As a teenager, I loved Sex and the City. To say I was obsessed with it probably wouldn't even do my relationship with the show justice. And in retrospect, that probably wasn't the best show (or overall message) to be really into when you're going through adolescence and discovering ~what it means to be a woman~. It will probably take me a lifetime to fully rid myself of the mostly-insane ideas I got about sex, relationships, and what it costs to live in New York City that I got from watching this show.
But, in the interest of nostalgia (and intermittently live-tweeting the experience), I decided to re-watch the entire series, from the first episode to the last, to see how different it would be to watch it years past my impressionable adolescence. Would I be keen to spot the disparities between this fictional wonderland and the reality I've come to know in the years since my first viewing? Or does my previous viewing experience condemn me to see this show through the starry eyes of my teenage self? Having now done it, I'll say this: through the eyes of an adult who actually lives in New York, pays bills here, and is in a relationship here: it is much, much more bananas than I ever remembered it being.
Yes, there are the usual criticisms – Carrie couldn't possibly earn that much money, Big is emotionally abusive, Miranda had a lot of time for brunches and self-reflection for a high-powered lawyer – but there are also more nuanced problems. And only through my fresh eyes was I able to truly understand the more complex insanities that I completely glossed over the first few times I watched it.
1. Despite being varying levels of prude, Carrie and Charlotte both went through a fair amount of D.
When you take the time to watch one episode of this show right after the other, it becomes pretty clear how much Charlotte (and, even more surprisingly, Carrie) totally slut-shamed Samantha. Pretty much every time Samantha says something about her sex life, the two Cs are there to make some eye-rolly comment about how much of a hoebag she is, or how the story is putting them off of their breakfast order.
And this is weird for several reasons, but most notably because – and I mean this in the most objective, non-judgmental way possible – they both got with a significant amount of guys in their run on the show. I don't know what the average amount of partners (or full-on boyfriends) is for a woman in this city is, but I would venture to guess that both of those two, even human Ralph Lauren Purple Label catalog Charlotte, are way ahead of the curve.
Carrie had, like, seventeen boyfriends in season six alone, and the entire plot of the first two seasons was basically "Charlotte is dating a new investment banker who wants oral and/or anal, much to her dismay." So while no one should realistically be telling Samantha she can't have sex with an illiterate fire fighter in the middle of the station, those two are probably the most hypocritical for the job.
2. Sarah Jessica Parker was kind of a terrible actress.
Umm, I don't know why this wasn't a bigger deal, but SJP was pretty bad at acting. Her fake crying and screaming were some of the more cringeworthy, I-can't-even-look-at-the-screen moments in the whole show (and this is the show that contained Samantha's sex puns). Seriously, go back and watch the episode where Big has a heart problem. She "bursts into tears" like seven times in that episode, and each time it's like watching a particularly hammy audition for the role of Juliet in a middle school Shakespeare production.
This is made all the more insulting, of course, by the fact that her co-star was someone as talented and nuanced as Cynthia Nixon. I'm sure Cynthia is way too mature to be bitter about the fact that SJP got to be the star – she has the haircut of someone who is not petty about this sort of thing – but she should be.
3. Miranda would have never dated Steve.
I don't know how else to say it, but Miranda – both the real-life version of Miranda that theoretically exists, and the one in the show – would never have gotten with Steve. Yes, Steve was a soft and chewy counterbalance to Miranda's severe haircuts and Excel spreadsheet approach to life, but we never really got enough material to prove that he would be someone she would go for. Assuming that Blair Underwood would actually be interested in Miranda, she definitely would have ended up with someone like the doctor.
Steve was nice, yes, but he was simply not much more than that. He wasn't particularly funny or smart, he definitely wasn't mature, and his overall vibe was one that just never made sense for her character. And to prove that, the Debbie girl he almost ended up with was the adult version of the girl who shoplifts from Wet Seal. To be honest, her being with Steve was kind of settling in a big way, which seems like such a tragic and cruel ending for her after six seasons of her various awful haircuts.
4. The amount that Carrie wrote about her boyfriends was beyond insane.
I assume these guys had access to newspapers, and I assume – based on the blatantly obvious way that she wrote about their relationship goings-on – that they knew they were being talked about. (I think a couple people, including the Roger Sterling golden shower politician, even referenced being talked about in a direct and current way.)
This is insane. Why was this acceptable? I would understand if the idea was that she was writing this in her personal journal to later edit into an obscure piece, but she was literally just "having a fight with Berger in the morning," and then "writing directly and literally about that fight later in the afternoon." And this was before the age of Confessional Internet Writing.
How was that okay?
5. The Russian was, honestly, much too good for Carrie.
I know there are some #SlapGate crusaders out there who are going to say that he hit her, but I stand by my original assessment that it was an accident. And in general, he was a world-renowned, multi-millionaire, trilingual, jet-setting, incredibly stylish, brilliant artist. What was he doing with Carrie, ever, even for a single date?
6. Kim Catrall should have sued Michael Patrick King for all of the truly cringeworthy shit he made her say.
It's not even just the unforgivable sex puns, though that is part of it.
Kim Catrall is actually a great actress and, if you watch interviews with her, a pretty subdued and eloquent person in real life. Aside from turning her character into this insane, sex-crazed monster (even before the movies), she was left to say all of the absolutely awful things about every possible "issue" on the show. She made nauseating comments about race, class, sexuality, gender, and sex workers. Her whole story arc with dating the black record label exec is just...totally unwatchable, mostly thanks to her behavior and commentary.
And yes, it's just a character, and therefore a just conduit for the writers' awful sense of humor, but Kim Catrall deserved better, dammit.
7. There was a fair amount of "help" on the show, and it was pretty awkward.
Every time the show attempted to deal with a woman who wasn't in her 30s (or 40s), incredibly wealthy, and white, it became unbelievably awkward. There was a revolving door of "help" – drivers, maids, nannies, manicurists, cooks – who floated in and out of the women's lives and proved that it may have been a show for female empowerment, but it was only a very specific kind of woman who benefitted from it. I know we've all mentally blocked it, but can we think back to the guy Samantha dated who had the live-in, ambiguously Asian maid/cook? JESUS. CHRIST.
The show could realistically be called, in many episodes, Paying My Immigrant Help To Organize My Dildo Drawer So I Can Lean In.
8. Carrie honestly probably subsidized her income by going on dates with dudes she wasn't that into.
She's not fooling anyone with her "rent-controlled apartment." We've all been in the "I'm gonna go out with some lame from OKCupid so that I can eat at a restaurant, a luxury I have not experienced in a while" phase. Carrie just happened to live in it well into her late 30s.
9. Aidan was kind of overrated.
Perhaps the biggest SATC mythology of all is the persistent idea that Aidan was somehow this great guy that Carrie should have ended up with. And, umm, no. I know that we all loved him because he was tall and good-looking in a boring way and treated Carrie with the emotional availability that Big always denied her. But, aside from having vague-yet-palpable Nice Guy tendencies, Aidan just wasn't all that interesting. He didn't really have a strong, funny, or particularly clever personality, and while woodworking is a sexy career, it cannot count for everything.
He just had a sort of bland, LL Bean catalog aura about him, which felt refreshing and DILF-esque after the roller coaster she had been on with Big. But honestly, the fact that he took her back after her shenanigans should have been proof enough that he was just not capable of making good decisions for himself, or for anyone else. We loved Aidan because he was too good for Carrie, but at the end of the day, who wasn't too good for Carrie?
Aidan wasn't that great. He was just there.
Images: HBO(5); Giphy