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Is there a double standard for 'Sex and the City'?

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Along with millions of other Americans, I am looking forward to seeing Sex and the City: The Movie this weekend. I am a dude, in case that fact needs pointing out. And — get this! — my girlfriend isn’t even forcing me to see it. Now, I don’t think any of this is particularly newsworthy. But judging by some of the articles I’ve read about SATC this week, you’d think I discovered life on Mars or something. There’s a weirdly ubiquitous meme out there that SATC is a “women’s movie” that will somehow face special box-office challenges for that reason — the assumption being that no men, or at least no straight men, could have the slightest interest in seeing this film. Why is this weird? Because I don’t think anyone would ever dream of raising similar questions about a movie where the main characters are all male. Huffington Post columnist Melissa Silverstein wrote a great column about this yesterday. Last year’s Wild Hogs, she noted, was correctly seen as mass-appeal entertainment for moviegoers of all genders, even though it was all about four aging guys. And do you remember anyone ever wringing their hands over whether traditionally “male” action flicks like Transformers could get women into multiplexes? There are plenty of other legit reasons to wonder about SATC‘s box-office prospects — it’s rated R, it’s really long, it’s about a very specific mileu of wealthy urban professionals, etc. But the gender thing just strikes me as fishy.

Meanwhile, you’ve got commentators like Best Week Ever‘s Paul F. Tompkins and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. They’re both generally smart, enlightened folks, but last night Tompkins dropped by Olbermann’s show so they could snicker their way through a “Sex and the City survival guide for men.” (Check it out below.) The premise, of course, was that no so-called real man would ever want to see a movie about three-dimensional, adult female characters. (The TV show also featured plenty of well-rounded, interesting male characters over the years, by the by — Steve, Aidan, Trey — but we can ignore that inconvenient fact.) Quipped Tompkins: “If you’re with a woman who is insisting that you go see this movie, I think it’s time to maybe date someone else. Because men are not meant to see this movie with women.” Way to police those restrictive gender roles, bro! Olbermann replied to this bon mot by quoting a Family Guy gag which referred to the SATC quartet as “three hookers and their mom” — classy. Are we in junior high here? Or perhaps the early 1950s?

None of this is a comment on the content of the movie — which, for all I know, could end up being terrible. But at least I’m comfortable enough to find out for myself. Anyone else scratching their heads at the assumptions surrounding men and Sex?

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