The One ‘Sex & The City’ Episode I Always Go Back To Proves The Show's Feminism Was Murky
The first Sex and the City episode aired 20 years ago on June 6, 1998 on HBO. I was only 5 at the time, so it goes without saying that I was fast asleep as Carrie first hopped around the streets of Manhattan in a pink tutu. I remember the show airing in the periphery of my childhood, as most young millennials probably can attest to, but I finally got my eyes on the show in seventh or eighth grade, and I was immediately hooked. I've probably watched every episode at least 12 times, but the one Sex and the City episode I always go back to is one that distances itself from the rest of the series' ongoing themes of independence, orgasms, and the everlasting bonds of female friendship. "The Catch" is mostly about a fairytale romance, and it seemingly supports what many critics have said about the show — the main character's obsession with men and romance makes it difficult to label fully "feminist" in 2018. Even still, I can't get enough of this episode.
I have defended Sex and the City's feminist themes over the past 13 or so years, in which I've turned to the HBO both in times of boredom and heartbreak. "No, the show isn't actually about obsessing over men, it's about friendship. Each of the women have their own lives and their own interests, and they refuse to settle for the men who consistently come and go. They seek pleasure from sex, and sure, they talk about dating a lot — but it's both in a realistic and empowering way," I'd say.
That's all true. I love the episode when Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) demands her friend buy her new shoes after tallying all the gifts that she's had to bestow her friends who have gotten married and had kids. I love the episode "The Chicken Dance," which shows Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) accidentally setting up her house guest with her interior decorator, and then begrudgingly plays a part in their wedding, and I love the scene in "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda" when Miranda follows Charlotte (Kristin Davis) down the street, even though Charlotte doesn't want to talk to Miranda, just to stay close to her friend going through a tough time. "I'm just gonna walk a little way behind you in case you change your mind and want to talk," a concerned Miranda says.
Despite the fact that all of the aforementioned scenes and episodes reveal how relatable and reassuring the series can be, I still can't get enough of "The Catch." The episode aired midway through Season 6 and it centers around Charlotte's second wedding, when she married Harry Goldenblatt (Evan Handler). In the episode, the wedding has a lot of mishaps, starting with an ink blot being printed on Harry's face in the couple's New York Times wedding photo. Harry then walks in on Charlotte while she's wearing her wedding dress — a sign of bad luck, according to superstition — and Charlotte trips while walking down the aisle after spilling red wine on her dress.
Charlotte laments in the bathroom that her second wedding is much worse than her first, and that she worries it means that her new marriage also won't work out. Carrie reassures her that a bad wedding might mean a better marriage, and she cheers up the bride. All the while, Carrie has to walk with her neck stooped over because she had had rough "rabbit sex" with Harry's groomsman, Howie (Bryan Callen). After Carrie tells Howie that she doesn't want to hook up with him again, Howie gives an awkward speech about women breaking his heart. Miranda then steps up to give her toast, only to have the page with her speech written on it burn from the candle centerpiece.
I love that Charlotte's wedding goes up in flames, quite literally. I could lie and say that I continuously re-watch the episode because it proves that perfection doesn't exist — and that might be part of it — but to be honest, I love the romance. In many ways, the fact that I love the episode which shows Charlotte getting her happy proves exactly what I frequently attempt to refute while discussing my Sex and the City fandom. I don't want to like the show for its romantic aspects, and I definitely do love the show's celebration of adult female friendship, but I also must admit I love that Charlotte ends up finding love after searching for it for so long.
"The Catch" is so great because it offers a couple different messages. From Carrie, you learn that bad sex might never end, but you can get your kicks from other forms like trying out trapeze. The episode doesn't end with Charlotte running off to wedded bliss, but instead it shows Carrie attempting to flip in the air with her friends standing below, cheering her on. As cheesy as it may be, that scene makes me feel even more inspired than Charlotte's wedding does.
The age-old question that Carrie herself might type into her early 2000s black laptop would be, "Can a show that reveres romance and marriage like Sex and the City does still call itself feminist?" It's a complicated question, and one that no episode encapsulates quite as perfectly as "The Catch." For me, I both love the message of uplifting sisterhood and the fairytale romance that Charlotte and Harry share. What makes SATC so great, after all, is the way it touches on every aspect of womanhood, including romance. Fantasizing about a fairytale wedding may very well be as much a part of some women's experiences as fantasizing about sex, and Sex and the City's "The Catch" gives me the perfect opportunity to escape reality and enjoy Charlotte's unfortunate yet romantic wedding.