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The Sex and the City reboot won’t work because we don’t want to be their friends anymore

I was a fan of Carrie and the gang when the show first launched in the 1990s, but the new series comes at a different time, so much so that it might as well be a different world, altogether

Emma Burnell
Tuesday 12 January 2021 15:50 GMT
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Sex and the City reboot teaser trailer

When Sex and the City first launched it was a breath of fresh air for single women in their early 20s, like me. I was just a few years behind Carrie and the gang – and related hard to their disastrous love lives, their bottom of the rung career mishaps and their tiny, grotty apartments.  

My friends and I would often ask each other, “Which one are you?” We’d take quizzes in magazines to find out how much of a Charlotte or Samantha we were – we’d even lie about how much sex we’d had, or were having, so we could be more “Samantha”. We all wanted Cynthia Nixon’s brains, Kristin Davis’s poise, Kim Cattrall’s attitude and Sarah Jessica Parker’s heart.  

But the reboot comes at a different time, so much so that it might as well be a different world, altogether. We may not have paid enough attention to the problems that were there in the late 1990s – lack of representation being one of them – but they’re glaringly obvious to us, now.  

Whereas we once lauded Sex and the City for its “groundbreaking” attitudes to straight women’s and gay men’s sexuality, now we can see more clearly that lesbians were largely used as props to move the storylines on – all the women ended up in heterosexual relationships, with only Samantha ending hers to have more straight sex. People of colour were almost completely invisible unless they were playing the help. ‘Diversity’ was of the middle-class, Hamptons-visiting, white, Upper East Side Manhattan variety. Even working class bartender Steve ended up owning his bar.  

Along the way, and especially in light of the two films, Sex and the City became an imitation of itself. Instead of the well-crafted and well-rounded women we fell in love with in the first place, the characters took on the qualities of their magazine alter egos. They became caricatures – mere facsimiles of real women. A place for young women to project their dreams, but without any of the sharp edges or brutal truths that made the original so real for the rest of us, now in our forties. The women of Sex and the City moved away from being their audience’s friends, to representing their fantasies; and immediately became less attainable, sustainable – or identifiable.  

Sex and the City - Final scene from the TV series

By the end of the second film, the three remaining in Manhattan were all living in fabulous apartments. And despite having been deeply snobby about moving there, the fourth was living in a huge house in achingly-hip Brooklyn. While some of the characters’ problems might have ringed bells with ‘real’ women – such as struggling to conceive, boredom in a long term relationship and dealing with terrible toddlers – their solutions did not.  

How many of us can afford to keep a second apartment just in case our husband annoys us? How many can justify dropping everything – especially in America, where workers are not legally entitled to paid holiday leave, though their employers may offer it – because a friend has randomly scored an all-expenses paid trip to the Middle East? How many of us have the freedom – especially if we have children – to walk out of a job we hate? How many can afford a nanny?

Still, perhaps the Sex and the City characters are teaching us a valuable lesson. They got it all – and maybe this unrealistic ideal is the reason why we don’t like the women they’ve become. They’ve been given the dream, and the rest of us has been left with a warning: that this is what happens “if you try to have it all”. Perhaps the reboot can spur us on to prove them wrong, and to show the world what really goes on behind the scenes – that successful women don’t always have to spoiled, sulky and never truly satisfied.

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