May 19, 2004


Category: TV trivia

'Why,' I asked her, 'if you like Sex and the City so much don't you like Cutting It?' I suppose I could reverse the question: why do I love Cutting It but detest - in that 'I detest it but watch it' way - SATC?

Superficially, the series have a lot in common. Both are female-orientated, with strong female casts and a predominantly female audience. Both centrally concern relationships, romance and sex. And the central drama in both is strikingly similar: the Big/ Barishnikov/ Carrie love triangle is doubled in Cutting It by the Allie/ Finn/ Gavin relationship.

And yet, in the end, the differences obviously outweigh the points of connection.

Part of this is down to SATC's consumer porn. To the trained eye of the fashionista (i.e. not mine), SATC is so much more sumptuous than the relatively dowdy Cutting It. (This is perhaps reversed by the relative appeal to men of the leading characters in each; as Penman so sagely observed way back when, all of the Sex harridans are repulsive. In the war of the Sarahs, give me Parish over Parker any day of the week!)

Also, and related to this, Cutting It keeps it local whereas SATC flaunts its cosmopolitanism (and its Cosmopolitanism). Cutting It is resolutely local, provincial, whereas SATC was all New York deracinated and internationalist.

And this leads onto the third and most important difference: rootedness. In Cutting It, the theme is the past; its inescapability, the way it will come back to take its revenge upon you, the way you are condemned to repeat it. This was one of the points to emerge from the reverse Great Expectations plot of Gavin's 'outing' this week as the child of a bourgeois family. 'Bullshit', Ruby said, is a 'time bomb'. It will go off in the end, just as roots can only be dyed for so long. By contrast, SATC was all about new starts, about the lack of a past. What do we know of Carrie, Samantha et al's early - presumably pre-NYC - lives? What we do know of their parents? In SATC, family history is excised as neatly as split ends, cut off and swept away, whereas in Cutting It, family history, with all its shadows, secrets, compromises, comforts and commitments, is the net (at once supportive and constricting) that all the characters must negotiate. (Even if the family is not genetic; one of the other themes of this week's episode). In SATC, the problem was: do I start a family or not? In Cutting It, the problem is belonging to a family.

It's impossible not to see this as an English versus an American thing. America, with a future but no past; England, with a past and no future. America, brimming over with possibility, where the sheer blankness of the future, the superfluity of territory, the excess of options are the issue ('how can I possibly choose?'). The terror in SATC was hence of closing down possibilities, of acquiring a past. In Cutting It, the fear (cf Darcy's terror that her life might have been fixed and set before her birth) is of never being able to leave the past ('there is no choice').

Posted by mark at May 19, 2004 05:37 PM | TrackBack

SATC seemed whitebread in the way everyone i know (on long hols etc.) reports of how Manhattan is these days. if that's internationalist i don't know how much of the old NYC was deracinated there (given NYC has always been one of the world's most ethnically diverse towns, but i digress).

definitely agree about rootedness, being familiar with both shows.

England and America both have futures and pasts though.
maybe America's past is more "provincial" (socially inward looking Puritans, "local" indigenous peoples, Mexican War) and NYC today international,
whilst, arguably, England's past has been; (a) of course extremely global,
(b) its future might be one of decline (if you believe that) so therefore provincial, so maybe you are on to something.

i suppose if you were going to bring the rise of differing modernities from other spheres (rise of a Chinese hegemony etc.) that would shift goalposts.

do think it's very possible to not see this as a Limeys vs. Yanks thing though.

on the provincial England tip above do i sound like Rumsfeld, "old Europe", bloody hell?!

Posted by: scott at May 19, 2004 06:08 PM

excuse my appalling 'grasp' on history, and doubtless entirely inappropriate analogies.

Posted by: scott at May 19, 2004 06:10 PM

I've never seen Cutting It (is it on the BBC?), but I mostly agree with your SATC analysis. However, I've never seen anything "internationalist" about it. The individuals may be rootless, but they seem to have fairly limited horizons, to me (cf. Carrie's trip to the country with Aidan).

I'm certainly no fashionista, but Carrie is certainly the worst-dressed TV character I can think of (esp. as one who is supposed to be well-dressed - or maybe not?). They always manage to get in at least one *shocking* get-up per show.

Posted by: mwanji at May 19, 2004 09:33 PM

i don't know anything about anything but i will say i normally dig what Carrie's dressing.

'course i ain't no fashionista either, just saying...

Posted by: scott at May 19, 2004 10:15 PM

Great blog and great post.
I've never seen 'cutting it' but I agree with almost everything you've said about SATC. I only want to create another question: everybody knows England has no future but, don't you think America's about to get to a similar status?.

I think that's one weak point in SATC: the characters are always trying to scape from the fact they're building themselves a past, but there's no real scape, because there's nothing more to choose, it's all ficticious. America's lost, but nobody seems to know it.

If you watch SATC that way, you can`t help feeling somekind of pity and mercy on Carrie and her friends.

Gee, excuse me if you can't understand my awful english. It's one of the problems of being spanish (a minor problem if you compare it with the royal wedding)

Posted by: Jean Tully at May 22, 2004 04:38 PM