Hard to imagine but it’s been nearly two decades since the iconic and groundbreaking television series Sex and the City premiered on HBO and a decade since the cinematic release hit theaters. The movie remains one of my favorite guilty pleasures; nothing like curling up and reuniting with our favorite New York City ladies for two and a half hours.
Unlike many SATC fans, however, I find central character and supposed heroine Carrie Bradshaw anything but.
A sex columnist for the fictional New York Star, freelance writer for Vogue and eventual published writer once her columns were put into books, Carrie was touted as the show’s “heroine” and “every woman.” Sadly, she was not either for me.
Let’s start with her fashion sense (or nonsense, as it were.) I’m still scratching my head over a person, even a fictional one, who often appears as if she had been vomited on by the Muppets’ combined closets being touted as some fashionable icon. She wore 1980s style running shorts and stilettos to walk a dog for God’s sake. A slinky cocktail dress and fur (I hope that’s fake) to a baseball game. A daytime baseball game. She paired a long skirt with a super short knotted top that bared her midriff, around which she wrapped a belt. What was she holding up? Did she expect her midsection to fall down? Or was the belt at one point attached to her shirt or skirt? What about the pajamas she wore to run to Miranda on New Years Eve, topped by white booties, a sequined hat and a fur coat? I appreciate that she responded, for once, to Miranda in need but if she had time to jam her feet into those teeter-y booties and dig out that sequined hat, she had time to pull on a sweatshirt and sweatpants or jeans. Sorry, not sorry. And maybe the worst offense of all . . . after wearing a plethora of designer (and fitted) wedding gowns for a Vogue photo shoot, why on earth would she choose the one that was falling off chest? Yeah, I know it’s a Vivienne Westwood but it was the least flattering gown she wore. Surely Big could have sprung for a good tailor. Or she could have at least found some of the big flowers she had a penchant for during one of the seasons and camouflaged that bodice. She compounded the dress mistake by putting a bird on her head with the wedding veil and wearing a much too harsh shade of red lipstick. Flowers or a tiara would have been too basic for Ms. Bradshaw, I guess.
And Carrie, girl, your hair. I’m one of the few (very few, perhaps) that liked her shorter style, especially once it began growing out a little bit and she had it straight. This was during the unfortunate period known as the Berger time. I found the style flattering but by the time she jaunted off to Paris, her roots were showing and her hair looked assy. It’s true. Get your roots done, Carrie. It’s not like you have anything else to do . . . and Aleks was picking up your bills by the end of the series.
Speaking of which, let’s just talk about what a dick Carrie was during those Paris episodes. She’s in Paris — Paris — and she’s whining to her friends back home. Of course she is. They are dealing with infertility, adoption, a mother-in-law with dementia and cancer treatment but Carrie’s despair at having seen everything there was to see in Paris within her first two weeks there trumps all. What a slap in the face to Paris, which is a beautiful city with much to see. No way could anyone see it all, and hit all the museums at least several times, in two weeks.
Not only that but Carrie, our supposed heroine, was sitting around waiting on Aleks to fit her into his schedule. Sure, he’s working but what the hell is she doing? She quit her job to accompany him, which I get. Of the foursome, she is the one that changed very little in the five to six-year span of the series, if at all. Which is enough reason for Carrie to be the antiheroine of the show. Miranda, who had no desire to marry, have children or leave Manhattan, found herself married with a baby (although not in that order) and buying a home in Brooklyn. Charlotte, having married the “perfect” man in handsome doctor Trey, learned that love is indeed blind when she fell for her divorce attorney — the bald, overly sweaty and very Jewish Harry. She changed her expectations, converted to Judaism and found happiness. Samantha, who had once changed men as often as others change underwear, not only made Smith into a big star but committed herself to him as well. By comparison, how did Carrie change and grow? Until she left for Paris, she was still writing the same old column about the same old subject. She was still spending all her money on designer footwear. She was still playing cat and mouse with Big.
But I digress. Back to living and not working in Paris. She’s a published author. I don’t know . . . maybe she should, you know, write something. Wouldn’t Paris be inspiring? Use her contacts at Vogue to write articles about Paris. But no, this “writer” actually leaves her laptop at home, as we see when Charlotte stops by to check on things. Blasphemy! Did she intend to never write again and, instead, sit around and let a man take care of her? Of course she did! Proven when, desperately unhappy in Paris (because she’s a dick), it takes Big showing up to profess his love for her to return to New York. Because Carrie can’t put her big girl undies on and take herself home solo?
Speaking of Carrie’s career, let’s go there. For someone who was supposed to be an expert about sex and the single woman, Helen Gurley Brown she wasn’t. From her amazement at a new boyfriend’s bisexuality (telling him she believed bisexuality “was a layover on the way to Gaytown”) to publicly shaming a politician boyfriend by writing of his predilection for golden showers in her column, Carrie showed a mind-numbing insensitivity and blatant ignorance for any kind of non-vanilla sex. She spent an inordinately small amount of time, it seems writing (although at least we saw the professed writer writing; yes, I’m looking at you, Carole Radziwill from The Real Housewives of New York City; Carole, somewhat not surprisingly, sees herself as a Carrie Bradshaw type) but apparently managed to collect quite the paycheck from her smallish newspaper as evidenced by her good-sized New York apartment (which she lives in solo) and her many, many $400+ designer shoes.
Which leads me into finances. Carrie is a shit budgeter. Does she even pay her bills? She always manages to purchase new Jimmy Choos and Manolos (although we did see her credit card declined for shoes at least once) and quite honestly, has more genuine excitement for them than she did for any man she was involved with. In her defense, I did feel for her when she was shoe shamed by Tatum O’Neal, at whose digs she kicked off her Manolos on request, only to find them shoe-jacked at the end of the evening. Her poor financing skills led her to a real crisis when her apartment went co-op and she was unable to come up with the down payment to purchase it — but she had an amazing closet full of shoes. In typical show fashion, Carrie was coddled and babied for her irresponsible decisions rather than being forced to deal with them.
That same episode was the cherry on top of the sundae for Carrie’s shenanigans as a friend. Both Samantha and Miranda offered to pony up some serious coin to go toward Carrie’s down payment (and Miranda was unmarried and pregnant at the time!) While I’m sure both ladies were making good paychecks (Sam was successful in PR; Miranda was a partner at her law firm) they also weren’t working to bail Carrie out, while she splurged on designer footwear. While Carrie didn’t accept their offers (yay!) she did treat Charlotte like dirt for not offering (screw you, Carrie!) As if that wasn’t bad enough, she went so far as to chide the newly divorced Charlotte for continuing to wear her engagement ring around her own apartment. Not only does Charlotte have ever right to do so, she was being schooled by someone who was wearing the very accessories that got her into trouble in the first place. (Of course Charlotte ends up giving Carrie the engagement ring for the $30k down payment, nullifying any chance for Carrie to learn a lesson. And with no further discussion about Carrie paying Charlotte back.)
It doesn’t end there though. Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte all claimed that Carrie was their best friend at certain points in the series but, to take on Carrie’s classic line, I couldn’t help but wonder . . . why? Seriously, WTF, ladies? Carrie proves herself to be a blind, self-absorbed friend. Repeatedly. Cases in point: When she walks into Samantha’s office (without knocking, I might add) and sees Sam on her knees with the UPS guy, she slut shames her in front of their friends. When Miranda threw her back and neck out and called Carrie, naked and on her bathroom floor, crying for help, Carrie sent her boyfriend Aidan instead because she’s not good with those things. Even her quasi-apology with bagels sucked because she really wanted to complain about Aidan. When she coerces Miranda to go on a “double date” with Aidan and Steve because Carrie wants Aidan back and then tells Miranda to go home, and take Steve with her, halfway through dinner because she thinks she has a chance to get Aidan back. When she coerces Sam to accompany her by train to San Francisco and then kicks Sam out of their shared hotel room, where Sam is getting a much deserved and relaxing b
ath, because she thinks she’s going to get laid (with Mr. Big, no less.) Mr. Big lives in San Francisco and is rich as a mofo; why can’t they either go back to Big’s place or let Big pay for another room? When she abandons a blindfolded Charlotte, who is trying to assimilate with the handicapped, in a department store to take a phone call and then retreats to the shoe department to buy yet another pair, putting it on Charlotte to find her. When she turns Charlotte’s bachelorette girls night out into a moanfest about how Berger broke up with her via Post-It. Was there anyone in New York City that Carrie didn’t tell? Clearly not because she went postal on several friends of Berger’s she ran into while out who had absofuckinglutely nothing to do with Berger’s Post-It and, as it turns out, his wise decision to cut his losses and run for the hills. And no, Carrie, your Post-It is not worse than Charlotte’s bad marriage and divorce. Not even close. Fuck off.
Carrie treated her friends pretty badly and her boyfriends weren’t spared either. Upon finding out that Big accompanied his mother to church every Sunday, she promptly stakes out the right church for some religious stalking. Being Carrie, however, she is unable to do so discreetly and instead, calls attention to herself (and her gloves and hat) by knocking a prayer book off a ledge. She then freaks out that Big does not introduce her as his girlfriend. Do you blame him? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we never seen Big’s mother again, at church or otherwise. After that fiasco, she pressured Big into making a commitment before he was ready, leading to one of their many splits (and one of the many occasions she punished her friends by forcing them to rehash Big over and over.) Worse, she did so before leaving for the airport on a beachy vacay that Big was going to take her on. What are you thinking, girl? Take the trip and have fun! Shit! She lied to Aidan about her smoking (a deal breaker for him) and then felt he was ridiculous for not being on board with her decision to inhale carcinogenic compounds. That Aidan, such a stick in the mud. She cheated on Aidan with Big, after Big had married the younger, taller (and smarter) Natasha — someone she made fun of and something her friends shamefully encouraged her in for no reason other than their blind devotion and following of Carrie. The affair ended only after Natasha caught Carrie in her apartment where Carrie had been boning Big in his marital bed. Classy, Carrie. With regard to Natasha, Carrie was a real asshole in expecting for Natasha to accept her apology — during which Carrie interrupted her lunch — and thereby absolve Carrie of any guilt she may have felt in participating in the adultery that led to the dissolution of the Natasha-Big marriage.
In another incredibly short-sighted move, Carrie chose to tell Aidan of her infidelity on the way to Charlotte’s wedding, where she would appear teary and crying. And once again, make it all about her. Have I mentioned Carrie has shit timing? She was also amazingly annoying in telling Aidan that he had to forgive her because no, actually, he doesn’t. Of course he does, which leads to him proposing, Carrie accepting (and wearing her ring around her neck) and then freaking out and denying him when he actually, you know, wants to get married. In between all that, she quasi-invites Big to Aidan’s country home, where they are spending a few days — forcing Aidan to have the man his girlfriend cheated on him with staying in his home. Yikes. And forcing us to endure Carrie arriving in the country in freaking high heels and acting as if it’s a third world country and squealing over squirrels. Squirrels. I’m pretty sure they have them in New York City. And the squealing . . . that alone qualifies Carrie for top asshole status.
Of course after she and Aidan break up, she is so offended that he actually expects her to buy him out of her going co-op apartment (that he’s paid for, along with the one next door). What did she think, that Aidan would just hand over the keys and be grateful that he’d had the honor of being with her and paying for her apartment? Fucking Carrie. This entire episode leads to the incident with the down payment referenced above, in which Carrie is treated like a child who can’t be held accountable for her actions and must be bailed out while Charlotte is the bad guy for not rescuing Carrie by bailing her out.
Surprisingly, the Carrie of the movie is much more likable and bearable. Maybe because she was humbled (being left at the altar will do that to you.) She seemed far less self-involved and more invested in her friendships (being left at the altar will do that to you.) Sure, she was totally focused on being left at the altar right afterward and during the abortive Mexican honeymoon (where the girls accompanied her) but that’s understandable.
She proved herself to be a good employer to Louise from St. Louis (a Louis Vuitton bag, however ugly, as a gift is pretty rad) and ran to Miranda’s apartment on New Year’s Eve when her friend was feeling low (even if she did it in pajamas and a horrible sequined hat.) Her apartment redecoration was sharp and her clothing was much more appropriate and on point in general. Maybe she was taking tips from Miranda? Miranda looked phenomenal in the movie. Despite being dumped at the altar, and having an understandable woe-is-me moment (okay, a few days at least), Carrie managed to pick herself up and continue on, with her friends and her life. For once, she didn’t rush into another relationship. In fact, she never even considered moving on with someone else. So I guess, at least by the time of the first movie, she did do some growing. (She would erase that goodwill by the second movie.)
So there’s my take on why Carrie Bradshaw was not and cannot be the heroine, the “every woman” of Sex and the City.
Do you agree? Let me know in the comments.
(And for your consideration below, more of Carrie’s fashion nonsense.)