Friday, May 16, 2008

How the Cupcake Crumbled

*Update March 2012: The Carrie Bradshaw wannabes are starting to leave.

Original post:

Made giddy by the recent deluge of SATC-spanking media coverage (see end of story for links), and in the interest of further dragging out the saga of how SATC killed NYC, let's trace it back--not as far back this time as Bushnell and Star's fateful meeting at Bowery Bar, we've already covered that. No, let's go back to a seemingly more harmless moment in the year 2000, to a few seconds frosted in pink.

The Villager points the way, reflecting, "After Sarah Jessica Parker ate a creamy retro cupcake on Sex and the City at a beloved local landmark, The Magnolia Bakery, the tour buses began circling. The lines outside the tiny bakery swelled into queues stretching around the corner. Soon, upscale clothing retailer Marc Jacobs, salivating over the youthful crowds, rented a shop right across the street."

don't do it! stop!

And here's our smoking gun: “Our goal was to take advantage of the huge concentration of young people who flooded into the area, especially with the ‘Sex and the City’ show,” said Debbie Lee, a Marc Jacobs assistant manager.

oh no, you didn't! watch the cataclysmic catalyst here

The way a butterfly's wings can theoretically whip up a tornado, Carrie Bradshaw's bite of a cupcake set an avalanche in motion. That mouthful of buttery sweetness begat tour buses, which begat trendy lines, which begat Marc Jacobs. And what did Marc Jacobs beget?

Wrote the Observer, "Marc Jacobs didn’t invent the West Village, but his five stores there have made it into a precious, pricey, overpopulated, well-corduroyed, bubble-skirted dreamland." Time Out says this SATC effect created the "douchification of the Meatpacking District and the West Village," with "Lower East-Packing and Chinatown... neck-and-neck for the next douchey makeover," thanks to inclusion in the SATC movie.

the only bakery where cupcakes require bouncers for protection

From here, we can follow the cupcake crumb trail west, where toxic Bleecker connects to Hudson, which becomes 9th and leads straight into the luxury Meatpacking Mall. To the east, Bleecker infects Bowery and gives birth to the Cooper Sq Hotel, Varvatos, etc., which will in turn beget more of the same. These Bleecker offshoots stretch ever north and south, and even cross the rivers. You can see how quickly the light breeze from those butterfly's wings has built into a devastating storm--one that the media and the city has begun to turn against.

Just for fun, imagine an alternate universe in which Carrie Bradshaw opted not to swallow that cupcake. What if, instead, she spat it onto the sidewalk and said, "These cupcakes are horrible"? On the filmreel of your mind, watch the city rewind back to its old self--glass towers fall and fallen brick lowrises rise again, the sidewalks clear of heartless crowds, lost New Yorkers return to homes and shops they were evicted from...oh, what a fantasy that would be.

She's an easy target, but for the record, I don't think it's all Sarah Jessica Parker's fault. She has her part, but an actor plays a character co-created by writers, producers, directors. Let's not forget the others who brought SATC to power, including Darren Star and Candace Bushnell. And, clearly, the yunnies were already in the audience, primed and hungry to receive SATC's messages. In a time and place where image is king (or queen), television dictates behavior. It won't make us into murderers, but it can boost existing cultural trends that balloon into major changes.

In an essay on television and gentrification, one writer takes it to the next level, writing, "urban leaders have internalized these televisual images of the urban good life. When they think of 'urban vitality,' they envision the city as a playground of upscale consumption and leisure. And, in doing so, they have increasingly committed themselves to policies of gentrification and displacement."

And so the cupcake trail leads straight to Bloomberg and Burden. Wipe those crumbs from your lips, Carrie and the gang, you've got a lot of cleaning up to do.

A chain of blame:
  • The Post rolls out a list of crimes, saying, "Carrie Bradshaw, we're holding you responsible for the following developments, which you and your cohorts unleashed upon an unsuspecting city."
  • Time Out features an anti-SATC cover and a "haters package" for a "Carrie-free" New York.
  • The Daily Mail (and last night's CBS News 2) declares the Big Apple backlash begun.
  • AMNY wonders, "is it the show's fault that your corner diner was knocked down for a condo and places like Third Avenue in Murray Hill are overrun with Samantha clones?"
  • A former Villager details the ruination of her neighborhood, complete with: bitchy cupcake ladies! rats! desperate singles!


EV Grieve said...

So, does this mean that you're NOT going to see the SATC movie then?
Oh, if you really want to hurl, check out the SATC cover story and online video at Vogue...

treshold75 said...

As much as I despise the show (and it's spinoffs/offshoots), I don't think it's to blame for what New York has become today. I think people need to look at themselves and see how one's inability to distinguish the difference between a television show and reality has led to this plastic wonderland. This ball was already rolling when TRL brought the screaming masses of pre-pubescent boys and girls who were just waiting to graduate to Girls Gone Wild or Bum Fights. Then again, what chance do normal New Yorkers have against the alluring call of money? I think our society has evolved into one soul-less mass which cares not about others or the welfare of others and that the only God in this equation is the "ME." Call it whatever you want; narcissism, yunnie etc...Until we give up the apathy, the shoegazing cool. Until we find force in numbers, we'll constantly be unsuspectingly done doggy style...

Anonymous said...

Very well said Jeremiah.

And treshold75 while I agree with most of what you said I believe it is Bloomberg's NYC and his minions who have been the vanguard of this narcissism promting the rest of the country to emulate it.

treshold75 said...

Anonymous; that is the price we pay for having a businessman as a mayor!

I think there is a larger issue at play here; retailers being retailers and pandering to the needs of buyers. I salute those that fight the real, gritty fight in keeping New York real but we also have to understand how big business works and modify our tactics to suit the battlefield. I think we need to understand properly who the "enemy" is and attack it accordingly or we'll be doomed to fight like how Bush and co. fights terrorism.

I think Jeremiah, you are doing a great job with this blog; in making us aware of the spirit of New York and in igniting the passion in us soldiers.

john said...

If it wasn't TRL, Friends, Seinfeld, or SATC it would be something else. A whole generation was raised in the sterilized suburbs, raised to be numb and afraid of reality - The hole is unfillable, and the city, with its mystery, chic, and ethnic cool is an inevitable target for (typically) white kids awkwardly, half-assedly, haphazardly seeking realness, authenticity, and an (unearned) aura of cool, despite how sanitized and boring their target really is now.

My neighborhood has had a sudden boom in hipsters, and their insecurity and incredible neediness is embarassingly obvious, even as they "cooler, more indifferent and unique than thou" strut to the american apparel on 110th to all buy the same skinny jeans. They aren't going anywhere...for now, and if we're gonna be true to NYC's rich leftist tradition we have to find someway to be patient and live with some of these types without pushing them into traffic....thoughts?

Anonymous said...

J, brilliant! You have written the obit others haven't the brains and the err, cupcakes!, to write. The West Village was home for many years; to see that quiet neighborhood turn into a theme park was heartbreaking. The destruction is irrevocable. The Magnolia was previously a bird shop so we dubbed it Tippi Hedren's House of Cookies. Bleecker was turned into an alley for Carries, Amandas, et al.

L'Emmerdeur said...

The real cause of all this is the massive credit bubble that is in its first death throes.

The capital and midwife of this bubble is New York City. It kept the velocity of money high enough to allow countless yunnies to indulge this lifestyle.

The SATC movie is the death knell of this period in our history.

Jeremiah Moss said...

I like that Tippi Hedren's House of Cookies--especially if it means the cookies/cupcakes will attack, which they kind of have. That would be quite a picture--flocks of cupcakes biting back!

Bob said...

"Sex and the City" has certainly been an exacerbating factor in this parade of horror that has befallen my once-beloved city, but I think you're focusing your vitriol far too much on only one of the slimy tentacles attached to a much larger and more sinister beast, Jeremiah. Bloomberg (and, to a lesser extent, Giuliani before him) and the fascist real estate developers he's in league with are far more guilty of this horror show than Sarah Jessica Parker. Even the yunnies themselves, as insufferable as they may be, wouldn't be coming here in droves were they not being beckoned by the purveyors of this faux luxury filth. When vermin overwhelm your kitchen it has more to do with you leaving food out than any initiative taken on their part to invade your home. SATC and the yunnie infestation it represents wouldn't exist in the first place were it not for Bloomberg and his henchmen laying out the welcome mat for them to the real New Yorker's detriment.

Anonymous said...

J, ever see Attack of the Killer Tomatoes? We envisioned hostile cupcakes, girls attempting to run on WV streets in their Manolo's, their faces unshielded because, unlike our Tippi, they lacked mink stoles.

Joshua said...

Well, I suppose the best way to view SATC is not as the literal "cause" of gentrification, but rather as the giggly manifesto of the world-view of our best&brightest. It is either how they actually view their lives or how they aspire to behave.
Of course, being what yunnie girls are; unreflective and conformist in the extreme, they have to go wherever Carrie Bradshaw goes and do whatever Carrie Bradshaw does, so the show is often an active catalyst for gentrification. Still, I think it’s main value (and certainly it’s future historical value) is as a window into the mind-set of our ultra-fabulous upperclasses within this time period, and how they view their place in the world.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone here ever actually dealt (aside for a passing them by on a street) or spoken with a yunnie? They're not really that bad ( as you guys make them to be in this blog). Some of them are really nice and sweet if you get to know them well. Yes , they're shallow, materialistic, narcissistic, conformists, etc. but they know it, and they're not really hurting anyone, except maybe themselves. They're young (YOUNG urban narcissists). Give them time to grow-up and learn from their mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Yup, the cupcake has definitely crumbled.

"The 'Sex and the City' gals are still at war."

Hope that these yunnies will soon realize that SATC is just a fantasy and soon wake-up from their sociopathic & narcissistic delusions and leave and go back to their own reality in their sanitized Midwestern suburban homes.

Bob said...

Being young is no excuse for acting the way the yunnies do. I'm 22 myself, and while the people my age I consort with and I are prone to act immature and/or in an unbecoming manner like anybody else who have more lif experience and wisdom, we certainly aren't as detached from reality as these vacuous idiots. Plenty of young people in this city are hard-working kids who possess a thirst for knowledge and have an abiding respect for their neighbors, their elders, and their communities. I don't know what thought process if any drives these vapid yunnie zombies because I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Maybe if I had a limitless well of finance and freedom from anything even resembling responsibility I'd be a yunnie too, I guess. I thank God every waking moment I was born into a socioeconomic situation that forced me to build some sort of character and taught me the basic tenets of reverence toward my fellow man and maintaining some level of self-respect. How many young, dynamic artists and musicians made this city so great in the 70s and 80s? They were far from saints but their work had soul, character, and meaning. How far we've slid.

Although quite frankly it's the financial aspect of the yunnie invasion that makes me despise them much more than the aesthetic affects. As sad as it is to see old New York's institutions die their slow deaths I could live with the SATC wannabes if they weren't contributing directly to the evicitions of millions of working people from their homes and the wholesale destruction of neighborhoods in this city.

As a sidebar, I do find it funny how a show featuring four aging actresses is the model for this young, hip, Generation Zero that Jeremiah speaks of. SATC is a few years removed from the Golden Girls and yet all these yunnie girls half SJP's age have taken the fictitious lifestyle of four menopausal spinsters up as their mantra.

Anonymous said...

re: Bob's comment -- wouldn't it be fun to see SATC girls in a sitcom that had them older, in sensible shoes, and occupying condos in Boca.

john said...

Hah, yeah. Aspiring to be older women that are deathly afraid of not being young. Whiteheads pushing the pus to the surface, can't wait for the bubble(s) to burst.

Olive Twist said...

Agreed about so much here, but remember that the midwest includes Detroit and Chicago, and a lot of blue collar and other folks, so you may be using 'midwest' when you mean middle America, or the suburbs, or something like that.

And please blame the expansion of NYU and the carloads of privileged children who have overtaken a city and turned neighborhoods into their collegiate playgrounds. Maybe as one commenter said, they're not so bad and need to grow up. But they have so much money that they can change the city into the suburbs -- the only world they know -- before they have the time to get over their stupidity.

mantoinette said...

Let them eat cupcakes!

Anonymous said...

"Sex And The City And The Coming Estrogen Riots"

Someone ought to scream "FIRE" during this premiere.

Gullible Travel said...

And speaking of waiting in lines thing,

anyone up for a SATC premiere party?
and so on, and so on...

and you think NYC would be left out of this Carrie clones horde mentality?

Orchid45lover said...

On the front page of The Arts Section in The New York Times today read "This One Goes Out to the Ladies - and Their Friends". "In Manhattan, On Location Tours sold out 300 tickets, at $130 each, for a special 10-hour tour of "Sex and the City" hot spots. The night peaks with a group viewing of the movie at a reserved theater auditorium in Midtown, followed by a party at a club in Chelsea."

To read more about this invasion of Chelsea and The Meat Packing district see

I was speechless when I read this article! I've been a resident of Chelsea since 1972. The meat packing area was far more interesting then, with places like Mindshaft, than the "upscale" shopping mall that it has become - inhabited with strangers from a strange land (the 'burbs)...

Pimavera said...

I know we'd like this topic to die soon, but just want to let you know that even SATC is invading london and the Londoners (at least the author of the article) don' like it one bit.

Here's the opening paragraph:

"Somewhere, far, far away on the horizon, there is a day when all of this will be over: when we will no longer have to wade through countless editorials advising how to dress a la Sex and the City (corsage, heels, air of post-coital abandon), when we will no longer be expected to care about Mr Big and Steve and "funky spunk". Until that glorious time, however, SATC will remain an unavoidable presence in our lives, the names Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha as ubiquitous as branches of Starbucks.",,2283325,00.html

ShatteredMonocle said...

I'm in London right now and it's true: those miserable cunts have their faces all over the place in this city as well. There is a slight Lunnie phenomenon here, but it has nowhere near the severity and intensity of New York's yunnnie situation.

I'd also like to add that their new construction is much more tasteful and contextual.

Anonymous said...

i'm not so sure about all of this stuff i' reading here.

remember michael milkin? remember the early nineteen eighties? i was living on the upper west side—columbus near 72nd—and i remember when coca-cola opened a one million dollar store. it was a reno of a candy store about 12.5 feet wide. it sold clothes (w.t.h. is coca-cola selling clothes for?) through a vending machine 24HOURS A DAY, and people bought them!

what's different between then and now? people bemoaned the loss of whatever it was that went astray, or was replaced then, as now.

new york has always been (somewhat pathetically) a place 'remaking itself' while steered by eager and/or greedy entrepreneurs.



the girl with the heels said...

Magnolia cupcakes are gross anyway, so dry, small and the buttercream is weak.

Anonymous said...

i loved sex&the city. didnt see the HBO till last year. i have all the DVDs, & re watch them occasionally. (dont love all the episodes, & didnt like sexcity film #1). in general i think the concept is brilliant. its over the top, its entertainment!! has anyone forgot about that? its social satire, dummies!! its stereo types to the hilt. everyones had a stanford in their lives, i have & my friends have. & an anthony. & a wonderful guy we could not say "yes" too (adian), maybe regretted it the rest of out lives. its a "girls" seris. i got the whole 'china pattern thing". so true. its not for straight men. or ladies who dont like shoes, or lesbians, or communists. cannot believe that any self respecting gay dosnt like shoe shopping or samantha talk. your all lying. for me the dialogue was priceless. i finally got a see that some of those crazy things just didnt happen to only ME. i see no one here agrees. dont give it so much power to think it alone changed new york! its alot happier than a brett ellis novel.

laura said...

yes i know i defend "sex in city". the actual characters were VERY new york. its the tours, spin offs, & all the b.s. commercial "takes" that are obnoxious. examine the characters: carrie, a writer for an upscale news paper. she wrote from the heart, about relationships. she questioned everything, not so different from jeremiah. (ok she was in debt & bought too many shoes). samantha, how could someone like that live in a small town? the character worked @ CBGBs (hello all of you), & worked her way to bigger management. how different from someone like so many big wigs in rock& roll? i can name a dozen. & she was very eccentric, loved the hookers in the meat pack, was upset by the opening of the pottery barn. jeremiah anyone? amanda, we have always had attorneys in new york. something new? she was very intelligent. charlotte, zillions of girls from good families always lived in new york, on park on fifth & yes downtown. (old $, i can name dozens of those). she was a classic NY/long island/conn type. the idiot fans on the SATC tours WISH they could be like these women. yes i know i repeat that i grew up in NY, way before most of the people of this blog. when i first discovered the HBO seris several years back, i was amazed how real it was. yes as i said in my last post it was satire & exaggerated. thats show biz! btw, woman have been shopping & yapping about shopping way before this TV show. want to blame someone for new york's negative change: BLOOMBERG, off shore investors, zillions of college kids, etc etc etc etc. leave seinfeld & kramer out of this as well. (anon 10:15pm)

Anonymous said...

Hi, so sadly looks like Arleen Bowman Boutique is leaving end of month on Bleecker. She was the last old school business on the part of the area.

Anonymous said...

"Cupcakes are bullshit"

Anonymous said...

People shouldn't watch TV.