Will Good Morning America Report THIS Sex and the City Story?

ABC News.com is currently highlighting a Sex and the City- inspired story about a woman who says the HBO series inspired her to start having sex when she was 14.  Will the networks news shows pick up the story or will it remain an “internet only” feature, not likely to be seen by a broad audience?

The question is worth asking because ABC's Good Morning America was one of the first network morning news shows to salivate over last week's London opening of Sex and the City: The MovieAs CMI reported at the time, GMA's “story” was couched around the premise that the HBO series had benefited the culture, especially when it came to women's views about sex.  So, in the interest of responsible, balanced reporting, will GMA report a less positive story about the movie?

In the ABCNews.com story, reporter Sheila Marikar's provocative lead sentence underlies what many who study the impact of television on behavior would probably write themselves.

You can only watch Samantha Jones bed so many gorgeous guys before wondering if 4-inch heels and sky-high confidence would allow you to do the same.

In fact Marikar's second and third paragraphs make the case for why many believe that Sex and the City and other shows that glamorize sex have a detrimental impact on culture.

At least that's what happened to "Lisa" (not her real name). She got hooked on Sex and the City when she was a 14-year-old growing up on Long Island, N.Y. It was the same year she lost her virginity. She soon graduated to ordering cosmopolitans at bars she snuck into and cheating on her boyfriend with up to seven other guys -- in one week.

"When you're that age you try to emulate people on TV. Carrie smoked, so I smoked, Samantha looked at hooking up with random people as not a big deal, so that's what I did too," said Lisa, now 22. "It wasn't Sex and the City's fault. I love the show, but I think it made it a little easier to justify my behavior."

It is important to note that “Lisa” says it wasn't the show's fault.  The majority of social scientists who study media acknowledge that the research identifies a correlation between  media consumption and behavior, but not a causal link.   

But the impact of shows like SATC is undeniable.  Marikar interviews sociology and psychiatry professors about how SATC influenced culture.  These voices are rare ones in the media hype surrounding the May 30 release of the movie.

    "It did have some impact given that it was a sea change in how women talked about sexuality and what was shown on a network -- full frontal nudity, talking about affairs, vibrators, etc.," said Pepper Schwartz, a University of Washington sociology professor and relationship expert for Perfectmatch.com. "If it's not permission giving, it at least demystifies and normalizes what goes on in women's lives in a more than snickering way.

    "With teenagers and young adults, there's a certain degree of role modeling that goes on. There's a certain 'if it's done on the screen then it's OK, it's normal,'" said University of Connecticut psychiatry professor Dr. David Greenfield. "You watch Sex and the City, you see these women go out for dinner, come back, and wake up in satin sheets with a gorgeous guy. Who wouldn't like that?  But it doesn't show what goes on under the surface in real sexual relations. Sex is an extraordinarily complex, emotional process. No one wants to talk about that. They're not going to see the reality."

Are parents wise to let their children watch shows like Sex and the City?  Teen sensation Miley Cyrus (a.k.a. “Hannah Montana”), who recently made headlines for her back-baring photo in the June issue of Vanity Fair, has stated that SATC is one of her “favorite shows.” One can only hope she is seeing the edited version that runs on TBS or CW. 

And so we'll ask the question again.  Since GMA was one of the first network news programs to talk about the “positive” impact Sex and the City had on women and culture, will they revisit the topic and use their own colleague's work to tell the other side of the story?

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.