I have not seen Sex and the City the movie--but I am a big fan of the HBO TV series. On general principle, I reject the negative reviews from critics who are not fans going in. Why? The film is a reunion. Hopefully, artistically, it will be better than the Return to Gilligan's Island, but, in a larger sense, Sex and the City (the movie) is little more than a lucrative bow to nostalgia along the lines of a Very Brady Christmas. If you like and care about Carrie Bradshaw, Miranda Hobbs, Samantha Jones, and Charlotte York-Goldenblatt, surely you will be keenly interested in and mildly entertained (at the very least) by the Sex and the City movie.

Earlier this week, the Okie Gardener wrote:

Home and family, the traditional destination of a woman's path, is not where the quartet are. They are obsessed with material objects and sex. And the sex is not remotely related to procreation. Fun only, without commitment to future generations. Sterile fun.

Not to nitpick with the Gardener (who admits not knowing much about the characters), but the girls are actually much less one-dimensional (and much more concerned with procreation) than a casual observer might guess. When we last encountered the fabulous foursome in TV land, Miranda had a young son (and a husband), Charlotte was married but devastated by her inability to conceive a child of her own and making arrangements to adopt, and Carrie had rejected the penultimate man in her life partly because of his inability to father a child. Samantha? The Gardener pretty much gets her right.

Rather than "sterile fun" as a group motif, however, a much more dominant theme within the series is the search for meaning in a world bereft of traditional values.

An Aside: in this way, Sex in the City is not unlike Seinfeld (another snappy commentary on modernity to which the Gardener objected).

In truth, Carrie Bradshaw is our liberated and self-sufficient protagonist, but no fan of the show could possibly describe her as truly happy, at peace, or at all satisfied in her independent and non-traditional life.

Nevertheless, the Gardener correctly notes that the modern Manhattan girls of Sex and the City reject domesticity. This morning, as luck would have it, NPR featured a discussion of Jo March, the protagonist from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, perhaps the ultimate independent woman of the nineteenth century, and her impact on modern American womanhood. Surprisingly (or not), several female former fans of the work, upon reaching adulthood and a certain feminist enlightenment, have reconsidered their previous childhood devotion to the book.

"At a time when women's lives were restricted to hearth and home," NPR's Lynn Neary reports, "Jo represented the possibility of another kind of life."

"'Jo always makes you think anything is possible and anything is possible for a woman,' says children's book expert Anita Silvey."

More Silvey: "She really softens the hard edges of her life. She makes Jo a much more lovable, accepted character than Louisa May Alcott herself ever was."

Was that a betrayal to the cause?

Others object to Jo March as too needy and excessively adoring of the man who eventually comes into her life. Ironically, what some modern readers find unappealing about Jo and the March family, the need "to be liked," many modern women also detest about Carrie Bradshaw, her need for "validation" by men.

Most striking to me, however, was this complaint:

"Who could possibly live up to Jo's standards?"

Neary "discovered something of a backlash against this idealized vision of a woman who is at once a loving sister, a good daughter, a best friend, a career woman and a devoted wife."

One woman confessed, "I didn't really like the book" after rereading it as an adult.

"That family was just too good... and I think part of the thing that bothered me when I was growing up was that it made me feel very guilty because I knew I couldn't be that good."

Is Sex and the City in vogue and Little Women passť for the simple reason that what we really want in twenty-first century America are role models who are just as lost as we are and who set standards we can live DOWN to?