Carrie Bradshaw, protagonist and sex-columnist, you aren’t as fabulous as you seem to think you are. At least, not yet.
For years, person after person has told me that I need to watch Sex and the City. My sister, my friend Lauren, the Emmys, TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, People magazine, TBS . . . the list never ends. We even watched the foot fetish episode in my Sociology of Sexuality class a couple years back. I felt about this show the way other people probably feel when I start talking about Battlestar Galactica: “Shut up, already!”
When I watch a TV show for the first time, I turn off my critical brain and try to enjoy myself, to lose myself in whatever world I’m being sold. I watched all twelve episodes of SATC Season One in about a week. The episodes are short and easy to fit into a busy schedule . . . but I wasn’t that impressed. “Just keep going,” my sister tells me, “the first season sucks.” “It gets better,” says Lauren. And I believed them, so I rented Season Two. It took me a month and a half to get through. That is a really long time to watch eighteen episodes of any series, let alone one that has episodes which are only thirty minutes long (as an example, I once got through twenty-two hour-long episodes of Veronica Mars in just one day). So, unless seasons three through six take a drastic turn in style and plot, the SATC universe and I are most likely not meant to be bedfellows.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that this is bad TV. There have certainly been worse things to air in the past fifty years. The writing is competent, even engaging at times, it’s almost always well-structured and filmed, and rarer than I would have thought (seeing how this is supposed to be a comedy), is even funny on occasion. But see, that’s the thing. I don’t find Carrie & Co.’s world to be funny or amusing or touching or whatever else my sex-starved, man-centered generation finds it to be. I find it horrifying. It’s like when you’re watching one of those documentaries on the Discovery Channel about penguins or hyenas or whatever, and you’re just like, “Motherfucker, I’m glad I’m not a hyena.” And then the hyena eats somebody’s bowels and you drink more alcohol and go put on some pajama pants and celebrate the miracle of evolution.
Here’s my problem: this isn’t a show about characters, it’s a show about sex. Darren Star (and Candace Bushnell) are depicting a way of life. Each episode is like a portrait, a mini-lesson, about their views of the world. Maybe it’s because I live in a world that is the polar opposite of that one, or because I’m the type of person who would never inhabit that world if given a choice, but I find the whole premise shallow and blah. How much can we get away with? they seem to be asking. Aren’t these clothes pretty? Will you love me with my curly hair and pretend-writer skills? Okay, now I’m being bitchy. Let me give you some more concrete examples. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha are not characters (at least, as far I’ve seen). They are merely tools through which these stories and “groundbreaking” images can be broadcast. Mind you, the one or two episodes I saw on their own and out of context entertained me greatly, far more than any of these episodes did in sequence.
I’m tired of seeing Charlotte act like a prude. She’s not a prude. If this is what people think a prude is, then I think my definition needs to be adjusted. I’m tired of Carrie & Co. pretending they are poor. Newsflash: you’re buying $700 shoes? Shut the fuck up and stop complaining. You aren’t poor. I’m tired of the two-minute relationships. There is no fucking way these women meet that many men in a year. It’s just not possible, unless they were hookers. I’m tired of all the losers. Half the men (plot devices) most normal women wouldn’t stay with if given half a second, but Carrie and Charlotte and Miranda, so desperate and lonely, have to at least keep on trucking ’til the end of the episode. Get higher standards, ladies. I’m tired of Carrie expecting Mr. Big to be anything other than the man she fell in love with (dangerous, unstable, undependable, commitment phobic) and then freaking out when he breaks her heart. And most of all, I’m tired of hearing about sex. It’s like Miranda says in one Season Two episode, “Can’t we talk about anything other than men?” (One of the reasons she’s my favorite.) The answer, by the way, is apparently “No.” Sure, I talk about sex. But I also talk about work and school and family and chores and cooking and pooping and politics and television and coffee and whatever else. I fucking talk about doing the laundry or whatever.
There have been bright spots, coming from Miranda, mostly. She seems to be the only one with her head on straight (mostly). In the last half of Season Two, I did feel for Carrie and Samantha a couple of times. Twice for Carrie: once when she dumped Big, and then again when she barfed on the beach in the penultimate episode. It was a raw, emotional moment for the character that had nothing to do with rationalization. This show needs more of those moments. The one time I felt something (besides contempt) for Samantha was in the Season Two finale, “Ex and the City” (which was actually the best episode of the series so far). Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda are serenading Samantha with “The Way We Were” (which she’d never seen) and she just bursts randomly into tears and says, “I miss James!” James, being the man she loved, but dumped because his penis was very very tiny. But then the good feelings that moment made for me went away because I remembered how mad I was when she dumped him in the first place. If you are fucking lucky enough to fall in love, you shallow bitches, YOU DON’T DUMP SOMEBODY BECAUSE OF PENIS SIZE! IT’S CALLED ORAL SEX!
So, yes, Sex and the City (Seasons One and Two) is a cultural milestone, a damn ground-breaker, nothing like it before on TV, blah, blah, blah . . . but it paints a picture I have no interest in seeing. Certainly not one I would ever hang on my wall and look at on a daily basis. Oh, gross. Think about that one for a second.