If this column got published in the New York Star, I would have Carrie Bradshaw at my door the next day, snarkily giving me flak for my misunderstanding of her columns, books, and show, and in extension, of the whole womankind.
Sometimes, when I write my column at home, I feel quite Bradshaw-ish. It is not a kind feeling, especially when I have a similarly voluminous shoe collection. I must admit that I hadn’t watched the show in its entirety ever, nor had I read the book. I had watched the films and thought that they were Heigl-esquely popcorn and inconsequential. American studios have starry rom-com production machines and they stir up every year to make some moolah. Nobody is complaining. But when I decided to start watching the show (it ran from 1998-2004), I was shocked that this show became a pop culture definer for female identity, dynamics, and functioning. No ensemble comedy has been as politically incorrect, anti-feminist, and frankly anti-intelligence, as Sex And The City. And to think that New York still sells out SATC tour buses is shocking and saddening in equal measure.
I’ll jump straight in. Bradshaw has daddy issues. She constantly looks for a father figure, a protector, a strong shoulder, more than an equal partner. She has to be taken care of — that is the primary requirement from every relationship. While it is understandable for her character to have daddy issues (given that her father walked out on her family when she was young), to not get help for the same, to not identify that as an “issue”, to normalise her behaviour as something all women should aspire for and only if you find a man who can be a dad and a daddy are you in the perfect relationship, is downright shameful and shocking. Who wouldn’t love to have Mr. Big for a partner, but none of her other boyfriends were bad guys. It wasn’t their fault that they didn’t want to also parent her. They wanted to be an equal — a concept Bradshaw is woefully unaware of. You see her womanchild persona in the title sequence itself: she skips around NY in a baby pink tutu. It also helps that Sarah Jessica Parker is tiny. In a scene with Aidan, one of her boyfriends, she throws a hissy fit about being in a country lodge for the weekend and he literally picks her up and makes her sit on the kitchen top and consoles her — like a father would. In all her relationships, she does not make any space for her partner. And I am sorry if you think I am “sounding like a man”. No, I am sounding like a feminist. Even when she was with “The Russian”, she waltzes off to Paris with him, fully aware that he is going there for his biggest art exhibition ever and not for a honeymoon, and spends every moment sulking and whining about him not being around. “I moved to Paris for you!” She screams. No, honey, you moved to Paris because you wanted to wear berets and fur and skip around the Eiffel and have croissants by the Seine and live at the Ritz on your fuckdaddy’s money. She leaves for Paris because she is frustrated that all her friends had partners and she didn’t. She wanted to have the best life. It sucked that she didn’t. So Paris had to be it.
Also, I need to point out that Bradshaw is extremely comfortable living on her boyfriends’ money and well beyond her means. A columnist and freelance writer cannot afford a shoe addiction. She made sure that her boyfriends were more affluent than her (and it became important to aspire for that — find yourself a man who is richer than you and hence, can take care of you. Miranda ditches Steve because he wasn’t financially secure, only to get back with him when he became a stable entrepreneur. Love, I tell ya, truly is a dollar-eyed emoticon with the tongue sticking out). Even in the first film, when she falls in love with a penthouse and wants it, she is elated (and wants her friends to be jealous) when Mr. Big says “I’ve got it”. Any self-respecting woman would say, “No, honey, we’ve got it. And if we can’t got it, then we will not got it, got it?” Honestly, if you think you are not making enough money to sustain your lifestyle, then work harder. Write more books.
I could go on and on about what else is wrong with Bradshaw, but I need to focus on something a tad more interesting. During the late ’90s and early 2000s, three extremely popular US shows had a very interesting common trait in their leading ladies. Rachel from F.R.I.E.N.D.S., Carrie from Sex And The City and Lorelai from Gilmore Girls. These were attractive 30-something women, with adequately successful careers, with a solid bunch of friends as their support system, disengaged from their families, had broken engagements, were perennially looking for The One while being hopelessly hung up/entangled with one man for the entirety of the show, only to realise in the last season that those men were their The Ones, after all. Also, all of them have severely complicated relationships with their fathers, want men who can handle their eccentricities and can be shoulders of support. Carrie’s man is literally nicknamed “Mr.Big”, alluding to his big job, and also how he is a big boy, a grown up, compared to her childishness; Lorelai constantly needs the alpha-manly, handymanly, lumberjack-like Luke over the more metrosexual Christopher; Rachel flits around Paolos and Tags and even tries out older men, but cannot get over the secure-and-safe, politically correct, middle-class approving Ross. These girls are terrible at traditional womanly activities. None of them can cook. They desperately look for love rather than settling down. They are addicted to shopping. They are either averse to children or not traditionally maternal. All three characters were sort of mounting the New Modern Woman for the US middle-class in the new millennium. And if you think about it, you’d pick none of them to be role models today. They were tools to serve American capitalism, inspire consumption over intelligence, education, introspection, and selfesteem. Notice that all three of them hate the arts, make fun of the nerds or try to fix them, live off validation from other people, and build their self-worths based on other’s perception. While they preached individuality all along, they fed into nothing but serial-dating, vacuously-consuming, self-loathing homogeneity. What is extremely sad is that, the US, and then the world, till today, lapped it all up. They are still fighting for a third SATC film, all of us made the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. reunion film happen, and Gilmore Girls might be coming back for a new season. We still want these women around us. Which makes me ask a more serious question: What is wrong with us? Why are our binge goddesses not real women? Why do we applaud and forget Olivia Pope and Temperance Bones? Why do we not have bus tours for the 99th precinct of Brooklyn PD for Amy Santiago and Rosa Diaz? Is it because we still don’t want to deal with real women? Is it because we can hand over Emmys to Liz Lemon and Leslie Knope but not turn them into icons because they are too complicated and we want our daughters and girlfriends and wives to just be easier, simpler, more-fathomable, and just not think too much?
All along, is Sex And The City basically Carrie trying to find her way into becoming Charlotte?