Why are we obsessed with the 'Sex and the City' feud?

Raechal Leone Shewfelt
Writer, Yahoo Celebrity

The Sex and the City franchise is dead, but the rumors of a feud between stars Sarah Jessica Parker (who was also a producer of the show and movies) and Kim Cattrall, that’s another story.

Not that the public will be disappointed. We’ve long been fascinated (dare we say delighted?) in any sort of proof that celebrities, especially female celebrities, are engaged in any sort of off-screen drama. This year’s popular Feud: Bette and Joan explored the Hollywood legend of the stormy relationship between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, the alleged animosity between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry has spawned hit singles (on both sides), and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his Fast and Furious co-star Tyrese Gibson are keeping fans’s interest with their shady social media posts.

In the case of the alleged Sex and the City feud, social media also played a role, as two of the franchise’s other actors, Willie Garson and Evan Handler, jumped into the fray. They were commenting on an interview that Cattrall gave to Piers Morgan this week, in which she said Parker “could have been nicer” and said her relationship with SJP feels like “a toxic relationship.” This came on the heels of Parker’s confirmation that Sex and the City 3 is a no-go, reportedly because the studio wasn’t willing to meet Cattrall’s terms. A rep for Parker declined to comment at the time.

Arthur Markman, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, says fans are pulled into these kind of stories because we feel like we know the people involved. Social media only adds to that feeling, because it often allows us to know things such as what their kids or pets look like and how they spend their downtime.

“Psychologically, while these people are strangers, they’re not really strangers. These are people that, particularly with a TV series, you’ve lived with these characters for years,” Markman, the co-author of Brain Briefs: Answers to the Most (and Least) Pressing Questions About Your Mind tells Yahoo. “It’s easy to see what sometimes gets called transference, where you now begin to believe that the actors themselves are taking on the qualities of these characters.” He adds, “It’s sort of like being fascinated by a feud that’s happening in the family.”

Just as the Sex and the City story resurfaced, Gibson steered attention back to his beef with The Rock by firing off another tweet, which is, of course, a development in their ongoing public display of disaffection in a world where every one’s movement is recorded on social media and, in the case of some celebs, is instantly seen by millions of followers. The feud cycle never stops.

“Before [social media], you didn’t complain in a place where a million people were going to hear you,” Markman said.

There’s something else, too. Although people generally understand how acting works, for some reason we tend to believe people are their characters.

“We like there to be some coherence in what we know about people,” Markman says. “And so whenever we find out that the people we know something about aren’t exactly like what we have assumed that they are from the public roles that they’ve taken on, that’s something that we pay a lot of attention to because we’re trying to make sense of it.”

Hence, why it might be easy to side with SJP (or against the perceived Samantha Jones) in a story like the one currently playing out about a series that ended more than 13 years ago.

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