20 Years Later, Why a Desi Girl Still Binges on Sex & the City
Women in SATC are not consciously carrying the feminist mantle, but embracing the choice of just being themselves.
I was 18 when I first watched Sex and the City.
A chic Carrie Bradshaw, strolling aimlessly along the ornate New York city sidewalk donning a white tulle skirt and pink tank top seemed like my ultimate fantasy come true.
Her life was like a window to the Promised Land.
And before I realised it, I was devoted to the show. Funnily enough, the show had little in common with my life. The women I adored were better dressed, better-looking, drawing fat paycheques and living in plush apartments in Manhattan. Here I was, relegated to a student dorm, scuttling through existence on a shoestring budget.
Nonetheless, the show resonated with my being unlike any other.
For the uninitiated, Sex and the City catapults you into the world of four women navigating their personal and professional lives in the larger-than-life city of New York. Carrie Bradshaw is a writer by profession who lives and breathes Vogue; Miranda Hobbes is a Harvard-educated lawyer, a no-nonsense woman with big professional aspirations; Charlotte owns an art gallery and is a die-hard romantic; Samantha is a PR-professional and an unapologetic libertine – bold and brazen, she is everything that conservatives can’t stand.
Together, they bring the house down.
And this is what makes Sex and the City – which premiered 20 years ago on this day in 1998 – a force to reckon with.
While the show’s lasting legacy speaks for itself, Sex and the City has had its share of criticism. Much of it continues till today, ranging from how the show is all about privilege, how the women are frivolous gold-diggers, the lack of racial representation to inane characterisation.
Sure there is privilege, but privilege not devoid of depth.
Sure the protagonists are looking for men, relationships and sex, but not without a jaunty celebration of singlehood.
Not everything is relatable but then, what is life without some flight of fantasy?
And that’s the reason Sex and the City has swept the collective consciousness of an entire generation of women.
Sex and the City gave me the joy of watching several firsts and here’s why it tugs at my heartstrings till today.
An Ode to the Single Woman
“Maybe some women aren’t meant to be tamed. Maybe they just need to run free till they find someone just as wild to run with them,” exclaims Carrie as she sees her boyfriend get married to a younger woman. She is heartbroken but she collects those pieces, stitches them together and prepares herself to face the world upfront.
Between six seasons and four characters, Sex and the City’s most remarkable achievement has been to lift the lid over single women and their lives. It embraces their quirks and allows them to be themselves.
At the same time, it lays bare their vulnerabilities.
Does a flourishing career need to come at the cost of love? Does adulting mean you can’t mess up? Why are women expected to settle down for fear of running out of options?
While single women are expected to celebrate the conventions of society – kids’ birthday parties, baby showers, weddings – does society make an attempt to return the favour? When Carrie says, “I have spent money on wedding presents and on other people's children and no one has ever celebrated the fact that I am single,” after losing her Blahniks at a friend’s party, it hits you hard.
When a frustrated Miranda cries out, “How does it happen that four smart women have nothing to talk about but boyfriends?”, it sends jitters down your body.
Her frustration mirrors yours.
Women in Sex and the City seek fulfillment. They crave satisfaction. Most importantly, they aren’t afraid to walk away from anything that negates their desires.
Of Threesomes and Sex Toys
Sex and the City doesn’t trade in euphemisms. There is no dilly-dallying. The women want it and want it all.
Above all, they are anything but conventional.
Of course there is sex, but there is also a generous serving of sex toys, heartfelt chatter about self-pleasure and an openness to sexual experimentation. Samantha’s voracious appetite for sex apart, even a prudish Charlotte has her fair share of sexual adventures, threesomes included.
Women in Sex and the City are no longer subdued images of sexuality but individuals transgressing the anachronistic code of propriety foisted on them. I screamed in exhilaration when Miranda confronts Magda after she replaced her vibrator with a statue of Virgin Mary. I applauded Carrie when she stops faking an orgasm with Jack Burger and I couldn’t be prouder of Samantha when she throws champagne over Richard Wright’s face for breaking her heart.
Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha do not express their sexual needs in whispers behind closed doors. They bring it on the table, discuss their sexcapades with cheerful relish – something which has been, for ages, a man’s domain.
“Friendships Never Go Out of Style”
While it propelled female desire from the shadows into the forefront, the most remarkable achievement of Sex and the City is in showcasing female friendships.
When her friends’ help, Carrie gets over a bad breakup with Big, or when Samantha, Miranda and Carrie support Charlotte through an abortion, it strikes a chord somewhere deep within us.
Haven’t our girlfriends been our anchors in times we felt lost and dejected?
That’s why Carrie’s words, “They say nothing lasts forever; dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style”, resonate with women across ages, across cultures.
The way these four women celebrate each other’s highs and lows is heartening. For instance, Miranda doesn’t think twice before cautioning Carrie when the latter decides to leave everything and relocate to Paris with Alexander Petrovsky. She says, “I think you’re making a mistake…Carrie, you can’t quit your column. It’s who you are… What are you going to do over there without your job, eat croissants?”
Similarly, you can’t pick sides when Charlotte and Samantha fight over the length of a skirt.
But what you do know for sure is that despite innumerable fights, they belong together. Men or no men, they are each other’s soulmates.
It’s been six years since my first encounter with Carrie and her three soulmates. Since then, I have devoured season after season with a ravenous appetite.
For my 20-something sensibilities, Sex and the City has been quite a revelation.
It told me that “maybe our mistakes are what make our fate. Without them, what would shape our lives?”
It taught me “relationships are not about playing games. They're about mature and honest communication."
It reaffirmed that “no matter who broke your heart, or how long it takes to heal, you’ll never go through it without your friends.”
It showed me that “the most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all, is the one you have with yourself.”
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