My Issue with Sex and the City

by Lucas Witherspoon

I was a little late to hop on board the Sex & the City train, mostly because it came out in high school when I was still trying my best and failing miserably to stay in the closet, but once I started watching about halfway into season six, I was immediately hooked. I can still sit and watch marathons of the show, quoting lines all the while. Yes, I’m one of those people.

As I’ve been making my way through all of the seasons again lately, though, I’ve found certain elements irk me. Granted, the show did a lot in the way of portraying women in a more realistic light than most of its predecessors in the way of blunt conversations concerning promiscuity, STDs, cancer, the LGBT community, etc., not to mention setting fashion and cultural standards, but I take issue with shows in general that portray women constantly feeling as if, no matter how successful they may be as individuals, their life remains incomplete without a man.

I think the only fair portrayal came in the form of Samantha, who may have proven far more sexually unbridled than the other three main characters, but also maintained a few extended relationships–including one with a lesbian–that were decidedly more established than her other erotic jaunts, because she was depicted as not only having the ability to participate in one-night stands, but also romantic relationships.

The rest, however, were persistently delineated as being brooding, single women. Carrie was constantly fawning over Mr. Big, Charlotte was always rushing to get married as soon as possible, and Miranda was being perpetually rejected by men who couldn’t handle her professional success and tendency to be overbearing.

Clearly everyone would like to find someone to love, yet their fabulous jobs and social lives, the overlying theme always seemed to be their quest for it. Even Miranda felt substandard, when she should have realized that any guy who’s intimidated by something so insignificant as a woman’s professional success is himself an insecure, moronic misogynist. With a show that reached such a broad audience of women, one would have hoped that it wouldn’t rely on the same old romantic clichés that we’ve seen for decades in sitcoms and films that feature supposed independent and powerful women who still feel incomplete without the companionship of a man.

Regardless of my “rah-rah feminism” argument against the show, I will say that, especially given it was the late-90s and early-2000s, it did still do a lot in the way of social issues, while also maintaining its comedy without coming across as making light of very serious situations; for that, it still maintains my respect. Furthermore, I understand that it’s a television show. If all of the characters had the same personalities, it wouldn’t have been nearly as relatable to its capacious audience, and subsequently wouldn’t have been nearly as successful. Even as groundbreaking shows like Girls are gaining heat, sweeping awards shows, and garnering a huge audience, Sex & the City remains the standard.