I can’t spell it out because my mother finally convinced me that it’s a somewhat anti-Semitic phrase and I don’t want to contribute to any anti-Semitic sentiment in the world, so let’s just say that it is an acronym that used to be used derogatorily against a certain Asian-Pacific population around WWII and it rhymes with nap).

There was another episode in Season 2 where Samantha went to see a psychiatrist to deal with her boyfriend’s small penis, and the psychiatrist, if I had to guess, was also Jewish. I think I remember one episode from this past season where a sales person seemed like she might be Jewish, too. That’s three Jews in three seasons (I missed Season One, where perhaps there was more flourishing of the tribe).

Let’s compare that to my life: If it’s a weekend, I get up in the morning and want to get brunch, so I call a friend. Probably a Jewish friend, because I’d say around half my friends, especially the ones who might want to get a nice weekend brunch, are Jewish.

Before I leave, my roommate wakes up and saunters into the kitchen. Bam, another Jew. After brunch, perhaps my friend and I go see a movie. We stand in line for the movie, maybe at the Film Forum, where we’ll run into probably around 10 or 15 more Jews. And I don’t mean people who reach out their hand and say, “Good day. I’m Saul, a Jew. I work at Barnes & Noble, but really I’m a painter.” I mean people who you can see are Jews. Jews can pick out other Jews; it’s a gift we have. It’s how I know that there are no Jews on SATC -- I can SEE there aren’t, like that kid from the Sixth Sense sees dead people, except in his case there were dead people to see.

But let’s get back to my day, and we’ll take it somewhere where those sassy fashionistas might also hang out so we can see that their world is actually quite shockingly devoid of chosen ones. We’ll go to … a bar. A classy one, in the 20s on the East Side. One with a lot of people in suits, probably investment bankers or lawyers whose firms haven’t gone business casual (or, more likely, unemployed lawyers coming to drink after bad interviews with firms who aren’t hiring; this takes care of my work-week crowd, too, since I am a lawyer with lots of unemployed friends). Bankers and lawyers? In real life, Jews and Jews. In SATC, not Jews and Jews.

I don’t know how many Jews there are in New York City (the census report is too damn confusing), but I know it’s more than there are on the show. A lot more. Like, it’s a well-documented fact that Jews have played a vital role in shaping New York City in every way, be it culturally, gastronomically or educationally. But on this weirdly idealized version of New York, diversity is represented by gay bars and that one episode where Sam dates a black man whose sister makes him break up with her for being white. Somehow, on this show, man after man is afflicted with some unusual penile disorder, but not one of them had his foreskin snipped in a blessed ceremony.

Which shouldn’t, on reflection, be any surprise. After all, though Jews appear all the time as characters on sitcoms, I cannot recall any soap opera that features a Jewish character, except for Beverly Hills 90210, which had its bookish Andrea who eventually got knocked up and had to drop out of college. And I can’t even think of one commercial on TV that has a recognizable Jew in it, either. (That said, it seems like swarthy men in heavy black glasses are becoming staples in cell phone ads, so maybe people who were bar or bat mitzvahed are soon to be seen endorsing consumer goods.)

Since Sex and the City is essentially a mix between a soap opera and a commercial, I guess it’s less surprising rather than more that there isn’t even one Jewish character on the show -- except that the show is made out to be a love letter to Manhattan, and doesn't true love embrace all of the lover, even his (or her) slightly neurotic and nebbish sides?

The show-girls have seen maybe five Jews in five years. Most New Yorkers come across more Jews by breakfast, or by lunch at the latest. So, I won’t be the first to point out that it’s an unrealistic portrayal of life in New York, but I do find this particular omission to be somewhat shocking. After all, isn’t New York without Jews like a bagel without cream cheese? In a word: dry. Which I guess helps to explain all the drinking.

Arin Greenwood is spending the year clerking for the Northern Mariana Islands Supreme Court. She is one of three Jews on the island. Her stories have been published in numerous publications, including Ironminds, American Window Cleaner Magazine, Travelmag, The Providence Journal, and Phony Lid Pickpockets.


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