Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sex and Le City: Enjoying an American Phenomenon in the World’s Sexiest Town

There are those of us who made it a night out: a gaggle of girls, a few cosmopolitans, a giggly stumble down the cobblestone laneways that challenge even the most skillful wearers of heels in a scramble not to miss show time. There are those of us who used it as a pick-me-up the morning after: an antidote to too much drink, too much dance and too much time dedicated to chatting up the wrong guy.

And then there are those of us who spent the first week trotting by the billboards, eyes cast downward, as if making visual contact with a Photo Shop-ed starlet would somehow confirm our suspicion: the reviewers were right, our cherished series is yet another statistic in the line-up of A-class television shows that, when transformed onto the big screen, became Z-class flops. It seems like such a waste of celluloid (and anti-cellulite digital editing).

In honor of ‘Sex and the City’s’ movie debut, the French television channels have been airing re-runs of the series, and those of us who feared (and experienced) disappointment at the cinema have comforted ourselves in front of the tube. Dubbed over to address the national audience, the show is less punchy en français, but the translations suffer less in ‘Sex…’ than in the average New York police drama.

For a North American girl living in France, watching ‘Sex and the City’ amongst the French can make one feel very, very out of place. Humor, for one, doesn’t always translate across national borders, and what’s funny to one girl may be banal – or worse, gauche – to another. Furtive glances abound in a roomful of girls congregated around the TV set, their expressions silently inquiring: do you women really talk to each other like that? French girls, generally a much more discreet lot, use only the most obscure terminology when revealing anything intimate – and only then accompanied by a polite blush. Unlike their North American counterparts (many of whom were viewers to gain insight on the opposite sex), Frenchmen largely regard the show as women’s business, and it’s quite possible that the odd français who indulges his curiosity in this modern feminine phenomenon either spends the entire time criticizing the wardrobe choices of the male characters (‘a pin-striped suit and a close shave…mais, non !’), or wrinkling their noses whenever the female dialogue becomes crass.

A few years ago, when ‘Sex’-mania took hold in Paris, the bars and nightclubs responded by hosting ladies’ nights – complete with exotic male performers and pole dancing classes – to capitalize on the fad. It was a miniature revolution: in Paris, girls’ night out is mainly reserved for Anglophone expats. “C’est pas bien,” complained one Parisian man to his buddy, when their girlfriends announced their intentions to paint the town red together. “They’re going to gossip about us, and talk about private matters, and it will be just like ‘Sex and the City.’”

He needn’t have worried, because ladies’ night at the strip bars in Paris are much more sage than the ones North American girls are accustomed to back home. There is little shrieking, and no one charges the dancers, a wad of bills in her teeth at the ready. “What is this?” a transplanted New Yorker demanded as she surveyed the room at Chez Régine, which was hosting a two-hour performance of male strippers for women only before opening its doors to its masculine clientele. She gestured to the tables of women sipping their cocktails and chatting quietly amongst themselves. “At an event like this in New York, we’d all be friends by now!” Every so often, someone would throw an uneasy glance toward the door and check her watch, as if biding her time until she would be, once again, in mixed company.

It’s unclear as to how much success Sex and the City: Le Film will render in France. It’s safe to say, however, that for as many North American women who couldn’t believe that Carrie would give up the chance to live in Paris, there are just as many parisiennes who dream of living in New York. The chance to catch a few glimpses of the Big Apple in all of its cinematic glory may be just the ticket to getting French audiences to cough up the 10 euros for a seat…either as part of a girl’s night out or an evening entre amoureux.