A rainy, lazy day off had me scrolling through shows on HBO when Sex and the City popped up boasting availability of all seasons. I remember sneakily watching a few episodes when I was about 14 on my shitty portable DVD player after I found a box set at my aunty's house. I was curious about what all the fuss (and sex) was about since we didn't have cable so I was naturally eager to see some "risqué" content. I had a difficult time relating to the show for many reasons not only because of the obvious age difference, but because of the rich white women problems and the fact that I thought all the guys were gross (still kind of do). But today in these stressful times, I yearned for some simple, mindless entertainment to play in the background while I putted around the house drinking tea. While I personally try to turn off the feminist filter in my brain whenever I consume media content (since it's the only way to enjoy anything), some things inevitably break through the barrier and end up sounding the alarms. So after watching the show from the very beginning, my main conclusion is this: we really used to let men get away with so much shit!
Sex and the City aired between 1998-2004 and apparently a mere 14 years ago the dating world was a much different place. The four ladies we follow through 6.5 seasons (and a couple of terrible movies) are all successful career women who spend their free time complaining about men and stressing about how they might never find the right guy to settle down with. In the first season you can find one of the realist moments in the whole show when Miranda gets fed up at lunch and has an outburst about why four successful women only seem to be able to talk about men. Yes! Finally some much needed criticism of their silliness, right? Then they never mention it again. In a way, this acted as a single disclaimer for the entire show that followed.
I choose to believe that we only see the portions of the women's lives that pertain to sex and relationships, but it's hard to deny that their obsession with men seems to permeate every aspect of their existence. If they were having guy problems, it ruined their whole day or week. Any free time they had, they'd spend it over analyzing what went wrong (or right) instead of trying to improve themselves intellectually or focus on their careers. In one of the later seasons, Carrie flies out to LA to meet with Matthew Mcconaughey (!) to talk about a potential movie deal. The whole time she acts like she doesn't want to be there and when it comes time for the big project meeting, she blows it off because she is still upset about Mr. Big. In other words, instead of being excited to further her career with a huge opportunity, she runs away because she just can't go on if she's not happy with a man. At the same time, Charlotte who was a successful art curator with her own gallery, quits her job to become a homemaker and mother shortly after falling in love with Tray (the adorable young Kyle Mclaughlin). While she did have some internal conflict about leaving everything she had built, she decided in the end that her husband was more important (Insert Anderson Cooper eye roll). While Miranda and Samantha seem to be more serious about their careers as a lawyer and PR consultant respectively, they rarely seem to talk about the actual work they do. Miranda's work is seen as an inconvenience for those around her, while Samantha's job is often just used as a tool to meet men.
The men on the show are often childish and indecisive, and quite often simply pieces of shit. In one of the earlier seasons, an "artist" Carrie is dating reveals that he has been secretly videotaping his sexual encounters with the models that he dates. He presents to her all the footage he's accumulated on various stacked tv's while Carrie just laughs and kind of nervously nods along. Okay, so aside from this being a literal crime, including the inevitable revenge porn that would result from sharing the footage, the fact that she did not immediately condemn his actions made it seem quirky and acceptable. Another particular instance that still makes me mad when I think about it, was when Charlotte marries Tray without having sex with him first. Even though there were a million blaring red flags, Charlotte is so desperate to get married that she overlooks them. Naturally, when they finally get hitched and try to consummate the marriage, Charlotte finds that he is impotent. Surprise! So Charlotte being Charlotte tries everything she can to "raise" his attentions but to no avail. A while later she walks in on him masturbating to the not-so-eloquently named magazine "Jugs." She is understandably hurt and expresses it to their couples therapist in their session. Whenever she expresses any kind of discomfort with the fact that he can become aroused for magazines but not for her, he brushes her off like she is being unreasonable. Instead of trying to attend to his wife's sexual needs or at least attempt to make her feel more comfortable, he runs away from any mention of his obvious problem and ignores Charlotte completely.
While women are still oppressed and sexual/social/economic dynamics in relationships still remain unequal, the womens' free sexuality was indeed revolutionary for a television show at the time and gave real credence to the fact that yes, women are just as horny, if not more horny than men. Which was a great step in itself. I remember my mother making a comment about the show once, calling it "sluts in the city," which aside from being rather spot on, the vitriol in her voice and intention reminded me of why the show was actually (at least a little) great for women. It depicted a world where women can be successful and smart and want lots of sex, just like men have always been allowed to. Though of course it's alright only if you are a conventionally attractive white woman. Regardless, while it was almost inspiring watching them try to navigate a dating world where they as women are at a fundamental disadvantage, it just didn't go far enough in respects to calling out the very systems in place that they were struggling against.
One odd thing I couldn't help but notice as well, is the fact that WE KNOW ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT THEIR FAMILIES. Is this not insane? We never meet a single family member of the women even though we see the mothers of the guys they date every now and then. How is that possible? I think Carrie might have once mentioned that her dad left her mom when she was younger, but that's it. This has led my partner and I to craft a fan theory about how the four ladies are actually aliens trying to gain data (more like DNA) from the male population of earth. At least that spin off would be something I would watch! Watching the show today makes me want to simultaneously shake all four women, tell them to cut that shit out, they deserve better, and to stop being privileged snobs all at once. The #wokecharlotte hashtag on instagram is pretty great by the way, if you want to see similar reactions to the more problematic issues including racism and classism on the show. SATC may have been groundbreaking 15 years ago and while I will always applaud women openly talking about how horny they are while sleeping with all the men they like, the show just doesn't hold up today which is honestly a good sign.