Earlier this week, I joined a group of gay journalists in a roundtable interview of Madonna. While awaiting our time with the Queen of Pop, we chatted over wine and snacks about a variety of topics, including our thoughts on the album, HBO’s Looking and RuPaul’s Drag Race. The conversation picked up though when a certain television show came up.
Perhaps we need a corollary to Godwin’s Law (which posits that any online debate that goes on long enough will eventually invoke Hitler or Nazis). Maybe any conversation between pop-culturally savvy gay men will invariably reference Sex and the City at some point. Once the topic was broached among our group, references flew across the table, including episode numbers, titles, guest stars and storylines.
It’s the kind of show that feels embedded in the DNA of a large swath of the gay community. In its seemingly perpetual airings in syndication, the show certainly shows its age, but the impact of its six seasons (and maybe one of the movies) is still worth discussing today. Driven largely by gay creative forces Darren Starr and Michael Patrick King, the show not only brought openly gay characters to a mainstream series, but it embodied a sort of fabulous, urban lifestyle that spoke to the independent, creative spirit that permeates a wide, cross section of the gay community. Even its central protagonists — with their frank sexuality, over-the-top styles and witty retorts — feel like they’re ripped straight from Drag Race.
Still, the show’s portrayal of actual gay characters was far from revolutionary. The mostly sexless sidekicks, Stanford Blatch (Willie Garson) and Anthony Marentino (Mario Cantone), are quintessentially shallow representations. The show also clumsily tackled topics of bisexuality and trans characters. (And that’s nothing to say about the lack of racial diversity, rampant consumerism and class privilege that made the show feel continuously more out-of-touch the longer it went on.)
Flaws and all, the series still holds a special place in many hearts, so let’s revisit some classic clips, AFTER THE JUMP …