The movie version of HBO’s iconic series Sex and the City
hits theaters on May 30, bringing with it an endless number of articles and pop
cultural references about how it’s really the story of four gay men. Given that
that two of the most important creative forces behind the show – Michael
Patrick King and Darren Star – are gay, this theory isn’t surprising, although
way too much has been written about it.
So while everyone else is busily focusing on the four
fabulous leads, let’s pour ourselves a Cosmopolitan and take a look beyond
them, to the actual gay characters on the show, Stanford Blatch (Willie Garson)
and Anthony Marantino (Mario Cantone).
Debuting the same year as Will & Grace, Sex and the City’s gay characters
weren’t exactly groundbreaking in that both had some rather commonplace gay
stereotypes (colorful clothing, saying “fabulous” a lot), but the show’s frank
treatment of their sexuality was definitely something new and noteworthy for U.S.
It’s Brutal Out There
The lovable Stanford is Carrie’s (Sarah Jessica Paker) best
male friend who has known her since their club-hopping days in the 80’s when
she was “riding the subway and wearing Candies”. His was one of the larger roles
of any SATC’s supporting characters, having
appeared in 28 of the show’s 94 episodes. Stanford often served as Carrie’s gay
sounding board for her insecurities and fears about sex, love and singledom.
Willie Garson as "Stanford"
Indeed, the first time we meet Stanford he optimistically tells
Carrie, "The only place you can still find love and romance in New York is the gay
community." Not exactly comforting words for a straight gal looking for
true heterosexual love.
Unfortunately, that optimistic outlook doesn’t last long for
Stanford as his gay romance bubble is soon burst by the cruel realities of the gay dating life. As he later laments to Carrie, “I’ve
had it with the whole gay scene. It’s so competitive." While Stanford was a lot of things – smart, successful – he wasn’t what could be called "hot" in most circles.
What caused his change of heart? In his first real storyline
of the series, Stanford recounts to Carrie how he placed a slightly embellished
personals ad describing himself as “Witty, successful, Ed Harris-type, seeks
similar with sense of humor."
Someone answers the ad, and they arrange to meet for a
“date”. Perhaps Stanford should have
sensed trouble when their meeting spot was a street corner. Indeed, the other
man arrives, takes one look at Stanford and immediately delivers this wincing
blow, “Sorry, this isn’t going to happen.” He then turns and walks away. Given that the other fellow wasn’t exactly George Clooney himself, the rejection truly stung.
"It’s brutal out there," Stanford tells Carrie.
"Even guys like me don’t want guys like me. I just don’t have that gay
Discouraged by the prospect of finding true gay love,
Stanford decides life at least owes him financial security. He asks Carrie for
help with his wealthy grandmother, who has promised an inheritance to all of
her grandkids – or at least those who get married.
Stanford and Carrie pretend to be a couple in order to fool
Grandma Moneybags, but the old lady isn’t deaf, dumb, or blind. In fact, she
delivers this helpful warning to Carrie. ”I love my Stanford. He’s a very sweet
boy, but, you know, he is a fruit”.
The end of the Season 1 does briefly see Stanford with a
boyfriend, Allane (Duane Boutte), but, alas, Allane is never seen again
In the fourth episode of Season 2, Stanford again has a one
episode boyfriend. This time he’s named Nevin (James Lecesne) a photographer
shooting Carrie for a magazine layout.
By episode twelve, things haven’t improved much for Stanford. Single again, Stanford now
goes the cyber route where one need not be rejected on street corners. Going
online, Stanford starts meeting guys for cyber-sex using the screen name
This inevitably leads to complications when he agrees to meet
someone named BigTool4U at an after-hours bar in the meatpacking district.
Unfortunately, when Stanford shows up at the club, he discovers that the only
way to gain admittance is to strip down to his underwear. Given Stanford’s less
than sculpted physique and receding hairline, this naturally leads to more self-doubt and self-consciousness about his looks.
However, he summons the courage to strip down to his French
designer underwear and enter, only to find that BigTool4U is nowhere to be
found. But the show’s writers take mercy on our hapless gay hero and reward his
willingness to let it all hang out by having him hook up with a cute twenty-something
with a thing for fancy French underwear.
Then There Were Two
Anthony Marantino doesn’t appear until the 11th
episode of Season 3, but as Charlotte’s
(Kristin Davis) wedding stylist, Mario Cantone makes his debut memorable. Indeed,
the character was originally only supposed to appear for a couple of episodes,
but thanks to Cantone’s chemistry with Davis, the show’s writers extended that
Mario Cantone as "Anthony"
Later in Season 4, Charlotte
plays matchmaker, setting up a date between Anthony and Stanford by describing Stanford, again, as
“a young Ed Harris”. However, just as when Stanford exaggeratedly described
himself that way, things don’t go well. Upon seeing Stanford in the flesh, Anthony
unceremoniously bolts, thereby creating bad blood between the two that remained
throughout the series’ run.
By Season 4’s 14th episode, Anthony has acquired
a boyfriend named Gordon (Chris Payne Gilbert). As is often the case with both
Stanford and Anthony, their boyfriends are usually present in one way or
another to help out with Carrie and the gals. In this case, Gordon, a
photographer, is there to take pictures of Charlotte and Trey’s (Kyle MacLachlan) house,
another bone of contention in their already contentious relationship. And,
alas, much like Stanford’s relationships, Gordon is never seen again.
Sean Palmer as "Marcus" (left) with Garson
Finally, in the fifth season, something remarkable happens
to Stanford as Carrie notices a dreamy look in his eyes and presses him for
Carrie: What’s going on over there, Miss Blatch?
Stanford: I met someone.
Carrie: Oh my God! Really? That’s fantastic!
Stanford: His name, is Marcus.
Carrie: And is he a Roman?
Stanford: No, he is not.
Carrie: Aw too bad. I’ve always adored a metal breastplate on a man. So what
does this Marcus do?
Stanford: Okay, before I tell you, you have to promise not to judge.
Carrie: Do I judge?
Stanford: We all judge. That’s our hobby. Some people do arts and crafts, we judge.
Carrie: I’ll be kind.
Stanford: He’s a dancer, for Radio
Carrie: I feel as though my hands are
Stanford: He’s a Broadway-caliber dancer working in the male chorus. Last
Christmas, he danced the part of Arabian Coffee in the Nutcracker.
Carrie: And where did you meet your Rockette?
Stanford: Standing in line at Starbucks.
Carrie: You met a man who played coffee, waiting in line to get coffee?
Stanford: We’re both grande house blends.
Carrie: What is that, a new Zodiac sign?
Of course, “plain Jane” Stanford can’t resist showing off
his catch (played for eight episodes by Sean Palmer), especially not to the now
single Anthony who so callously rebuffed him. Anthony doesn’t take this sitting
down, digging up an old photo of Marcus from Honcho magazine, proving
Stanford’s stud used to be a hustler.
Stanford introduces Marcus to Anthony & Charlotte
Despite this, the course of true love runs more or less smoothly
for Stanford and Marcus, or at least as much as it does for any of SATC’s
romances. When we last see the two of them, they had worked through their
problems, and were contemplating buying a house in the Hamptons.
As for Anthony, he planned Charlotte’s
second wedding, helped with Carrie’s book launch and even became Charlotte’s dog groomer when
she expressed her maternal instincts via canine substitution. And in AfterElton.com’s interview with Mario last month, he mentioned that he does have scenes with Willie
Garson in the movie, so hopefully we’ll learn that Stanford and Anthony have
ironed out their differences.
The Best of the Rest
Even without those two gay characters, Sex and the City still had plenty of other gay moments, thanks to
the matter-of-fact gay acceptance of the four ladies that made them such gay
favorites. After all, how could we not love a show that has women who get drunk
and watch gay porn?
Other memorable “gay” episodes include Samantha’s (Kim
Catrall) misguided attempt at having a threeway with a gay couple. Neither of the
men have ever been with a woman, but they want to try it to see what’s it like.
Naturally, their first choice is the sexually adventurous Sam, who, after
contemplating it for the briefest of moments, agrees.
From left to right: Sean Martin
Hingston, Kim Cattrall, Brad Hurtado
Unfortunately for her, once the men realize what’s expected
of them, they rapidly lose interest in her and fall back into each other’s
arms. It’s great for gay viewers starved to see any same-sex sex portrayed on television, but not so great for the very frustrated Samantha.
Being set in New
York and about sexual freedom and fashion, the ladies
not surprisingly make several trips to gay bars during the run of the show. The
most memorable outing led to Miranda accidentally outing a co-worker, and
Carrie meeting her ultimate man…a gay shoe buyer. He quickly became her close,
albeit temporary confidante, much to the consternation and jealousy of
The issue of male bisexuality even came up in a provocative
episode from Season 3. Carrie dates Sean (Eddie Cahill) a bisexual man, but ultimately
she can’t come to terms with the fact that he’s attracted to both women and men
(however, she does get a kiss from Alanis Morrissette out of it). And back in
Season 2, Charlotte
dates Stephan (Dan Futterman), a pastry chef she’s convinced is gay, but is
actually just an effeminate heterosexual.
Indeed, SATC frequently addressed issues of sexual identity
and fluidity as the four women dabbled in issues gay men have long confronted.
Not all of these gay portrayals and storylines are the most
flattering (in less able hands than King and Star’s they could’ve been downright
offensive), but then again no one in Sex
and the City comes off without being rather flawed and insecure in one way or
another. It’s also true that both Stanford and Anthony are definitely supporting characters with storylines mostly there to reflect what was happening in Carrie and Charlotte’s lives as their "best gay friends".
But they were there and the show, while not afraid to have fun with them via over-the-top storylines, always took their feelings seriously, never robbing them of their basic humanity (though the same can’t be said for poor Stanford’s dignity).
When it comes to gay representation, what matters is that gay people exist in Sex and the City’s world
and are part of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte
and Miranda’s lives and experiences. The fact that so many gay men have taken
the show to heart like few others in television history is a testament to the
underlying theme in the show — that what really makes up a
family are those who support us for being who we truly are.
And as Carrie Bradshaw might muse, "In the end, isn’t that what love is really about?"