Forget earnest documentaries about corporatized food and natural-gas fracking and climate refugees. The greenest movie of 2010 chronicles the latest exploits of none other than Carrie Bradshaw.
Yes, even though she’s a clotheshorse who once calculated she’d spent $40,000 on shoes. Even though, in the latest installment of the blockbuster franchise, Carrie and her trio of best gal pals fly in mind-bogglingly spacious first class to Abu Dhabi, where they’re shuttled around in a fleet of four chauffeur-driven luxury sedans. (There are camels, but they’re merely a diversion, not a means of transportation.)
Underneath the high-living, jet-setting sheen, the movie actually has a pro-earth message: It’s OK not to have babies. In fact, it’s even glamorous.
We learn that Carrie and Mr. Big have decided to go childfree when an overeager fan asks when they intend to have kids. “It’s just not for us,” Carrie says. “So it’s just going to be the two of you?” asks the fan, her voice dripping with pity. (Quotes are approximate. Ever tried to take good notes in a dark theater?)
Later, Carrie expands on the theme: “We’ve talked about it a lot. We both love kids, but it’s just not who we are.” And: “We’re adults without children; we have the luxury to design our lives the way we want.” Mr. Big chimes in: “Are we enough? Kid, we’re too much.”
In real life, about 20 percent of American women end up childfree, whether by choice or circumstance. In Sex and the City 2, where Samantha Jones joins Carrie in opting out of parenthood, 50 percent of our protagonists are childfree, very much by choice.
While the film (like the series before it) glamorizes the childfree life, it does not glamorize motherhood. The most emotionally resonant scene in the movie (which isn’t saying much) has the two moms, Miranda Hobbes and Charlotte York Goldenblatt, confiding to each other how tough the whole parenting gig is, much as they love their kids. “Being a mother kicks your ass,” says Miranda. Replies Charlotte, “They’re driving me crazy. I feel like I’m failing all the time.” And both acknowledge that they have it comparatively easy, as they’ve got full-time nannies. Charlotte: “How do the moms without help do it?” Miranda: “I have no fucking idea.”
Carrie is no GINK (green inclinations, no kids) because she lacks any environmental awareness. But despite her conspicuously consuming ways, she’s actually living a greenish lifestyle simply by virtue of choosing not to have children. She could lead a lifestyle that’s twice as carbon-intensive as a parent’s — even three, four, five times — and still come out ahead in the end. According to a 2009 study by researchers at Oregon State University [PDF], each child an American has compounds her or his carbon legacy by about 5.7 times, because that child is likely to have children of their own and so forth.
Even beyond being childfree, Carrie leads an exemplary green life in many ways. Really. For starters, she lives in Manhattan, which, thanks to its density, has the lowest per capita greenhouse-gas emissions of any community in the country, as author David Owen explains in his book Green Metropolis. She works from home, so there’s no commuting. She’s never owned a car (and can barely drive). Sure, she takes cabs, but she also walks around town a lot (all the more impressive because she does it in stilettos). She’s not much of a traveler. In all the time we’ve known her, she’s taken, by my count, just four and a half roundtrip plane journeys (to L.A., one way home from San Francisco, to Paris, to Mexico, and, finally, to Abu Dhabi; SATC aficionados, did I miss any)? That’s less than a trip a year, a better average than many of the rest of us can claim.
Carrie and crew made treacly sweet cosmos (then flirtinis) into the drink of choice for women around the world. They turned Manolo into a household name. Carrie singlehandedly inspired nameplate-necklace and engagement-ring-on-a-chain trends. Could Sex and the City 2 make childfree living the latest craze?
Alas, it’s highly unlikely. For that to happen, people would have to actually watch the movie, and it’s so bone-rattlingly horrific that I must join virtually every movie critic in the nation in warning you to steer clear. Sigh. What a squandered opportunity.
I also caught a showing over the weekend of Babies, the critically acclaimed documentary that consists entirely of 79 minutes of closeup baby footage. (I went on my own. My childfree friends had no interest, and my parent friends had no time.)
I wanted to see if a film that reportedly showed just how fascinating babies are might tempt me to have one of my own, or solidify my intention not to. In the end, it just left me drowsy. Did I mention that it was 79 minutes of closeup baby footage?
The highlight was a parent-child class in San Francisco in which everyone sat in a circle chanting, “The Earth is our mother; she will take care of us.” The precocious Hattie escaped her father’s lap, toddled directly to the door, and started rattling the handle, trying to escape. Maybe babies really are smarter than we think.