Judging from recent coverage on the upcoming Sex and the City film, its long-overdue release couldn't have come at a more apt time to promote public discussion. To the recession-fearing public of 2008, fictional journalist Carrie Bradshaw's Manolo shopping sprees don't just appear charmingly utopian; they seem both outdated and irksome. This week's New York Magazine interview with Sarah Jessica Parker placed far greater focus on the cultural state of Manhattan than on the film itself; in transforming into Carrie's world of $14 cocktails and $500 heels, what happened to the city's ubiquitous, defining artistry?
"You know, when I arrived in the city in 1976, New York was financially a wreck,” Parker told New York's Emily Nussbaum. “But to me it's the New York that Matthew [Broderick] and I literally try to find every day of our lives. It was the best place in the world. It was literature. It promised everything. And for someone who loved food and smells and stimulation, who was rocked to sleep by the sound of taxis—well, there’s just so much money now, and the city is so affluent, and all the colors, all the shops, the look of a street from block to block is just terribly absent of distinguishing coffee shops, bodegas. All of that stuff that made it possible to live in New York is gone.”
The New York Times' decision to feature the president of the Alliance of the Arts in its Taking Questions-section this week might bear minimal connection to Sex and the City, but it confirms that the death of New York's bohemia is a prevailing topic in cultural journalism this spring. If the 40-plus reader questions so far are any indication, New York's chic stint seriously slowed down its creative pulse.
The readers, many of whom are part of the arts scene, have presented their list of inquiries with plenty of indignation to back them up. The alliance's president, Randall Bourscheidt, will have some multilayered concerns to dissect. The questions express dismay about artists' lack of health care, the city's sluggish arts education, high rental costs for performance spaces, and dwindling donor support during a recession. Many of them, in true New Yorker fashion, aren’t questions at all, but rather just short manifestos about the city's emphasis on money and lack of artistic support.
Most real-life Manolo shoppers will of course prevail, somehow, but their fictional artist counterpart is losing the last traces of her credibility. That economic slumps call for movie fantasies could, however, be Carrie's saving grace.