When people ask about my favorite television shows, I always seem to forget “Sex and the City”. In the ten years since the show has gone off the air, I have to admit I had kind of forgotten about it. I caught the movie on TV, but didn’t bother to see it in theaters. I openly rolled my eyes when I saw the trailer of “Sex and the City 2”, a movie I knew immediately I never wanted to watch.
I am not sure what exactly happened along the trajectory from loving this show to openly mocking its movie sequel. In college I was rather fond of the show. My roommates and I would obtain VHS tapes with episodes from a family member wealthy enough to have HBO. We would laugh at the antics, though most of them seemed pretty outlandish, identifying with each of the characters (for those wondering, I am a Charlotte. Let’s be honest though…most girls say they are Charlotte).
As I got older and started to grow my list of favorite TV shows, this one slipped through the cracks. Given that I could only see a small sliver of myself in one of four ladies of the show, it felt farcical. It felt fluffy.
It also didn’t help that I genuinely hated the leading lady Carrie Bradshaw. She was self-absorbed, she never asked questions about her friends, and she would instantly leave her gal pals at the curb if a guy came calling. Then there was the Aidan thing. As a 20-year-old, I thought Aidan Shaw was the most perfectly-crafted male character in television history. He was rugged, yet sensitive. He designed and made gorgeous wood furniture. He had a dog named Pete. And he loved Carrie so much. Carrie, on the other hand, was always kind of horrible to Aidan. No more so than when she cheated on him with the on-again-off-again troubled soul Mr. Big.
I hated Carrie SO much, flames…flames on the side of my face.
The other week, my friend Cory mentioned she was rewatching the show. We shared some laughs over how awkward the show was back in Season 1, where HBO still envisioned some sort of sexual and dating anthropology project more like the book. I realized it had been many years since I had watched the show for more than just five minutes on the E Network.
I began with Season 2 and, after no more than five episodes, I realized this show was incredibly good. Well-written, the themes of the episode structured perfectly, this show wasn’t just funny, it was a remarkably spot on story of single life with nearly every narrative bearing some resemblance to a story that had happened to me or one of my friends (except Samantha, whose life continues to bear no resemblance to any woman I have ever met).
I couldn’t help but wonder…did this show get better with age and perspective, or did I?
I think I was not the only one who became increasingly more down on the show the further removed I got from its initial airings. As shows like The Wire and Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad came along, SATC was cast aside as insignificant.
Emily Nussbaum wrote a great essay last year explaining how much these shows owed a debt of gratitude to Carrie, for she, not Tony Soprano, was the first anti-hero of the so-called Golden Age of Television.
Nussbaum’s thoughts on Carrie sum up my new feelings on a character I thought I knew so well. Don’t get me wrong, upon second viewing, I still have a long list of things I dislike about her. The difference is, this time around, I don’t hate her for it.
In fact, this time around, Carrie scares me more than anything else. Some might say I am a Carrie. After all, I am a writer, I do love my footwear, and my hair will go from curly to stick straight in the blink of an eye. Seeing this show again, I realized Carrie and I were much closer than I was comfortable with. What felt so light and fluffy at 20 felt like the humorous pathos of Mike Birbiglia at 30. Funny not because it is outrageous, but funny because it is in that sweet spot of truth between laughing and crying.
In college, I felt like none of my romances compared to the show. In hindsight I realize I had a collegiate Mr. Big, he was just 19 and still a good decade away from growing up and manning up. There was never going to be a Paris rescue for us. In my youth, I wanted to think my serious relationships were ahead of me. I was a funny kid.
I watch Aidan and Carrie now and laugh that either of them ever thought this was a relationship that could work. I can see his part in this. I can see how she did what she did.
I can also see this show more clearly for what it is, which is a romantic drama, protecting itself from the painful stuff in a sheen of sarcasm, puns, and outrageous jokes. Just like all the girls who rely on this show to learn lessons about the plain girls and the Katie girls, what happens to the last girls to leave the party, and how to have your pity party, because, yes, you have every right to be exhausted, but realize no one is picking you up except you, and, if you’re lucky, your best friends.
This show may not be the perfect friend. It may teach some life lessons, but way more dangerous than encouraging irresponsible spending and casual sex, it perpetuates the myth the guy who never quite wants you as much as you want him will one day wake up and realize you’re amazing. But even your best friends tell you little white lies sometime. The really good ones drift in and out of your life a bit too, but when you need them, there they are, growing up right there with you ready to help you whenever you need advice.