During my first happy hour with my coworkers, we were talking about our favorite television shows. I mentioned that I was watching Sex and the City. One of my coworkers said that people pictured her as Carrie; I like to think of myself as 80% Miranda and 20% Samantha–let me be clear: for what they say, not what they do. Another colleague of mine mentioned that the show is definitely an escapist fantasy, and I had no reason to disagree with that.
I’d like to adjust his statement a little bit. Sex and the City is an escapist fantasy for white, privileged women.
(I can hear the “you’re taking the fun out of it” comments now).
But seriously, it is.
6 seasons of Sex and the City later, and I can say with certainty that I understand why it’s a classic, why it’s still written about, still a frame for a lot of Buzzfeed and Refinery29 articles. The show first aired in the late 90s, an interesting decade of television that was ahead of the game in terms of logic. Now I’m not saying that Sex and the City is the perfect example of this, because it definitely had its problematic moments with use of outdated language and outdated mindsets. But imagine, a show that celebrated the open sexual expression of women.
Even then, the show was limited because it was solely about the sexual expression of white women. Not a single Black woman to be found except for the sparse moments in which one of the four needed advice, a confidence boost, or directions for the buses that they never rode. It’s completely unbelievable that these four women would never hang out with a Black person, ever. Maybe I’m too naive about the situation, but considering that it’s set in New York City of all places, one of the most diverse cities in the world, it’s hard for me to envision that these four women have lived their entire lives without having not one person of color in their group.
Call me a skeptic, but I also found it hard to believe that they were constantly running into men of higher status and jobs: doctors, lawyers, Wall Street brokers, and so on. Perhaps that is the case when you’re older and living in the city–you start running into men who come from those positions. Carrie and Samantha were the more popular of the four, at least as far as their interests and professions went. Samantha had her own PR business; Carrie wrote for a column and was a general fashion enthusiast.
I get that articles still refer back to Sex and the City for just what it did for women on television. But when are we going to stop doing that? When are we going to stop glorifying a show that didn’t glorify the diversity that is New York?
Let’s not forget about the privileged aspect of this post. I suppose it comes down to a question of lifestyle and how one was raised, what kind of family they were born into, but aside from two or three episodes I can think of, finances were never a talked about subject. They just always seemed to have money readily available to them; if it’s not earned from their own careers, it’s through the wallets of whatever guy they’re seeing. Which isn’t a problem, don’t misunderstand. For example–spoilers for anyone who hasn’t watched the show–Carrie had to buy her apartment from Aiden after they split, again, and Big just gave her a check for 30 grand. Or the fact that she lives in a rent-controlled apartment with probably over 5,000 dollars worth of shoes in her closet.
I’m ultimately disappointed that the show was so white. It’s not like Black people weren’t also thriving in the media during the 90s and early 2000s; in fact, we were doing pretty well for ourselves. Maybe I’m expecting too much of 90s directors in almost 2020, but did no one think it was strange that there just weren’t Black people ever, except to fulfill the fantasies of these white women? I thought we left the Magical Negro trope behind, but I guess not! By erasing people of color from the NYC experience altogether, Sex and the City lost its chance to explore the group’s white privilege and racial awareness. Less than 10 episodes out of 6 seasons were dedicated to people of color, and even then the attempt to address the racial elephant was poorly done.
All that aside, I do think the show brought some controversial and important topics to light, and when it was well done, it was well done. Cancer, pregnancy difficulties, choosing between the head and the heart–this and more the quartet learned about together. Did I escape with them all the time, lost in shoes and sex and unwavering self-confidence? Nope, not really. But could I relate with some of the sentiments? Could I understand the confusion they were feeling because I felt the same way at some point? Yes.
Overall, the watching experience of Sex and the City was an enjoyable one. I laughed, I was frustrated, I enjoyed some of the lessons learned. If they ever decided to do a remake, I’d want Miranda’s character to be played by a Black woman. Just sayin’.