A columnist over at The Onion’s “AV Club” writes today expressing mystification about why the actresses on that brutal piece of post-feminist woman-on-woman sexism, the utterly horrible TV show “Sex and the City,” were not actually conventionally super-beautiful. After all, especially for women, looks remain one of the few avenues of conceivable social mobility into the kind of plastic, bourgeois, Manhattanite social spheres which that putrid turd of a program cravenly worshipped.
Why, then, the intrepid AV Clubber asks, such plain-Jane starlets on the show?
The answer is beyond simple, if you have any working knowledge of the controlling force behind this and all other commercial TV shows: big business marketing.
The marketing rationale for this apparent “mystery” is that “Sex and the City” is nothing more than a vehicle of flattering ordinary, average-looking women into believing they could, if only they were single and living in SoHo, be one of the friends of cigarette-smoking “Carrie,” the show’s supposedly “smart” and “sexy” central character.
You see, if the actresses were really as stunning as you would expect them to be, based on knowing how the real world actually works, they would be fantasy-killers and, thus, drive away viewers. Knowing this, the packagers of “Sex and the City” cast four comparatively homely lead actresses. The implanted reaction: “See? They’re not models. Neither am I! I could totally hang with Carrie!”
This implanted reaction was a piece of smart, effective, conventional marketing. The purpose of “Sex and the City” was (and is — it’s massively being re-run) to deliver the maximum number of female eyeballs to its sponsors’ advertising campaigns. To do this, its producers simply decided to make the lead characters “attainable” in both looks and behavior, so that the “girls” in the audience would indulge the show’s proposed fantasy of decadent, pampered, narcissistic shopping, dining, and man-chasing.
Of course, once the eyeballs get delivered, the more ordinary “aspirational” flatteries return: “Buy this cosmetic, and you will look like Halle Berry.”
The lesson here was stated well by my favorite ad critic, Leslie Savan. To understand corporate marketing, Savan says, “follow the flattery.” Once you do that, many “mysteries” evaporate.