Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

The ‘M’ word has finally hit Hollywood.

Sex and the City 2, the reigning summer escapist film for chicks and gay guys, sold out at our local multiplex on the first two days of its run, May 27th and 28th. The husband and I were on a mission to review and report on the exciting news that America’s aging sexpot, Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) was now a poster child for menopause. So we showed up 45 minutes early to stand in line.

Until opening day, it was ‘menopause’ in the media, nonstop. All the TV ads, trailers, and promotional appearances for the film featured Samantha’s (and Cattrall’s) sound bites about it. Cautiously, I rejoiced a little: finally, the word that dared not speak its name in Hollywood was not only hitting the screens—movie, TV, and online—but being used, in time-honored Tinseltown fashion, to flog a film.

Sex 2, the inevitable sequel to the first Sex and the City film, was written and directed by Michael Patrick King, who was a prominent writer for the HBO series of the same name. Who better to create the dialogue for the menopausal transition of the ultimate man-eating cougar than an openly gay man?

Early in the film Samantha informs her three BFFs that she is trailblazing for them. At 52, she has become a devotee of the Suzanne Somers method of age avoidance by taking bio-identical estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and literally dozens of other pills. She informs them that they will thank her one day when they develop hot flashes.  But by the time they arrive at this juncture, she adds, she will have done enough hormonal time traveling so that she’ll be 35 again.

Is this the way a gay man envisions coping with menopause? Or is it Hollywood’s usual product placement, on (forgive me) steroids? There are pitches for bio-identical hormones throughout the movie, along with actual shots of Somers’s book. What’s more, every negative concept, image, and magical thinking about menopause is dragged out of the attic and into this movie. Samantha loses her hormones for less than a week (when they’re confiscated at customs), but it’s enough to turn her into a caricature of a woman who will do anything to preserve her sexual self and prevent the impact of estrogen loss on her skin.

She slathers yams on her face and eats all the foods that she has read about that might contain some pre-estrogenic substance. In a case of madness over mindfulness, she’s convinced that within 24 hours, the effect of the bio-identical hormones has totally worn off and she is no longer capable of being interested in random boy flesh. But when Samantha’s male counterpart shows up and libido comes galloping back, there’s no humorous dialogue to explain that lust and libido do exist without benefit of hormone medications. The good news in this movie isn’t really news.

But there is news in this escapade: Hollywood has finally grabbed hold of menopause as a major theme in a top box-office chick flick. The bad news is that Michael Patrick King got it all wrong.

The cartoonish desperation that Samantha exhibits is hardly the way most of us respond to this normal life experience. In It’s Complicated, Meryl Streep managed to let the audience know that she was definitely in the menopausal transition, thanks to her deft talents and the dialogue created by a woman (Nancy Myers) who knew what she was writing about. Now that Hollywood—and the producers who want to make money—understand that our demographic will turn out for almost any movie that showcases women our own age, it’s very likely that Sex 2 isn’t the last we hear about menopause in a Hollywood movie. But let’s hope that next time, it’s written by someone who knows what she—and I do mean she—is talking about.

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  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. December 1, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Thanks for reading the post. Helping men and women, younger and older, understand that “menopause” is not a negative word is a hard sell for us here at http://www.womensvoicesforchange, but it is the mission of our organization. We believe that words have power and meaning. We believe that this word has been used in a negative and frightening way far too long. We believe that this word means in The New Menopause, a transition in which transformation is possible. Since we began our blog in 2006 we have seen a significant increase in women in roles of power globally and a women over 40 as the anchors of television series and films. It is a slow process but we are committed to taking away the fear and shame and providing accurate medical information that women can use to understand and manage the symptomatic part of this process.


    Dr. Allen

  • Titi.A November 30, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Thanks for the great read! Sex and The City 2 was a really good movie but I agree with you that the discussions on menopause were all wrong. I am still happy it was discussed though as it has paved the way for more discussions about the topic in Hollywood by someone or people that will get it right.