Sex and the City is (supposed to be) Satire. Yes, Really.

Ah, Female Dating Strategy! This section of Reddit is always good for a laugh and some insight into what makes a good partner. A fair amount of male-bashing does go on there, but nothing I would be surprised to hear when mature women gather.

Sex and the City group shot

Perhaps the most famous gathering of mature women in popular culture is the foursome from ‘Sex and the City.’ This show was once so ubiquitous, I had absorbed more of it than I realized.

Why do I suddenly care? Funny you should ask.

Woman as Cultural Icon

I was 15 in 1998. Women in my age group are known to say things like, “It changed my life!” I did not want my life changed by a grown woman in a tutu, so I stayed as far away as I could.

Okay, it allowed women to be raunchy in public in a way that was far overdue. And Sarah Jessica Parker is just so goddam charming. But, even as a teenager, it struck me as shallow. I didn’t have the vocabulary at the time to articulate that it looked like a group of rich white people trying desperately to validate their own existence through dating and clothes.

In the years since, this impression was reinforced. Every spoof or clip showcased its vapidity. ‘The Sopranos’ came along on its heels and stole any clout ‘Sex and the City’ had accumulated by jump-starting HBO. Honestly, until I started looking into it, I had forgotten all about that part.

Then, I stumbled upon the post in Female Dating Strategy describing the romantic arc of this “romance comedy.” The implication being that Carrie did not make wise choices.

Reading on out of morbid curiosity, I learned more than I had picked up in the last 20 years. After a few comments about what terrible decisions Carrie made, how she was a bad friend, how her entitled existence really hadn’t aged well past the 90s, how she spent her rent money on shoes…..

Carrie is shocked

I think I figured it out!

I found myself thinking of Patrick Bateman. The main character in ‘American Psyho’ is a gorgeous, over-the-top personification of all that was wrong with that world. But people tend to mistake that one for glorification, too. Because Christian Bale just makes him so damn charming.

Wait a minute…. Is ‘Sex and the City’ a satire??

By this point, I was really hoping it was.

The show was based on a novel, by a woman who actually did live the Single Life in Manhattan in the mid-90s. Candace Bushnell shares her initials with Carrie Bradshaw but, at this point, has little else in common with her former fictional avatar. She created the character as a sock puppet for her column in the New York Observer. Which was, according to Time, “A biting satire.”


Sex and the City laugh

And so many people take this so seriously!

Enter: SJP

Sarah Jessica Parker almost didn’t accept the role because she thought the original concept was just that bad. Showrunner Darren Star made the changes she wanted, so she stayed on.

She was apparently just so damn likable that it changed the trajectory of the property.

One wonders how bad the first draft was! Having never seen more than a few minutes of any of it, I went in with fresh eyes. I got the entire first season and the movie. I made it through two episodes.

I ran across several 20-year retrospectives in my research. They all touched upon the same few points about how the racism and consumerism don’t translate well to the modern palate.

Forgotten Moments, Missed Opportunities

Nobody mentioned the guy in Episode 2 who secretly films the models he sleeps with. And shows it off to Carrie as his “real art.” And how her friend, the lady from ‘Mannequin’, was disappointed he didn’t want to film himself fucking her, as she’s not a model.

Dafuq did I just watch??

Middle finger

You have got to be kidding me!!

Filming women without their knowledge is something of an epidemic these days. South Korean women have taken to the streets over it! And this guy gets treated like the lovable pervert at the fashion show.

I was reminded how, in interviews regarding his most infamous film, John Waters, the King of Trash, talks about how everyone walked out after the “singing asshole.” Apparently no one made it far enough into the film to notice a man stick a chicken up a woman’s vagina.

Yep. You really gotta go to the source material, people!

But I don’t think ‘American Psycho’ meets ‘Pink Flamingos’ was the feel they were going for. The show is bad. The acting is good, and I always enjoy Cynthia Nixon, for whatever reason. But the actions of the characters hang together in a flimsy backdrop spun from ambiance and wish fulfillment.

She just happens to get offered a ride by Mr. Big. He just happens to ask where she works, then just happens to stop by. Are we supposed to believe any grown woman would be this clueless?

Carrie Bradshaw writes

I wish I was as self-confident, but I'm still cooler than she is….. Right?

I’m not the first one to shit on this show, and probably won’t be the last. It seems that Sarah Jessica Parker is only so charming through a screen – Kim Cattral (I do know her name lol) recently told her to piss off and that “we are not friends” after SJP reached out on Twitter to offer condolences.

But Carrie and I seem like natural pals. She is also a writer who flatters herself as having a unique take on womanhood. The trope of woman hunched over laptop mining first-person narrative for gold suits.

And, while I may disagree about which topics warrant the full treatment, I have no idea how much her being given the full treatment – As the star of a long-running show on a major network, as a pusher of boundaries, as a woman permitted to have flaws, or just as a writer – has affected the world we now inhabit.

I wager I do owe a little something to Carrie and Candace. Carrie’s cheesy, punful rants about hookups, waxing and shoes definitely set a precedent for discussing parts of women’s lives that had been untouchable.

But, with such solid source material, why is the show so BAD?? I want to watch the rest of the season, at least, and I will update you, Dear Reader, if I find any more surprises. But I’m not holding my breath.

Carrie Bradshaw and Mr Big

Anyone can look glamorous and fun if you tell the story from her point of view!

The show is bad because they played it straight. Carrie is not supposed to be likable. She’s supposed to be the Patrick Bateman of shoe shopping.

I’m not sure who missed the memo here. Whether Darren Star mistook Bushnell’s novel for earnest snark, or if SJP’s edits were what defanged this bichon-frise’ of a show. It makes me want to read Candace’s book, and yearn for the female anti-hero that could have been.

But the worst part is how many people HAVE NO IDEA! Millions of women (and a few men) salivated over Carrie’s clothes or boy toy, and totally missed that she is selfish and shallow! Only upon rewatching years later did many of them notice that she’s not a nice person. Like, at all.

What does this say about us?

For one thing, when it’s suddenly brought to your attention that, until five minutes ago, you were totally unrepresented in media, that’s a big buzz. Middle-aged women don’t have a lot of representation even to this day (That’s why y’all have to deal with me!) and it’s usually as the doting/cruel mother of the protagonist. Or the wife of the protagonist. Or the bitchy office manager of the protagonist. Perhaps a member of an ensemble. Or maybe a cellmate.

Here was a group of women who were no one’s mother, wife, or manager. They were in charge of themselves. It’s telling that the main antagonist of the entire series is how/whether they try to push themselves into these roles, and how guilty they do or don’t feel about it.

Carrie Bradshaw is tired

This looks glamorous but it is exhausting!

This is deep stuff! But it's framed as the drama between cosmo parties. The focus is on Carrie's supposed insights, her every-woman persona, which conflicts with the glorification of consumption.

Maybe this is how many women view their lives. Strangely, I find myself hoping for a reboot.

A reboot as 2020s as the original was 90s. That skewers the consumerism and shallowness that have brought us to a place where kids fundraising for cancer treatment is "heartwarming."

There's plenty of material here. Let's hope the next person to bring it to life has a sense of irony.


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