Pop Culture Pulse: Yes, “Sex and the City” turns twenty this week … and here are a few thoughts about that.
From liberal to conservative, fun-and-fluffy features to cultural studies, we’ve assembled opinions from slick magazines, web publishers, and assorted fans and critics.
Perhaps you’ve heard? The cultural juggernaut known as Sex and the City — a TV series and two follow-up films — turned twenty years old on June 6, 2018. And writers all over the internet are spouting opinions and prose as vivid as what Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha might have to say on a Sunday morning after a night of bad kissers and toxic bachelors.
As connoisseurs of trends and icons from high culture to low and pop, we’ve gathered up a range of approaches and opinions to help you find your way through Sex, City, and decades of changing values. Take a look back, forward, or sideways to examine the impact of the much-loved series.
“27 Thoughts I Had While Watching the Sex and the City Pilot for the First Time,” by Proma Khosla on Mashable: “Sex and the City premiered 20 years ago Wednesday, and I have never watched a single episode. “WHAT!???” I hear you screaming into a keyboard from across the internet. […] Right now, dear reader, that changes, as my editor ordered me to watch the pilot yesterday to commemorate the 20th anniversary. Please, join in my journey.”
“Sex and the City Anniversary,” from Elle.com. The magazine’s website offers a cornucopia of amusing features, from “See Sarah Jessica Parker Try on 14 Pairs of Shoes” and “How Much Did It Cost to Dress Carrie Bradshaw?” to “How Sex and the City Holds Up … and Doesn’t: A realist’s guide to watching the HBO classic” and “I Texted with 15 Guys on Tinder Using only Carrie Bradshaw Quotes and Here’s What Happened.”
“The Evolution of Sex and the City,” by Rory Riley Topping, from Iron Ladies (May 2018): “As Sex and the City, a self-professed liberal and radical show for its time, celebrates its 20th anniversary next month, I couldn’t help but wonder, does the show actually advocate for conservative women’s values more than we first thought? Or, is it just that I’m also 20 years older, and now analyzing the series from a more cynical point of view?
“The Robo-Caller’s Lonesome Wife; or, Women Who Don’t Love Shoes That Much … Carrie Bradshaw, the Police Department, and women who don’t always love shoes,” by Susann Cokal: “Well, I imagine the Robo-Caller thinking (and the campaign manager behind him), at least a shoe sale is safe. When they’re shopping for shoes, they aren’t off fomenting dissent and organizing the masses. Let the girls have their shoes … and then give money to the police…. No force is more responsible for this image of women as shoe-loving fiends, I think, than the TV-and-movies series Sex and the City.”
“ ‘Sex’ at 20 — ‘Shoes’ Is a Step Above the Rest,” by Kelly Lawler in USA Today: “Rewatching the series a few years ago, I had to stop partway through because the show’s sensibility became so irksome I couldn’t enjoy it anymore. […] The series has aged badly all around.”
“Cynthia for New York”: Cynthia Nixon is running for governor, and her official campaign website describes a platform very much more elevated than that of Carrie’s would-be comptroller (pun?) boyfriend, played by John Slattery: “Cynthia Nixon is a lifelong New Yorker, actor, and progressive advocate who is running for governor to fight for a better, more equal New York. Cynthia hasn’t been bought and paid for by corporate interests, and won’t be accepting any corporate contributions in this campaign.”
“Who Was the Worst Man on Sex and the City?” from Vanity Fair: “In honor of the show’s 20th anniversary, staffers make the case for eight different terrible boyfriends — from Big to Berger to, yes, Aidan.
Broad Street’s question: How did Bill Kelley, the would-be comptroller of a Manhattan district (and fan of golden showers) not make the list?
“How I Got Carrie’d Away by Sex and the City,” by Ko Im: “I was a freelance on-camera correspondent for a major tv network when Sarah Jessica Parker came floating down the hallway after her interview. I meekly asked if I could take a photo and she was so much smaller, more gracious and lovelier than I imagined. I bumped my head into hers for the blurry capture before she caught a cab. It was a full circle moment before my NYC began to change.”
“Sex and the City Twentieth Anniversary: Creator Darren Star Reflects on Groundbreaking Series, Franchise’s Future,” by Elizabeth Wagmeister on Variety.com: “Today, those four names — and the actresses who portrayed them, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon — are synonymous with one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons in TV history. And the show still resonates today. Airing long before the Me Too era and female-forward programming, the comedy was ahead of its time, putting confidentially flawed, unapologetically single career women at the forefront of TV, exuding themes of female friendship, female empowerment and casual sex. Sex and the City has held onto its original fanbase and has found a new audience over the past two decades by airing in syndication, inspiring a prequel television series on the CW and spawning two feature films — and nearly a third.”
Before it was on TV, it was in bookstores …
“Candace Bushnell Discusses 20 Years of Sex and the City,” from NPR, hosted by Mary Louise Kelly:
BUSHNELL: One of the phenomenons of Sex and the City was this intense forming of family-type bonds with one’s female friends. In New York City, in my life, there was really a feeling that without your girlfriends, you could not survive. And that’s certainly something that the show portrayed beautifully. […]
WREN MURRAY: It definitely taught me so much about being a woman and being a sexual being. But it definitely did not teach me about my own identity as a brown, bisexual female.
“A Sex and the City 2 Review By Two Actual Straight Men,” by David Cho and Neil Ha of The Awl.
“Bringing Sex Back” — a Sex and the City Cast Reunion celebrating the first movie … with Oprah, from Oprah.com. “Though she’s seen the movie in its entirety, Sarah Jessica says attending the first screening was an emotional experience. ‘You guys are the first to see it. It really is the culmination of an extraordinary past two years,’ she says. ‘We feel extremely privileged to have made this movie, and I’m extremely proud of it.’”
“It’s Time to Kill Samantha Off from the Sex and the City Movies,” by Rachelle Bergstein, from news.com.au: “Samantha’s treatment in the film sequel was cruel. Gone was the passionate powerhouse we all adore. Instead, she became the butt of an extended joke about menopause. The script wasted her comedic timing on gross-out, groan-inducing puns like ‘Lawrence of my Labia.’ Is it any wonder Cattrall doesn’t want to come back for more?”
“The Sex and the City 2 Aftermath — Misogyny Unleashed,” by Women and Hollywood: “We’ve been talking about women aging onscreen, we’ve been talking about women’s rights in the Middle East, we’ve been talking about menopause, and we’ve been talking about American excess. Not too many films, even really good ones, are able to create conversations about a single topic, yet Sex and the City 2 has touched a nerve on a variety of issues. It’s too bad that the film didn’t live up to expectations, but still, the revelations it has unearthed has been fascinating. But what has been so profound to me has been the release of a pent-up torrent of misogyny against women and this film has just been a vehicle for that misogyny to be revealed.”
“Why does Younger resonate? It’s part Sex and the City and part Gilmore Girls,” by Emily Yahr, in The Lily News: “It’s not only the New York setting and impressive fashion and frank talk about sex and relationships. While Younger centers on Liza (Sutton Foster), a 40-year-old who pretends she’s 26 to get a job, she’s often with her three close friends who could easily be compared to the Carrie-Samantha-Charlotte-Miranda group. But I have a (possibly wildly controversial) theory that Younger also resonates because it rings similar to another deeply nostalgic show aimed at female viewers — and that would be the WB’s Gilmore Girls. Really!
“How Sex and the City Landed at HBO,” by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong for Vulture.com: “In the September 1995 piece [a profile of Darren Star], Bushnell follows Star — dressed ‘California-style’ in a black Armani jacket and jeans — on a late-night visit to an S&M club called Vault, which he’s scouting for Central Park West. Star couldn’t have known at the time that it was the effect of this profile, not the show he was producing, that would resonate decades later. Soon after the two met for the piece, Star moved to Manhattan, and Bushnell swept him into her orbit to show him around the area — for Central Park West research, of course. He had never met anyone more fun. She personified all the clichés: ‘A force of nature,’ he says. ‘She opened a lot of doors.’”
Let’s end with what did not make it into the racy show:
“HBO Refused to Air This One ‘Horrifying’ Sex and the City Scene,” by Devon Ivy for Vulture.com: “It perhaps may come as a surprise that HBO, indeed, has been known to put its foot down when a script gets a little too crazy. Such a revelation occurred during the very first season of Sex and the City, when the network overlords refused to air a final scene that was shot between Charlotte and a man she was casually dating, who repeatedly wanted to receive blowjobs from her. […] And he had this golden retriever who was always around.”
Our editors can’t help but wonder … What’s your take on the series and its relevance now?
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