My Beef With Sex and the City 2

June 3, 2010 at 10:52 am , by

I was lucky enough to attend the premiere of Sex and the City 2 at Radio City in New York last week. The red carpet was lined with paparazzi and crazed fans, the stars looked glamorous and almost every scene in the film got raucous cheers from the passionate audience. I had a blast. Sure, the clothes, the locations, the action were all completely over the top. But hey, it’s been a long recession, and the movie provided pure escapism, just like Fred and Ginger did during the Great Depression. Still, one thing about the film bothered me, as it did my friend Courtney Bugler.

Courtney had just turned 29 four years ago when she heard the bad news: she had breast cancer. But she fought it hard. That included having her ovaries removed, although first she preserved some of her eggs. She suffered the symptoms of instant menopause, but later had one of her frozen embryos implanted. Now, four years later, she’s healthy and has a 1-year-old baby boy named Aidan, along with her husband Alan and four very large dogs. She has also become an advocate for young breast cancer survivors and runs the Atlanta affiliate of the Young Survival Coalition. I invited her to write a guest blog here and explain why one aspect of the movie really ticked her off.

How Samantha Let Courtney Down

By Courtney Bugler

I’m Samantha. You know, as in “what Sex and the City character are you?” If I had a nickel for every time that popped up on my Facebook wall in the past two weeks… well, I’d have about a dollar. But Samantha and I do have a lot in common. I’m a bit brash, seemingly fearless and, until I got married, had a kid and moved to the suburbs, we had some other “ahem” things in common as well. The most important thing, though, is that we are both breast cancer survivors. Sure, she might be 20 years older, but honey—I know menopause, too. As part of my breast cancer treatment, I went into menopause at age 30. The Chillow, ladies. I swear, it will change your life.

Bugler HeadshotBut there is one glaring difference. While Samantha seems to have skipped past her breast cancer experience into the cosmo-soaked world of “normal,” I have turned my journey into a life changer, most obvious in my career change from soap opera scriptwriter to breast cancer nonprofit director. I work every day with young women affected by the disease at the Young Survival Coalition. (That’s me, left, and with my boy Aidan, below.)

This past weekend, there I was, girl’s night out. Sex and the City 2. Dinner and cocktails followed by an estrogen-fueled viewing experience (well, except for me, since I don’t have any). It was supposed to be a break from reality—from home, kids, my sometimes-draining work, but for me, SATC2 went from fun and over the top to medically irresponsible. So instead of enjoying Samantha’s filthy mouth or her wonderful loyalty to her friends, I found myself fired up over the portrayal of her post-breast cancer experience. Or should I say, lack of portrayal.Courtney

Sure, menopause makes for some funnies. It’s a good gag. But for breast cancer survivors, it’s very real, and often way before it should be. So there’s Samantha, a cancer survivor, taking every hormone therapy you can think of. Creams, pills, pharmaceutical, bioidentical. Anything to combat the natural process of aging. Not once do they mention that as a breast cancer survivor, that kind of hormone intake is not recommended and can be dangerous. Not even Miranda, who asks why Samantha is taking medical advice from the woman who brought us the Thighmaster, mentions speaking to a doctor. Or the fact that hormones and breast cancer don’t mix. In fact, no one even mentions that Samantha’s been to this hot flash rodeo before—when she was in chemo. Nope, it’s like her breast cancer never happened.

The last thing I would want is for women who see this movie to think Samantha’s methods might be a great way to combat menopause. Hormone therapy does greatly increase your risk of breast cancer. But more important, survivors might think this is an okay thing to do when faced with menopause, especially if they are younger and it’s treatment induced.

Samantha let me down this weekend. Stick to the sex, girlfriend. Leave the survivorship to people like me.

59 Responses to “My Beef With Sex and the City 2”

  1. Courtney,

    As a child of a survivor and as an individual who works with breast cancer survivors on a professional level I completely agree with your article. I know real life reality does not have a place in Hollywood so I am glad you brought this issue to people’s attention.

    In Good Health

    Mishell Brookins

  2. What a missed opportunity! Besides the complete failures that Courtney perfectly and brilliantly covered, a wonderful storyline would have Samantha resorting to the alternative solutions that many of us survivors resort to trying out – they are MUCH funnier that hormone patches and even more unbelievable the lengths we have to go to!
    Not to mention the fact that Cynthia Nixon is a survivor in real life and a representative of Komen. (But with their recent KFC campaign…what do we expect from them?)

  3. Courtney,

    Thank you so much for sharing. I almost went to see this movie last weekend, but we ended up seeing Prince of Persia instead, which by the way, was great:) All’s I can say is wow. Each day I educate so many young women on staying away from hormone therapy and have suceeded on many accounts, but is really hard when the media contradicts what reality is. Hopefully, a nationwide announcement will be made regarding this movie so young women know to distinguish fantasy from reality.

    Thank you,
    Julie Klaski
    YSC Central OH

  4. Hi Courtney,
    I am a survivor with two young children and a big thanks for your article. The characters of SATC have long become a troop of vapid women more interested in droning over hemlines than life lines. Although they do provide amusement and an escape from the everyday, it seems like they’ve missed the opportunities to bring issues to the forefront instead of just the “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” thing. Even during the regular season when Samantha was first diagnosed it was treated with what I thought was almost contempt. Then during the last movie involving the sushi scene I kept asking myself “Where is her scar?”. If she never made any references to chemo you would have never known she was a survivor. Samantha’s business makes her an ideal advocate for survivors, but instead the writers decide she should spend her time shopping and taking hormones instead of surviving gracefully. I know Hollywood is not always real but there can be real messages in the stories we so love to get wrapped up in. Besides, chemo, menopause and all the other stuff that comes up with this journey can make for some pretty funny stuff.
    As for myself, I’ll just wait until the movie comes to cable, I’d rather be spending my time cracking up with real survivors.
    All the best,

  5. All I can say is “Wow”. Courtney, you expressed the frustration we all feel with this sort of misrepresentation on a daily basis. Now, I will come clean: I am not a Sex and the City fan and probably would never have gone to the movie. But when we fight every day to educate women about the facts surrounding breast cancer, when we struggle to have our voices heard, it is truly a major step backward to have someone who is a survivor and represents the largest breast cancer non-profit organization in the world, someone who is in a position of real power: with the ability to send messages to women young and old, completely disregard medical fact and send a dangerous message in the guise of entertainment. This is outrageously irresponsible to say the least. The characters in Sex and the City are supposed to represent the modern woman: women who handle it all with grace, style, humor and come out on top. The truth is, I know that women can be all those things and more. As a young survivor myself, put into total menopause at 34 after a recurrence of my cancer, I know I am as strong, vivacious and powerful as those women. So are the many survivors I meet. But the fear of cancer recurring, despite a difficult sex life and the side effects to go along with hormone deprivation, far, far outweighs the danger of playing russian roulette with estrogen. In my opinion they missed a real opportunity to speak to the women who they knew would flock to this movie, and they should be ashamed.

  6. As a breast cancer survivor, I so appreciate your perspective on the movie. It’s really hard for the rest of the world to understand how breast cancer changes a person and how your whole world looks different when faced with such horror. And then, even in survival and thriving, there are moments of reflection, inner conversations, and lifestyle changes that could have been SO poignant and REAL in the movie. But, Hollywood is Hollywood they never let the facts get in the way of a good story, right?!

  7. Courtney, great post!! I am a 9 year bc survivor who was diagnosed at 31 as a young widow back out in the dating scene during my mastectomy and chemo. I have always been a big fan of SATC. I actually thought they did a good job handling Samantha’s initial cancer experience during the show. But after seeing the movie I agree that they showed a very unrealistic portrayal of a cancer survivor! I cringed when I saw her pill popping and slathering on hormone creams. There was no mention at all about her past bc experience. It was like she never had it. There was no “life after cancer” struggle that so many of us deal with. I understand that this is a movie but they could have done a better job to help show the true plight of a survivor dealing with menopause and avoiding estrogen which fuels bc in some cases.

    Kudos to you for sharing your feelings on this! So many of us survivors were thinking the same thing!

  8. thankyou. i so agree. i was dx at 26and am stage 4 at 34. we girls have been through alot and have coirage and strength to survive… being bald is a drop in the bucket samantha… so many shows and soaps etc. glamourize bc… and its not glamorous. thanl u courtney/jenn j

  9. Courtney,

    I am SO glad you posted this article! When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, I spent some time watching the Sex and the City episodes and cried when Samantha got diagnosed with breast cancer and then got pissed when just a few episodes later they have her in a sex scene baring her boobs and showing zero signs of surgery. Since then I still have been a fan but not a supporter of this show/movies.

    I have to say it too bad because this is such a great outlet and opportunity to talk about those “touchy” subjects for women and the writers and directors can’t even respect us.

  10. Courtney,

    Great post. I thought the same things as I was watching the movie, but didn’t say anything as I thought that maybe I was being an overly sensitive survivor. I was saddened that the writers of this movie got the hormone issue so blatantly wrong, when it would have been a great opportunity to educate the world on yet another aspect of post BC life that we all deal with.

  11. I had a great time with the movie!

    I am a 3 year survivor. (stage 3, 8 cm tumor, 27 lymph nodes) and yes, it was a missed opportunity oh well… Her cancer was briefly mentioned but the movie was not meant to be an educational message, it ‘s entertainment and it touched on other topics as well. It can’t be a vehicle for everything. The actual series went more in depth and I thank them for that.

    As for the hormone bit… maybe…… Samantha was triple negative (like I am)! Hormones are not a factor.

    Do you know how many SATC parties were utilized as fundraisers for SGK and others?? Tons.. We have been given respect and support.

    Cancer has been a big part of my life but not everyone has to make it the center of their life. Samantha’s character represents those who faced hardship and moved on. It’s up to all of us in the real world to carry our message.

  12. I too am a breast cancer survivor (bilateral mastectomy in september of 2009). In fact I hadn’t even begun to recoup. from my own cancer experience (or surgery) when my mother was diagnosed with cancer (a rare form of adult leukemia, she’ll need a bone marrow transplant). I’m married to a wonderful, understanding and caring man, have a stressful job (am an RN for pediatric cancer patients) that I LOVE and am the mother of two young children (ages 2 and 4). Needless to say sometimes what we need in life is a BREAK from reality. Sex and the City 2 provides that break. Education is an important part of life and the cancer experience I agree. However, I don’t want to be reminded of cancer when i’m at the movies trying to have a good time. I deal with it every day, 24 hours a day as a survivor, a caregiver and a medical professional. Sometimes it’s okay to “let go” and escape the “real world” for a couple of hours. It really is.

  13. I totally agree that this is just a movie, & these actors shouldn’t be looked at as “real people” living “real lives”. I, too, am a breast cancer survivor, & you do absolutely need a break from the reality of chemo, surgery, radiation, side affects, etc. We go to the movies for that break, & we shouldn’t expect movies to always portray real life situations. I don’t want to be reminded that I have cancer, & I don’t need anyone feeling sorry for me. Laughter makes me feel good, & seeing Samantha carrying on as normal after breast cancer is refreshing. I will be on chemo for the rest of my life, but I’m living my life as if it won’t, & that’s why I applaud Samantha’s role in this movie. Lighten up, everyone.

  14. Hi Courtney, Although this portion of the movie may have been medically irresponsible, there are women who continually take hormones against the advice of their physicians. That’s why it is so important for women to read, attend workshops, and become their own advocates for their health. I am a 27 year survivor, diagnosised at 26. I am going through menopause. Trust me there are days (today especially) when I want to take a pill or something. Try being in a room with the air set and 65 degrees, but you have sweat running down your face, clevage, and back. People look at you like you are crazy. I usually just annouce it as just menopause! This movie shows another side of what some women will do after surviving breast cancer, it is their body and their decision. We can only educate people, but GOD granted us each free will to make our own decisions. The movie was for entertainment purposes only, not a guide for the pathway to survival of breast cancer or menopause. The movie also depicted Samantha’s sex drive as wanning. That’s not really true either for all women.
    Sweating, but Sexy!

  15. The focus was not about the cancer. Remember Samantha is in her 50 which is actually the time that many women go through menopause cancer or not. Who wants to keep focusing on that subject it is so depressing? The movie made light of the fact that a character that normally has a high sex drive notices a change when she experiences menopause. Come on people it is a movie for crying out loud..Hello entertainment, not a handbook for cancer survivors. Come on people!

  16. nope, I agree with Courtney. I know movies are supposed to be for entertainment & all that, but they could at least shown _some_ insight into breast cancer. In this movie & show, it’s just a device.
    So since they are banking on women to see it, they should at least give a little real information. And whether you’ve had breast cancer or not, it is _not_ good to take all those hormone….

  17. Here’s the thing: it’s entertainment, but the movie is based on reality. That’s why so many women identify with these characters. Also, from a writers’ standpoint, they’ve taken Samantha out of character in completely disregarding perhaps the biggest challenge she’s faced. This–regardless of medical misinformation–is irresponsible.

    Great article, Courtney!

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