game changer

On its 20th an­niver­sary, MARTA COLOMBO re­mem­bers the pop cul­ture phe­nom­e­non that was Sex and the City

#Legend - - CONTENTS / JULY | AUGUST -

On its 20th an­niver­sary, Marta Colombo re­mem­bers the Sex and the City phe­nom­e­non

SEX AND THE CITY pre­miered 20 years ago on HBO. It was the sum­mer of 1998 and I was five years old when I first saw Car­rie Brad­shaw cross­ing a busy street of Man­hat­tan in a pink tutu and heard the now-iconic Latin-in­spired theme song in the back­ground. For the long­est time, my mum wouldn't let me watch it. For ob­vi­ous rea­sons, she didn't want me to be ex­posed to the ex­plicit con­ver­sa­tions dom­i­nat­ing the show. She, on the other hand, was hooked from the very begin­ning. Like many other women around the world, she found the sto­ries of Car­rie Brad­shaw, Sa­man­tha Jones, Mi­randa Hobbes and Char­lotte York charm­ing and re­fresh­ing. To­day, th­ese names are as­so­ci­ated with one of the big­gest pop cul­ture phe­nom­ena in his­tory.

It was the end of the 1990s, and while sex and re­la­tion­ships had been widely por­trayed on TV for years, no main­stream show had re­ally dared to de­pict it from an

en­tirely fe­male per­spec­tive. In fact, “sex talks” had pretty much equalled “man talks” be­fore the show aired. The premise of Darren Star's cre­ation was quite sim­ple: four sin­gle friends, liv­ing in New York City and look­ing for love. But from the very first min­utes of the pi­lot, it was clear that Sex and the City wasn't just about that. At the time of its re­lease, it was ground­break­ing be­cause it gave au­di­ences ir­rev­er­ent, be­hind-the-scenes ac­cess to un­ex­plored ter­ri­tory, where men, sex and re­la­tion­ships are dis­cussed with­out fil­ters.

When I re­cently re­watched the show,

I ate up the quar­tet's ro­man­tic and sex­ual en­coun­ters, and lis­tened to Car­rie's (of­ten cliché) voiceovers with re­li­gious at­ten­tion. It's 2018, I'm a young woman liv­ing in the #Me­Too era and, most im­por­tantly, I am well aware of Sex and the City's lim­i­ta­tions in ad­dress­ing many is­sues fac­ing so­ci­ety to­day. Yet I couldn't help but feel euphoric for the rad­i­cal wave that it ini­ti­ated and em­pow­ered.

Over the years, many TV crit­ics and even some of the most die-hard afi­ciona­dos of the show went on to crit­i­cise Sex and the City for its un­re­al­is­tic por­trayal of glit­tery, over-the-top city life. Let's be hon­est – the fact that Car­rie was mak­ing around US$1,200 per month as a dat­ing colum­nist for the fic­ti­tious New York Star and could af­ford an apart­ment on the Up­per East Side, along with her count­less pairs of Manolo Blah­nik shoes and her con­stant fancy din­ners and brunches, is al­most ab­surd. The life­style of the girls made us all dream, but also we be­gan to ques­tion what “fab­u­los­ity” re­ally meant and how im­pos­si­ble those stan­dards were – and are – to achieve in real life. But most pop­u­lar se­ries at the time did, too. Think of Friends; the char­ac­ters were also con­duct­ing quite im­prob­a­ble lives and putting ide­al­is­tic prospects in our head, and that's one of the main prob­lems with TV in gen­eral.

Through­out six sea­sons, we saw the girls at­tend­ing ex­clu­sive par­ties, drink­ing thou­sands of Cos­mos and – of course – go­ing

“Even­tu­ally, they all found their part­ners, but the show is first and fore­most cen­tred on sin­gle women try­ing to nav­i­gate a too-of­ten hos­tile world that’s tai­lored for cou­ples”

on count­less dates. Even­tu­ally, they all found their part­ners, but the show is first and fore­most cen­tred on sin­gle women try­ing to nav­i­gate a too-of­ten hos­tile world that's tai­lored for cou­ples. In the episode “The Agony and the Ex-tacy” (the first episode of Sea­son 4), dur­ing one of their usual brunches, Car­rie con­fesses to her friends that she's “35 and alone”. For the first time, after a se­ries of failed re­la­tion­ships, she ad­mits that she's not sure if she even be­lieves in soul­mates any­more. In one of the most fa­mous quotes from the show, Char­lotte says: “Don't laugh at me, but maybe we could be each other's soul­mates?” To me, this overly cheesy quote per­fectly sum­marises Sex and the City, as it shows four women push­ing back against a so­ci­ety that made them feel ex­cluded.

The four main char­ac­ters have long been scru­ti­nised and harshly con­demned for their ques­tion­able in­tegrity, nar­cis­sism and sim­plis­tic ap­proach to life, but that's ex­actly what makes Sex and the City ex­tremely rel­e­vant and re­lat­able. They're deeply flawed char­ac­ters, as they're sup­posed to be. For too long, women on TV had been ro­man­ti­cised to fit stereo­typ­i­cal ex­pec­ta­tions of what the “per­fect woman” was sup­posed to look and act like.

Car­rie and her crew, on the con­trary, were among the first fe­male anti-he­roes of TV. Sure,

“Car­rie and her crew, on the con­trary, were among the first fe­male anti-he­roes of TV”

they could be ex­tremely an­noy­ing, and even make you an­gry and frus­trated as you watched their lives un­fold­ing on the screen. Many of us were dis­ap­pointed when Car­rie cheated on the (ar­guably per­fect) Ai­dan and her self-ob­sessed move when she apologises to Mi­randa after send­ing her boyfriend to help her, or ir­ri­tated at Char­lotte's ob­ses­sions with per­fec­tion. But we de­velop sim­i­lar feel­ings to the peo­ple that sur­round us in real life.

Ar­guably, Sex and the City also lacks in di­ver­sity and is pretty out­dated when it comes to rep­re­sent­ing mi­nori­ties. But as pro­gres­sive as it was, the show is a re­flec­tion of its time and try­ing to po­si­tion it in to­day's so­ci­ety, which in 20 years has un­der­gone very dra­matic changes, is be­side the point.

In­stead, it should be cel­e­brated for por­tray­ing eman­ci­pa­tion through one of the great­est love sto­ries in TV his­tory – a story of four women al­ways stick­ing to­gether no mat­ter what, re­gard­less of their flaws and mis­takes. This is why, two decades after it first pre­miered, most shows that fea­ture a pre­dom­i­nantly fe­male cast are still in­evitably com­pared to

Sex and the City – and they all, con­sciously or un­con­sciously, draw in­spi­ra­tion from it.

Left: Car­rie and “Mr. Big” Right: Car­rie on the iconic stairs of herUp­per East Side’s apart­ment.

Top: The “girls.” Bot­tom: The four pro­tag­o­nists of­ten at­tend NYC’s most ex­clu­sive events

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Hong Kong

© PressReader. All rights reserved.