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City Girls have been setting their own agenda since the '90s

There are valid reasons to critique Sex and the City (such as Carrie being a 'pick me'), but Naledi Sibisi says the show has redeeming qualities that speak to the experiences of a diverse scope women
Thu, Oct 22, 2020

Sex and the City is one of HBO's greatest hits. PHOTOS: HBO

The rise and impact of social media, and speaking out against problematic artists and media texts, will cause you to blink twice when you revisit some of the major moments of the late '90s and early 2000s. There are so many things I have revisited on account of nostalgia to which many times my brain defaults to, "this was a terrible idea that will not age well."

Because everything is up for critique on a mass scale, we have instinctively become hyper-aware of social and cultural issues, particularly when it comes to the content we consume. Many of the media texts we had come to love and adore when we were younger will inevitably take on a questionable tone given the current state of things.

Similarly, I was excited to rewatch episodes of the much adorned, groundbreaking HBO series Sex and the City, but even that exercise took some mental preparation for the ideas that, if memory served me correctly, would and would not age well. From the iconic opening credits to the memorable script and opening lines, that exercise has been a trip.

"Welcome to the age of un-innocence. No one has Breakfast at Tiffany's and no one has affairs to remember. Instead, we have breakfast at 7am and affairs we try to forget as quickly as possible. Self-protection and closing the deal are paramount," says central character Carrie Bradshaw in the first episode.

The series follows a group of female friends in their 30s living the heart of New York City. They are obsessed with their jobs, social lives, escapades and most importantly, obsessed with each other. From the narration alone, the characters strike me as the kind of women I would hang out with today.

Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) 

It has been over 20 years since SATC aired and at the time, I, for obvious and age appropriate reasons was unable to engage.

As I got older, I could finally engage in and relate to what presented itself as a humorous, shameless and honest account of what sex, heartbreak and what my friendships with women look like. That, coupled with the fact that I would call myself a professional single woman as well as the self-proclaimed 'Black Samantha following Carrie's career path' throughout my 20s, is what makes the admiration of the women of SATC and their lifestyles both hilarious and cringe at this particular stage of my life.

At its core, SATC sets out to dismantle traditional notions of love and marriage and what women should aspire to by the time they reach a certain age. It promotes the idea that women can be fulfilled through their careers, relationships and support structures without having to settle.

The women go clubbing on Friday nights, have wild and passionate sex, smoke cigarettes, wear expensive shoes, find comfort in their apartments and excel at their jobs. In that regard, SATC was arguably ahead of its time and while much of the content is rooted in sexual freedom, issues of monogamy, heartbreak, illness and postpartum depression have been intricately woven into the script through its six seasons.

Miranda and Charlotte (Kristin Davis)

Between Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda there is a character that every woman can identify with, but let's talk about Carrie and why she has, in recent years, been called out for being 'full of shit'.

At the time, Carrie became a symbol for women across the globe and someone they aspired or related to: from her career, to her lifestyle, to her love story with Mr Big. You do not even need to go through all six seasons for that annoyance to settle in, and here is why: from the very first season, Carrie is packaged as independent, thriving, progressive, happy and headstrong… until we meet Mr Big.

Following their encounters, we start to notice the 'pick-me' in her jump out and suddenly our contemporary woman becomes the conservative one who desires attachment and to be chosen.

It is the revert back into this role that suggests that the possibility of a single, working, childfree, loving and fun woman cannot exist in perpetuity. For all six seasons, Carrie becomes a benchmark of sorts: she represents the idea that women (particularly writers, creatives and fashion lovers) could have it all outside of romance, but we gradually realise that the man becomes the thing she is most fixated on.

While that is not a bad thing or a source of condemnation, it does still feel like a scam. Carrie transitions into a particular brand of feminism that presents and leads you one way, while tacitly securing a bag and a ring. All while securing that, she begins to lean into a man to not only make her feel whole and chosen, but to sustain her lifestyle and inspire her to keep writing – the thing that she could do in her sleep when we first met her.

Ugh, Big (Chris Noth) and Carrie 

All that said, there is still something to be said about what the characters represent that still holds true for the contemporary woman. I, for one, still very much identify as Samantha following elements of Carrie's path... so long as I avoid bumping into my Mr Big.

  • Binge all six seasons of Sex and the City on Showmax