When Sex and the City was airing in real time, I hated on it pretty harshly for a variety of reasons, some of which I can't remember now, some of which were pretty crappy. For instance, several girls I didn't like enjoyed the show, ergo it had to be stupid. Additionally, it mirrored and distorted some of my own issues, primarily how the show reflected a new era where female sexual promiscuity was something to celebrate. I had a complex with this at the time--not the message itself, but around my friends who aspired to be Samanthas or Carries (nobody ever wanted to be a Miranda). I sensed a falseness to my friends' claims that they enjoyed sleeping around, yet I was probably jealous of the attention they received (I was boyfriended during this stretch which was a convenient way to check out of the game.) I somehow decided the TV show was just the entertainment extension of this conundrum. I couldn't like something that put this distance between my friends and me.
However, once I got old enough not to let other people's habits dictate the way I felt about my own personal life, and not to let my personal habits dictate the way I felt about a TV show, I realized that I found SATC intensely addictive and comforting, like a crisp issue of People magazine at a salon. Was it good? It had some really good moments, encapsulated in certain episodes ("My Motherboard, My Self," for instance) and certain jokes ("Natasha: what a bullshit name.") But I wouldn't recommend it, as a series, the way I would other shows (I originally typed "shoes" right there. I'm such a Carrie!) It's dated, it's a fantasy. But it's sure fun to watch.
I'd always catch SATC in little bits here and there: reruns on E! or HBO but always out of order. This past month, though, I needed a lot of comfort, between moving, and being pregnant, and a scare during the pregnancy, being sick twice, and hosting Thanksgiving. So I decided, as a bit of an experiment, to finally watch all of the episodes of SATC in order, to see if I came away with anything different than if I just watched the episodes out of order, skipping the ones I didn't like that much (IE the last season.) Here are my takeaways and things I noticed. Please note that this is not an attempt to write some sort of grand Emily Nussbaum style overview of SATC and its meaning in the 15 years since it debuted. It's just a bunch of things I noticed and want to talk about, in no particular order. I'm sorry this post doesn't include GIFs and video clips and photos and slideshows. Just like Carrie, I just like to kick it old-school with the words.
Those first few seasons though. Remember how Carrie and her interview subjects spoke directly to the camera? There also seemed to be a time where each episode's director could do whatever he or she wanted, style-wise. In one particular episode, for instance, "The Power of Female Sex," we're treated to blurry slo-mo effects and a shoe-shaped wipe. Pretty snazzy! I think it's around Season 3 that it starts settling down in terms of one main style.
Cynthia Nixon is styled in the first few seasons as if the producers hate her. Why does Miranda get the worst hair color and aggressively bad outfits? Frequently she's saddled with a mock turtleneck and in one episode she's actually wearing an anorak with a fisherman's cap on top of it. It's like she's actively being punished for being the one realish character on the show. Maybe I sympathize with Miranda because she's not the most traditionally sexy and because she's brainy, but in the end, she's the most developed character in the series (plus she has the most back story: she's the only character whose home town we know, whose siblings we see, whose mother is mentioned more than as an aside). Cynthia Nixon is a beautiful human being but she gets ugly stepsistered in the show early on. In the final couple seasons she is finally rewarded with a flattering haircut, makeup and clothes, perhaps to compensate her character for giving in to love and family and moving to Brooklyn (whereas Samantha has the worst outfit in the finale, with those orange boots and turquoise trench coat.)
Kim Cattrall's body cannot be denied. I can't hate. If I had that body now, let alone ten years from now, I'd probably be fine with flaunting it too. Also, her comedic talents are fantastic (except for one or two line readings where you're like, really? We couldn't do another take? I'm thinking specifically of the scene where Carrie goes "You smell that?" after two guys who are very obviously smoking weed walk by and Samantha says "POT!") However it's hard to imagine people taking her comic character seriously as a real person, IE did people really think Samantha Jones was the future of single women? If that's the case why haven't we all had a chance to kick off our Christian Louboutins and dive naked into a rooftop pool? Because I'd have liked to have done that.
Charlotte would never love Elizabeth Taylor (except for one reason.) If Charlotte was such a prude, it seems hard to believe that she'd idolize Elizabeth Taylor. Remember how hurt Charlotte was that Carrie was having an affair with Big? You'd think that she'd never love Elizabeth Taylor, whose legacy will always involve her relationship with Eddie Fisher. If the show had focused more on Elizabeth Taylor's conversion to Judaism, I would have bought it, but didn't Charlotte seem like more of an Audrey Hepburn type than Elizabeth Taylor?
Why does Aidan like Carrie? She pretty much treats him like dirt, especially after they get together the second time. He offers to fix up her apartment for her and she gets mad at him for making a mess and asking her how her day was when she gets home (that said, their arguments are pretty realistic and funny.) She hates his cabin. She's a crappy fiancee from the get-go. I don't understand what he sees in her.
Whatever happened to Debbie? I liked Steve's girlfriend prior to getting back with Miranda. She was nice to Brady and Steve's mom. She wanted to have a good relationship with Miranda. She geniuinely seemed sweet. I hope all ended well with her.
Inconsistencies! This is just a nerdy thing for me to notice but there are a few. In an early episode Carrie alludes to emailing someone but then when she's trying to get back together with Aidan, she gets on AOL like she's never heard of the Internet. She says she smokes Marlboro Lights but at the newspaper stand she buys Merits or something like that. And in another episode she mentions buying slingback shoes and gets regular shoes. I even paused the scene where we see Charlotte and Harry's wedding announcement to read it and says that Charlotte is an editor at a fashion magazine. What?! As a person who has never been inconsistent or made an error, this delights me.
Why was Aidan not at Miranda's wedding? Are he and Steve not friends anymore? It's weird how after Aidan and Carrie break up, he pretty much completely disappears from her life, even though he and Steve are business partners and friends.
I don't buy Robert's assholishness. Blair Underwood as Knicks trainer Robert, Miranda's boyfriend, is almost too good to be true. He's handsome, charming, smart, successful, good in bed, kind to Brady and Steve. And then when Miranda breaks up with him to be with the father of her son, he reacts in an almost psychotic way, mocking and confronting Miranda. Could Robert really not have seen this coming? As someone who works in professional sports, is he really that much of a baby about being broken up with? And why does Miranda take his shit? That whole storyline bugged me.
Who is Paul? This is a question I have for Darren Star or anybody who worked on the show. Maybe it's a coincidence, one I picked up on since Paul is my kid's name, but the name "Paul" seems to be sprinkled throughout the show at random intervals. It's the name of various boyfriends, of characters we never see, of ex-boyfriends or friends of friends. If you watched it the way I did you'd notice it too. The name "Paul" comes up several times per season. Was it the real life dad or brother or boyfriend or husband of somebody who worked on the show?
Funny Big is the Best Big and Romantic Big is the Worst Big. Chris Noth has a few episodes where he is tinged with being a pathetic loser (IE when he bothers Carrie when she's trying to go out with the jazz musician and when he drags his ass out to the cabin to complain about his actress ex-girlfriend [this episode has my husband's favorite line in the entire series: "That dog just bit my ass!"].) It's great, I think because Chris Noth can only take that charming, devilish-eyebrowed thing so far. There are times in the series when he and Carrie just give each other good-natured shit and that's the time when their relationship seems the most natural. However, in the finale (which I have other problems with), he supplicates himself before the tribunal of Carrie's friends, saying "You three are the loves of her life; any guy would be lucky to come in fourth," and it's embarrassing to hear. Then he goes and chases her around Paris until he can rescue Carrie from her own bad mistake (btw why couldn't he just ask Carrie's friends which hotel she was staying at?) I always figured the show should just end with Carrie on her own, so maybe it just bothered me that she ended up with Big, but his total 180 into the perfect sweetheart rang false with me.
Carrie wears an Annie wig. In the episode where Samantha is trying on different looks at the crappy wig shop. I just enjoy the shout-out to Sarah Jessica Parker's turn as Annie. It's cute.
The Final Few Episodes: Various WTFS.
1.) Style. Okay, so I can accept, for some reason, that throughout the series, Carrie mixes very high end clothes with resale shop chic, even though as a writer today I love trying to imagine how much she makes per column at a third-rate New York paper doing a weekly column and not much more. But then all of a sudden when she's in Paris, she's only wearing couture. She goes on a shopping trip to Dior. If Carrie and I lived in the same world I probably make at least twice as much as she does and I'd be embarrassed to even step foot in a Dior. Where did she suddenly get this huge influx of money? And why does she stop mixing in the fun stuff?
2.) Miranda is totally, 100% completely right about Carrie going to Paris. I guess by this point I have completed enmeshed myself with Miranda but it's funny how in the moment, Carrie paints Miranda as this unsupportive doubting Thomas but in the end, she was right--Carrie shouldn't have gone to Paris and given up her life to be completely dependent on this man.
3.) To that end, Carrie still doesn't figure it out. She tells Aleksandr that she's looking for "ridiculous" love--kind of like the kind that would take one to Paris, yes? But it seems like in the end, all of her friends have broken through the initial excitement of "ridiculous" love and find something more reliable--boring maybe, but something that's more than just impulsive, follow-someone-to-another-country love. Again, my bias is showing: I'm clearly team Reliable Boring Love but I just think that's how life is. Does Carrie ever show that she's capable of seeing a relationship through to the contented, reliable side? She frequently blames the guys, but with Aidan, for instance, she's the one who blows things up. Are she and Big really going to find love that's both reliable and "ridiculous"? I guess that only gets answered in the movies. And I'm not even going to go there.