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Thursday, 26 June 2014

The 'Sex and the City' Generation.

Despite only being a toddler when it first aired, HBO's Sex And The City  is my absolute favourite programme. And millions of other women's too. What's not to love? It has all the components of a great TV show - love, loss, friendship, sex, and betrayal. But above all, the fashion. Each of the SATC women wore outfits to die for. There were some hits and misses - it was the 90s of course - but they always carried it off with such style that it made you want to wear it too. Plus the New York setting added a touch of glamour too.
I began the series after the second movie came out. It received such horrendous reviews but all the critics would say how the film in no way reflected the greatness of the show. I was intrigued and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. As a result of the film's release, Comedy Central began airing the series right from the start. I dived in and was instantly hooked, I couldn't believe I hadn't watched this show before. It was sexy and witty and gave real insight into the pressure put on women in their thirties to settle down and have kids. Even as a fifteen year-old I felt like I could relate. Plus, the four central characters had such different personalities - they were supposed to embody qualities in every woman. Miranda: the ambitious and witty lawyer. Charlotte: bonafide home-maker and 'Park Avenue Princess'. Samantha: powerful PR woman who is unashamed of her sexual escapades. And then there is Carrie, the show's protagonist - the flirty, sweet, and anxious writer who puts her sex life in the 'New York Star' every week.
The show charts their love lives, their careers, and more importantly, their friendship. One of my favourite episodes is the opening of Season 4. It's Carrie's 35th birthday and she's reflecting on her failed relationships with Mr. Big and Aidan - the men she thinks could have been her soulmates. Instead, the four friends agree to be each other's soulmates - to be a consistent in one another's lives while men come and go. I remember thinking that that was such a refreshing idea. Most women in television shows are obsessed with their partners, they're not presented as a character in themselves. Relationships are undoubtably a crucial factor in Sex and the City, but it's all presented through the woman's eyes. That's what lies at the heart of this show - a realistic exploration of women's issues. Its honesty and frankness has made the show the success that it is.
It's been four years since I first watched the series all the way through. As a proud owner of the 'Sex and the City' boxset, I can quite happily watch a few episodes here and there. Yet as a 19 year old viewer, I do notice some differences from when I first watched. Sometimes I find Carrie so unbelievably irritating. Even though Big had his commitment issues, she absolutely pushed him away by acting so clingy and angsty all the time! And most SATC viewers would agree that Aidan was the best guy in that series and yet she relentlessly messed with his heart. Telling him not to be so 'available' and then eventually cheating on him while he redecorated her apartment. It became infuriating to watch, like she was doing him an injustice. We all knew she had to end up with Mr. Big - but couldn't she have been a little nicer to the guys along the way? I also found her incredibly self-obsessed in comparison to her friends, their brunches usually revolved around Carrie's issues. When you think about it, the other women are so much more interesting! Throughout the show, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda progress and grow as characters. Samantha has made Smith a star and is in a relationship that combines adventurous sex and love. Miranda is a mother and has finally been brave enough to commit to Steve. Charlotte has fulfilled her domestic dream (with a few hiccups along the way) but with a man she wouldn't have expected. Carrie is still writing her column and pining for Mr. Big. In some ways she's a fantastic heroine - in others, she's a two-dimensional character obsessed with shoes.
Above all, what makes 'Sex and the City' such a success some sixteen years after it first aired is how it subverts expectations of women. SATC is one of limited television programmes which explores female sexuality without making the women out to be 'sluts' or 'whores'. It invites viewers into the lives of women (albeit fictional women) who live their lives for themselves; who don't exist for marriage and children. Undoubtably, marriage and babies play a significant role in the show's story-lines but it's through a woman's perspective. The show breaks the mould in its exploration of women's issues. We live vicariously through these character's careers and love lives. We're invited into a fictional world of fashion, fun, and flirtation and that's what makes it such great escapism. We envy these successful New York women with their fabulous fashion sense, romances, and high-powered jobs. But what I enjoy most of all about this show is its focus on friendship and female camaraderie. We live in a man's world. Men dominate politics, business, and all too often, relationships too. That's why shows like 'Sex and the City' are so fantastic. I'm all too aware that it's all fictional, but I feel like I've learnt a lot of life lessons from those ladies. It's shows like SATC that taught me to be a proud feminist, to not let a man mess me around, and that loving fashion doesn't make me shallow or superficial. It's all about female empowerment and that's what makes it such a gem.

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