Detective Work

A closer look at popular culture and communication

Sex and the Capitalists.

In a lecture on January 12th Strangelove discusses the relationship between capitalism and ideologies…




This lecture opened my eyes to the close relationship that the two entities share. News and media are described as the mouthpiece of capitalism. Ideologies are defined as the meeting place for power and meaning.


“Ideologies reproduce social conditions and relations that are necessary for economic conditions and relations” (Strangelove). Media can reinforce ideologies and use them to their benefit in order to keep us in a constant state of hyper-consumption. We don’t want to be alienated by our peers for not conforming to cultural roles or not striving to be the “ideal” type. And don’t think for one second we want to be caught in a yellow sweater when that color was clearly deemed “so last season”.


Before taking this course, I would have thought that shows which break cultural rules by featuring homosexuality, promiscuity, female independence, and/or male passiveness, to be innovative and cutting-edge. One which quickly comes to mind is HBO’s Sex and the City. If ideologies reproduce social conditions in order to maintain the interests of capitalism, what makes television shows that feature gender bending or obscure behavior successful?


Sex and the City appears to contain all the features of an anti-capitalist, non conformist, New York lifestyle in which Carrie has options, choices, friends, and her own sense of self separate from her interpersonal relationships. If we idolize an individual who does not conform to cultural expectations or ideologies, how can social relations which govern economic conditions be produced? This would be an interesting question if Sex and the City didn’t produce ideologies on a level unconscious to those simply tuning in for entertainment.


Upon closer inspection, Sex and the City actually reproduced:

  • mating in New York and the need for a husband (Carrie wants nothing more than to be married to Richard at the end of the series even though he has put her through years of deceit and heartbreak)
  • reproduction of heterosexual monogamous relationships as Samantha who used to believe she was a lesbian and feared commitment ends up in a long-term relationship with none other than a famous male model
  • women trying to escape from power of men but in the end return to marriage (Three of  the four women become married)
  • women express themselves through consumption practices (Carrie faces financial troubles yet has a closet full of designer shoes, the main characters are always shopping together)



But why is this important in regards to ideologies?


These women appear to be the next generation of the “ideal” woman, yet capitalist views are scribbled all over the series. This tells us how to behave, look, and feel. Sex and the City simply strengthens the idea that life is about the pleasures of shopping which in turn secures the interests of the capitalist system. As Strangelove points out, capitalism and ideologies are a tightly woven reinforcing system.


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