Paula Marantz Cohen

is distinguished professor of English at Drexel University and host of "The Drexel InterView" on Drexel University Television (DUTV) and WYBE

The opening weekend box office for

Sex and the City

(May 30 to June 1) was surprising. The film surpassed

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

: Aging fashionista working-girl trumps aging archeologist adventurer. There's a lesson here, and not just for moviemakers.

When I went to see

Sex and the City

that weekend, the theater was packed. I took one of the few empty seats next to a group of older women who were as giddy as schoolgirls. When the credits began to roll, they broke into laughter and applause. They oohed and aahed at the couture and the culinary confections, the cosmopolitans and the walk-in closets.

But by the time the film ended, they had entered a new phase: Their jubilation had become fierce. Some of these women stood and waved their arms in the air; some made catcalls and whistled. It was then I knew that the film had tapped into something significant. This was the same demographic and the same kind of fervor that had fueled Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

I'd assumed

Sex and the City

was merely an excuse for pricey product placement and edgy sex-talk. But the Clinton connection made me reconsider. There must be more going on. (Caution: Plot spoilers ahead).

The key to it all, I realized, lies midway through the film in the jilting of Carrie Bradshaw, protagonist of the series and film. That jilting, and the way her friends rally around her in righteous solidarity, are what links

Sex and the City

to Clinton's campaign. Carrie's jilting is spectacular: There she is in a Vivienne Westwood gown, a Marie Antoinette coiffure (complete with bird ornament), with 200 guests waiting inside the New York Public Library (the incongruous site she has chosen for her wedding), while her longtime suitor, known among the girls as "Mr. Big," can't get himself out of his limousine. It's as devastating as when Hillary Clinton, poised for that long-awaited anointment to the Democratic nomination, lost the Iowa caucus vote.

When Carrie confronts her backsliding beau in the middle of Fifth Avenue, she goes berserk, battering him with her bridal bouquet, screaming and crying for all to see. One has got to be reminded of Clinton's tears before New Hampshire, which galvanized older women to support her.

Carrie's girls are similarly galvanized. They whisk her off to Mexico for a lavish vacation, then stroke and succor her as she recovers. But they never forget what happened. "I'm so angry at what you did to Carrie," says Charlotte (the sweet, domestic one) when she runs into Big in front of a trendy restaurant six months later: "I curse the day you were born."

I could imagine any number of women in the audience hurling those words at Clinton's nemesis, Barack Obama.

In the end, of course, Carrie gets her wedding, though not with the glitz and glamour she originally expected. It's an understated affair in City Hall, where she wears a vintage suit and her girls are on hand to celebrate in a family restaurant afterward. This is what Clinton's base is pushing for: They wanted the nomination, but now they'll settle for something more modest. It won't be a blowout anymore, but they won't go away empty-handed. Like Charlotte, these women are angry at "what's been done" to Clinton, and they'll give any Mr. Big a hard time who gets in their way.

There's a lot to dazzle female audiences in

Sex and the City

: lots of clothes, food, real estate, and muscular male torsos. But in the end, all that high-end consumerism and fantasy sex aren't what made the film a blockbuster. At the core of its appeal is the theme of male injustice and female solidarity: the idea that women need to support each other in the face of male self-centeredness and betrayal. As box office receipts show, it's a compelling message - and it would be a mistake to underestimate it as we move toward the November election.

Contact Paula Marantz Cohen at cohenpm@drexel.edu.