What with the wide media coverage of the premiere of The CW's Gossip Girl - a show centered around spoiled prep school brats on the Upper East Side - and the the Sex And The City movie currently being filmed around town, I couldn't help but think about how New York - and New Yorkers - are perceived by outsiders when their education comes exclusively from the glamorous glow of their television.
I've always struggled with Sex And The City's grapple on the psyche of so many girls, women, and naive gay men, all of whom have adopted the show's flavor as a way of living ["fabulously"] in the sprawling metropolis. What I find so odd, though, is how it's managed to single-handedly drape New York underneath a blanket of self-congratulatory excess and superiority.
Sure, the city is occupied by a culture of career-driven self-obsession and an egomaniacal competition. But there are those of us who, despite our ambitions and ulterior motives, just kind of like to ...chill out. I'm not necessarily talking about "bros and hoes," per se (although the East Side between 28th and 91st Streets is fully stocked), but just...regular people, the kind of people who you saw on TV when NBC found success equating Jewwy neuroses into the sitcoms of the late nineties.
You can bet that when Carrie was getting a mani-pedi on a Sunday afternoon, Seinfeld's George Castanza was spilling cole slaw juice all over himself at a modestly-priced diner, surrounded by people who had occupied the neighborhood for years. If Samantha was getting a bikini wax to feel feminine and sexy, then Mad About You's Jamie Buchman was likely passing that spa on her way to buy dog food, a nail clipper, and glass cleaner. Charlotte may have spent the day working as an art curator (quite the job for a character who seemed about as bright as Whoopi Goldberg's vagina), but even on a show as one-dimensional and toxic (in its polluting the American lexicon with excessive sarcasm and wry vocal inflection) as Friends, Rachel served coffee.
Am I nostalgic for the days when Paul Reiser stuttered through lines of chirpy dialog as he hiked up his pale blue tapered jeans and made it increasingly easy for Anti Semites to collect more reasons to hate us? Certainly not. (P.S. Jerry Seinfeld did it first, better, and a lot less obnoxiously.) But the quirky, "everyday" social New York lifestyle of friends, parking squabbles, diners, movie theaters, public parks, creepy neighbors, and soup lines is long gone on television, and I just can't stomach another example of the Los Angelesification of Manhattan, even if it is - sadly - a matter of art imitating life.