Why Are We Still Obsessed with ‘Sex and the City’?

Also relevant: Does television have a women problem?  Or would you rather just muse on the best shows to re-watch?

On Wed, Oct 21, 2015 at 4:33 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:
Given that we’re about to embark on the last leg of the Sex and the City diet like ten years following its final season, why do you think we’re still so obsessed with the show? There’s a level of resonance beyond just you and me, right? I mean, according to Google analytics, our readers like the diets, so what is it about the show that keeps on giving?

On Oct 21, 2015, at 8:20 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:
I have almost too many thoughts on this.

The first is that…at least for people our age: Clueless was our (my) first glimpse into fashion, casual sex, dating, drama beyond what you learn from your friend down the street. It’s so glamorous and scary — but also, you don’t get any of the jokes.

And then with Sex and the City, I don’t think I saw my first episode until…when makes sense? High school? But by that point, I got the jokes. I was in the club. Initiated.

Still not part of their world, but hooked.

…That’s like, half of a half of a half a fraction. Why do you think?

On Thu, Oct 22, 2015 at 8:15 AM, Leandra Medine wrote:
So you think we’re still into it because it made us feel part of a club? But wouldn’t have Clueless done that too? I think, and I really could be wrong, that it’s more about the exposure that it provided to the kinds of scenarios that make growing up feel so fascinating. It totally eclipsed the 20-something experience and glamorized reaching your thirties.

And doing that while single!

No one on television had ever turned the spinster stereotype on its head because no one had presented it as anything but miserable. These women proved the power of friendship and for me redefined what makes companionship great. Romantic partnerships are wonderful, but they’re not everything if you’re missing that soul piece.

On Oct 22, 2015, at 10:09 AM, Amelia Diamond wrote:
That’s a HUGE part of it too. But with Clueless, you couldn’t join the club because you didn’t get the jokes. By the time we watched SATC, we got the jokes, so we became their friends.

The exposure part of SATC was probably why we became hooked, but the reason I fell in love with it and STILL care about it is the fantasy. It’s like our version of science fiction. And their world was glamorous! Samantha makes PR look super fancy. Carrie makes being a writer look like you never have deadlines and can afford a studio. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s a gallery girl — you cannot have a more “NY job” than that. Miranda’s life was probably the most real, which is why no one ever wants to be “a Miranda.” But it’s still all fantasy.

I have to admit: the aspect of 4 single woman was never comforting to me. Samantha is the only character who didn’t make it look terrifying. But I am single and in New York City and it is not that terrifying.

On Thu, Oct 22, 2015 at 2:15 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:
You’re right about Miranda. No one wants to be a Miranda because that’s reality rolled up into a ball that lives on the Upper West Side. I just wonder if that also defeats the purpose of the thesis, which at its root is that the reason we’re still obsessed with SATC is because it broke down the single girl experience and made it stylish.

Question though: why was the idea of being single in NY never comforting to you? Was it because the girls made it look terrifying? If that’s the case, what element of the show resonated best for you? Was it the friendship? The drinks? Carrie’s NY Mag cover?

On Thu, Oct 22, 2015 at 4:32 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:
No, that thesis stands, too. I don’t think the fantasy element negates the show’s celebration of singlehood. It definitely glamorizes it, but still: SATC made it badass to be single. It made single women eligible bachelors. I’ve been technically-single for a long time in this city and though I’ve had moments of not wanting to be, it’s always been something I’ve embraced. I’m sure that comes from SATC. It’s fun to be single in your twenties in Manhattan.

What was not comforting was the relentless hunt. Carrie chases Big from the moment she meets him. In that episode where Charlotte says, “I’ve been dating since I was 16,” I felt exhausted for her and with her. I’m in no way running around looking for a husband and to me, at this point, a date is just a dinner with someone new. But the thought that this “phase” in my life could theoretically last (according to the rules of the show) until who-knows-how-long? Good lord.

What resonated most was that there was this magical city awaiting me that would, no doubt, support and put forth the best, most exciting years of my life. Do you think the single bit held more weight for you because you grew up here? It wasn’t a magical, undiscovered territory for you. It was just home.

Also, I’m really shitting on this show so it sounds like I didn’t completely love it. I do. I can quote almost every episode verbatim. But…the friendship part? Theirs as a group always seemed kind of fake.

On Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 7:07 AM, Leandra Medine wrote:
You didn’t connect with their friendship? I literally built Man Repeller as a response to it. (Let me clear that up: I felt like they were my BFFs and provided a sense of camaraderie even though they are fictional and have no idea who I am and I wanted to recreate that experience online only not scripted).

But I think we’re veering too far away from the initial question, which is still not answered: why are we STILL obsessed with SATC? I, for one, will choose an in-bed SATC marathon over socializing any day of the week — what is that?

Of note is probably that it now feels dated — like the experiences are not at all those of a woman who actually occupies the lifestyle they’re supposed to portray. So maybe it is the fantasy.

On Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 8:26 AM, Amelia Diamond wrote:
The women were all connected by Carrie — the other 3 didn’t really have independent friendships with each other; Sam and Charlotte weren’t side-boobing on a separate chat outside of the group chat; Miranda probably called Charlotte “Carrie’s friend” when first describing her to Steve, you know?

Charlotte’s “What if we were each other’s soul mates” speech was touching and probably true. I feel that way about some of my very closest friends. I just don’t think Charlotte was really speaking to everyone at the table.

BUT YOUR QUESTION: We still care because of nostalgia, one, but two (and more importantly), because the scenarios of the show are still relevant – they remain the guide book to being a 21st century woman, single or not. Like big sisters, Carrie, Sam, Charlotte and Miranda went through everything before us so that we could go back and use it as a reference. You’re never alone no matter how weird a date or awkward a sexual encounter. You’re never alone with sexism at work or a huge fight with a friend or a broken heart. These women went through it all so that when we go through it and make mistakes or don’t know what to do, we turn to the show and there they are, going through it too.

Do you think that’s it? And if it is, do you think it will get old once we finally grow up?

On Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 8:50 AM, Leandra Medine wrote:
You’re right about their relationships with each other and Carrie as the centerpiece of the friendship. And I think your final point, about why we still watch it, or care, is a wise one. They went through the motions of our stuff for us, or rather with us. And even if it wasn’t realistic per se, the intention was there and so was the empathy, which might be the really important part of this. Empathy! The only thing a vulnerable person wants, (actually, I’m speaking for myself, so a vulnerable me) is true empathy. Understanding of the exact, isolated thing I’m going through — and as we navigate the years that lead up to our thirties, there are plenty of references embedded in the Sex and the City narrative that give that to us.

And there are good clothes.

Here’s my question, though: why don’t you think we’ve actually grown up yet? Do you really believe we’re less grown up than they were?

On Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 10:40 AM, Amelia Diamond wrote:
Do you feel grown up? I don’t. Older and more mature and savvier and different from who I was 5 years ago, but not grown up.

Considering Carrie’s age alone by the final episode, we’re not there yet. The SATC wiki says Carrie moved to the city at age 20 and that she’s 35 by the fourth season, which makes her roughly 37 by the show’s end. Age is just a number, yeah, but it also counts for something when we’re talking about life experience. There’s no magic age where I think I will feel “up,” but it’s not my current 27.

On Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 11:46 AM, Leandra Medine wrote:
You know what? There’s an episode of Friends on in the background right now as I type up this e-mail and I’m thinking…Sex and the City was the opposite of a sitcom. It was one of the first shows I could think of that wasn’t made up of a string of extremely unrealistic, hypothetical situations. The sort of precursor to reality television, only airbrushed and edited and therefore far enough removed from reality to hit too close to home. But we all recognized the plight and wanted to feel it. No other show really does that. It’s either too realistic or too unrealistic. And who are the friends we make on TV? It’s a different day.

Feature image via HBO.  


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