Why Do We Compare Ourselves to Sex and the City?
It’s been 20 years since Sex and the City premiered, and women everywhere still watch Carrie Bradshaw in awe of her wildly fabulous life. It’s the perfect binge-worthy show that explores the inner workings of sex and relationships with the right amount of NYC escapism, unavailable men, and cheeky commentary. While fashion trends and times have changed, the allure of unavailable men and having a close group of girlfriends has pretty much remained the same.
The entire premise of SATC is women in their 30s navigating sex, relationships and city living, but what about us women in our 20s? We are in one of the most transitory periods of our lives, we’ve gone from 17 years of being a student to becoming full-fledged adults who contribute to our 401(k) plans. We’re dumping our college boyfriends and entering the real world of dating, making many wrong decisions along the way as we try and find someone who doesn’t treat us like garbage but also is great in the sack. What about us? Where is our own TV show narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker?
I in no way relate to having a $40,000 shoe collection, the ability to eat out every meal, or have a fantastic Upper East Side rent controlled apartment. Her advice and lifestyle is from what now seems like a completely different era, so why is it still so highly regarded by women everywhere? Why are they the role models we have always looked up to?
Samantha + Tinder = 😳
One key difference since the show ended is technology, which has vastly changed the way we connect with the people around us. Not only is it infinitely easier to meet someone, but it’s also easier to move onto your next match with a swipe of a finger. But how are we, at 24 years old in the digital age, supposed to compare ourselves to 30-something women that didn’t even have cell phones.
Carrie never had the opportunity to date using a dating app, and I am curious to think what she and the rest of the girls would have done with apps like Tinder or Hinge. Honestly, just imagine how iconic Samantha would be with a Tinder profile. She would line up multiple dates a night and get them to buy her dinner whenever she wanted. Charlotte probably wouldn’t be on the apps at all since she doesn’t “believe in them”. Miranda would be too cynical of them because she gets ghosted more times than she would like to admit, but I believe she would have found a few good men on there. Carrie, of course, would meet all of the great guys on Hinge, but would always go back to her ex, aka Big.
They only had the option of meeting men out ‘in the wild’ because that’s all there was back then, but now there are like 12,000 more ways to meet people. I understand the theory of meeting men out at a bar on a Friday night, but I feel like it rarely happens in the digital age. SATC gave us the impression that men will ask you out every time you go out, and you shouldn’t expect anything less. Meanwhile, nearly 39% of American couples met online. Maybe since it’s a different time, people feel less confident to ask one another out given the appeal and protection of a dating app.
The constant story arc of the entire series is Carrie looking for her dream man, but right now we’re just trying to figure out what we can tolerate in a man. At the end of the day, she is just a fictional character, but she is the closest character we have that openly talks about sex and relationships with a dose of couture. Carrie provided a haphazard instruction manual for future me, but what about a road map for the dating challenges that I don’t even know I will be facing in the next year? She is looking into our future, but how are we supposed to see into her past? They may not be Carrie, but the hosts of Girls Gotta Eat, We Met at Acme, and U Up? come pretty damn close.
But don’t worry, if a man ever broke up with me via Post-It, I’d know what to do.
Where are the REAL Women?
One aspect of the show that usually goes unmentioned, but is indeed unrealistic, is how the four main characters are all so f*cking thin. There is little mention of body struggles or how to live a body positive life when you’re constantly going out, downing cosmopolitans, and smoking cigarettes.
They all equally have killer bods with perfectly perky breasts, sculpted figures, and legs for days. I want to know the secret to achieving and maintaining those types of bodies. Carrie alone has perfectly toned arms and abs despite rarely exercising. I’m pretty sure she could wear a trash bag and still look fabulous. Heck, she wore a bandeau top with a low rise maxi skirt and looked flawless in something most women would immediately feel self-conscious in, myself included.
The truth is, most women don’t have a sample sale sized body and it is almost impossible that all four of them would if the show was real. It just gives unrealistic expectations and ideals and I find it annoying. In fact, the media has made 52% of teenagers feel pressured to change their body image with nearly 80% of 17 year old girls feeling unhappy with their body from age 13. WTF. I. am. Shook.
This lack of body conversation created the expectation that men will only be interested in you if you have a perfectly sculpted yet thin and lean physique, which is almost undeniably false. The most realistic body reference we have from SATC is when Miranda can’t lose the weight from having her son, Brady. That’s it. A post-partum body is the only accurate body representation and conversation that happens the entire show. Miranda still had to lose the baby weight while balancing everything else on her already crowded plate. She is the only one that went to the gym and dieted using Weight Watchers.
It shouldn’t have taken having a baby to open up the discussion of a changing body and accepting it as the new normal. I feel like it would have been a relevant storyline that people would have really connected to. We all struggle to accept some thing(s) about our bodies, so why, among four strong women no less, was this never a topic of conversation prior to birthing a literal human. It seemed like so many other female-focused issues were debated and discussed, but why was this one glazed over?
Sex and the City is all about women empowerment but where are the conversations about empowering, struggling, and physically accepting ourselves. I have to guess and assume that it was a different age where body acceptance and struggles weren’t verbalized.
The Great Debate: Big or Aiden?
It’s not just women who are problematic in this show, it’s also the men. All of the leading men were so grand and passionate about their feelings even when it seemed odd or unnecessary. In Season 3 Ep 1., Carrie meets this hot, sexy grey fox of a politician out at a bar. The next day, after a shameless shoe shopping expedition, she arrives home to find this politician just casually sitting on her stoop waiting to tell her that he can’t stop thinking about her. It’s been less than 24 hours and he is already expressing his feelings. Are you kidding me???
This type of stuff just doesn’t happen in real life. If it did I would mostly be concerned how this person found my address *stalker alert*. In the slightly miraculous chance that a man expresses his liking for someone, it will be in the form of a text that you will spend the next 2 hours analyzing and agonizing for its “hidden meaning”. Some girls just get a “u, up” text at 2 am and find it completely acceptable.
Let’s talk about Big. Love you, but you are the OG f*ckboy, plain and simple. He is actually one of the worst TV boyfriends of all time and frankly Carrie deserves better. They have opposite attachment styles and his non-committal actions in combination with Carrie’s relationship paranoia make her seem clingy and needed, every single man and woman’s nightmare. Listen, it’s entirely plausible that anyone can become a psycho girlfriend if they were being treated that way. But of course, his character remains relatively unscathed, as many f*ckboys are, even as he marries a 26 year old and toys with Carrie’s heart time and time again.
They are toxic for one another and their inability to move on from each other destroyed every single one of their subsequent relationships during the span of the show. Aiden, Natasha, and Berger, need I say more?
After an entire series of will they won’t they, Big pulls the ultimate romantic grand gesture when he flies to Paris to tell Carrie that she is the one. Even Big, arguably one of the worst TV boyfriends, stepped up his game to confess his suddenly realized true feelings. I know this is scripted TV, but these gestures have been giving women the idea that you’ll always get the Cinderella-like happy ending no matter how sh*tty they treat you. After two failed, toxic relationships, things don’t just magically smooth themselves out and turn into the happily ever after ending we’re conditioned to believe in.
Carrie Bradshaw is Problematic but We Still Love Her
These are just some of the few instances where Sex and the City got it wrong for women everywhere. I love the show, but I don’t know if it is the healthiest example for women in their 20s. Every time I watch it and see storylines that didn’t age well, I think about whether or not it’s actually relevant anymore since dating opportunities, relationships, and sexual acceptance are so different now. I always wonder if there will be another literary character who will provide as much inspiration and advice as Carrie did. Hopefully, the next one will be a financially stable, career woman who is equally as fabulous but knows what she deserves when it comes to relationships.
These are some of my wandering thoughts about the iconic characters and plot lines, even though I will still watch it on repeat with zero regret. What are some of the unrealistic expectations you got from watching Sex and the City? Leave me your thoughts in the comments!