Film Response Essay

Submitted By maggiesylvester
Words: 1044
Pages: 5

In the HBO series Sex and the City, the four main characters, Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha, are successful, single women living in New York. Season 2, Episode 12 focuses, similar to many other episodes of this series, on sex and commodities. This show depicts Thorstein Veblen’s concept of Conspicuous consumption through the images of the woman’s lavish spending and expensive wardrobe. Conspicuous Consumption is the extravagant spending to depict ones social status. This show depicts feminist qualities, since in contrast to past centuries, the wealth displayed through clothing in this show represents the female’s wealth and independence. Also, the shows portrayal of explicit female sexuality in a positive light attempts to break stereotypes. Some criticisms arise about the shows use of woman spending, however it is this frivolous activity that initially allowed women to enter public spaces independently.
In the opening scene, the four women, are depicted at a restaurant with an S&M theme. Juxtaposition can be drawn between the literal consumption occurring in the restaurant and not only the servers who are dressed in leather outfits, but also the girls that are dressed for their night out—each depicting a similar form of visual consumption. The woman’s use of lavish clothing aims to draw the attention of those surrounding them. Thorstein Veblen introduced the idea of Conspicuous Consumption, lavish spending primarily to display income and project social status. This concept can be connected to the spending habits and the clothes of these four women. The shoes depicted in this show alone aim to draw envy, since they are designer brands.
Throughout the episode, Charlotte embodies a concept that has created much anxiety in societies—women lacking control. In the past, stores and society feared women would lose control in the purchasing of products. A job existed called male floorwalkers who were primarily in place to remove women that seemed to be getting too excited by the products. However, since then a major cultural shift has occurred, and now stores want women to lose control. This can be seen when Charlotte first enters the shoe store; the salesclerk quickly approaches her attempting to lure her into a sale. Even after she says that she cannot afford anything, the salesclerk continues hustle her and tempt her with new products. Although we later find out he has a foot fetish, at this point no shoes have been taken off, the salesclerk attempts to make Charlotte lose her rational thought and focus only on her desire for the new shoes. Throughout the episode, the language used to discuss products is evidence of this shift to encourage the lack of control. Later Charlotte’s lacks self-control when she is convinced to try on a pair of new shoes under non-ethical conditions and the voice over simply states, “the smell of leather was intoxicating”. This use of seductive language when describing a product only enhanced the allure of the shoes.
In the past, expensive clothes would leave women restricted and unable to partake in physical activities. Therefore, women had to be able to afford not only the clothing, but also the ability to be idle. Since these woman would not be wealthy independently, when they spend copious amounts the income they would be displaying would be that of a male, be it their father or husband. Where in the past commodities were used to display male wealth, in this television show the consumer products are showing the woman’s independent wealth. Each of the four women is successful in their field, and the consumer goods they own were bought with own incomes. Thus visual wealth has been reversed and is now a sign of the female’s success.
The depiction of women with their own purchasing power, rather then male wealth, marks an important shift. Before women were dependent on men not only for providing the primary income for their family but also as the primary consumer. Sex and the City marks