Monday, July 29, 2013

Things I don't get: Sex and the City edition

(I have ranted about Sex and the City before. You can see it here.)

I recently downloaded the HBOGo app for my iPad, which means I've been watching a lot of TV while cleaning, working, writing, and cooking in the last two weeks. I also read this excellent article in The New Yorker about how Sex and the City started out revolutionary, and ended up an absurd, tone deaf (Hey, remember when Carrie asked that Indian hotel staffer if it was hard being in a different country than his wife while making minimum wage? And then compared it to her life as a best-selling author married to a corporate raider?), grating, rom-com imitation of itself.

And while I don't completely agree with Nussbaum's assertion that Sex and the City was a once-great show (perhaps you just had to be there ...?), I do agree that by the end, it definitely took a turn into SuckTown.

But even before the cliched ending, Sex and the City had one big problem. And her name was Carrie Bradshaw. (For those unfamiliar with the Sex and the City oeuvre, please see EXHIBIT A. There, now you know all you need to know about Carrie Bradshaw.)

For the record, I love a good anti-hero. (Dr. House, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, Scarlett O'Hara, Dexter Morgan). I really, really dislike a bad anti-hero. (Donald Draper, seasons 3 through current).

But for me, the issue is not whether Carrie is a good anti-hero or a bad anti-hero. I frankly just don't think she qualifies as an anti-hero.

Sure, she's complex and flawed and the main character of the series--but she doesn't exactly drive the action forward. Calling Carrie Bradshaw an anti-hero is kind of like calling Jerry Seinfeld one. In a show that is mostly about nothing, does anyone get to qualify as a hero or anti-hero? (Imagine that Carrie Bradshaw typed those words in her no-way-is-that-$700-a-month apartment.)

No one likes Dr. House just because he's a jerk. They like him because, in addition to being a jerk, he's also hilarious and brilliant. If Scarlett were just the worst, instead of the-worst-who-got-Mellie-out-of-Atlanta, no one would care. 

You can't just throw a bad character on the scene and hope people like him/her for their unique badness. You have to make us like him/her in spite of her the badness. And if you can do that, then people will start to enjoy the negative, too. (Hell yeah, you're the one who knocks!)

And so, once we've dispensed with this anti-hero nonsense, we can get to the primary point -- that Carrie is annoying as hell. While many of her bad characteristics would be acceptable if she were also doing something fascinating, she isn't. She's picking fights with her boyfriends for no reason. She's over-analyzing everything. She's making puns.

Remember the time that Carrie got a book deal, and all she had to do was pick out 30 of her old columns (that she'd already written) and write a dedication (that turned out to be one sentence long), and then she made BUCKETS of money, and then literally showed the check to her boyfriend whose own book had tanked? And then we were supposed to not like the boyfriend, because he got upset and ohmygoshyouguysfeminism!!! And then she had the lady-balls to say, "I worked really hard for that money!"

No, hon, you didn't. (Remember how you just used columns that were already written and you'd already been paid for once?) But even if you had, he worked hard too, and you don't have to rub his comparative failure in his face. How about we try this on for size: TACT. "Not everything is a feminist issue." - Susan B. Anthony.

Remember the time that Carrie got a free trip to San Francisco to promote the aforementioned book, and threw a fit because people weren't ooohing and aaaaahing over her, and instead wanted to see an adorable dog from a best-selling calendar? And she told her publicist that she refused to be the dog's opening act? I mean, I'm surprised that she didn't ask her publicist to burn all the other books in the bookstore while she was at it.

Remember the time that Carrie was dating a great guy, and she cheated on him, AND THEN SHE LOST HIS DOG? And then she tried to emotionally blackmail him into forgiving her cheating, because one time he said FLAWS IN WOOD CAN BE INTERESTING?

Remember how after she got back together with the guy she cheated on, and he didn't immediately get over it, she screamed at him in the street and also for some reason thought it was a good idea to put his sick dog in a diaper instead of just letting the poor thing poop it out?

I mean, could we just briefly back up and re-emphasize the point that somehow, Carrie did not like dogs and seemed to be baffled by their very existence?

Remember how, after she and that good guy broke up because she didn't want to marry him, she kind of just thought he would give her the apartment he'd paid for, and was surprised and offended that he wanted her to either pay him back, interest-free, or sell it?

Remember how she bullied Charlotte for not offering her $30,000 for the down payment on the aforementioned apartment? Not for paying for a lunch, because she'd forgotten her purse. For $30,000 for an apartment because she only had $900 in her savings account.*

Remember how she'd smoke indoors at non-smoking establishments and get pissed off when employees would ask her not to smoke?

Remember when she tried to get married guys to flirt with her friend?

 Remember how Mr. Big actually wasn't a giant douchebag,** but somehow Carrie made all of her 30s about how Mr. Big was a giant douchebag? And then whenever one of her friends was like, "Hey, I thought you thought that guy was a douchebag?", Carrie was all, "WHY DON'T YOU TRUST MY JUDGMENT?"

And then when Mr. Big and Carrie decide to buy an apartment together, and she says they need to get married so she can have legal rights to the apartment, and inside your head you're like, "Carrie, that is gold-digger logic," but outwardly you're like, "WEDDING DRESS MONTAGE!"***


I believe that last one was actually a flaw of mine.

*Dear friends: I would never offer you $30,000, not even if I had the money. I hope you understand that this is not a reflection on the strength of our friendship, but simply because normal people do not offer each other $30,000, and yes Charlotte's dad was right, friends should not loan friends that kind of money because money is a friendship ruiner. A piece of liver, a kidney, or bone marrow, yes. Five-figures worth of money, no.

** For the record, no one should date Mr. Big long-term, unless he's the Magically Reformed Mr. Big of Season 6. Feel free to date Mr. Big casually, or become friends with Mr. Big (because who doesn't want to be friends with Mr. Big?), but don't date Mr. Big and then expect things to work out. Craziness.

*** To clarify a point of annoyance of mine -- Carrie, if you offer to sell your apartment to assist in buying the new apartment, yes, you'd have some legal rights to it even if your name was not on the deed. Also, Mr. Big could just voluntarily put your name on the deed, because this is the guy who once offered you that previously mentioned $30,000 and he'd probably be fine with that.

If you want to get married, by all means get married, but don't straight up tell someone that you want to get married so you will have a legal stake to all his financial interests (that you had nothing to do with) in the event of your breakup. GAH.


  1. Thank you thank you thank you. I never had any interest in watching this show, and you've validated all the time I saved (or alternatively wasted on other shows of arguably greater quality).

  2. Yes!

    I had heard so much about the show that when I house/cat sat for a friend, I marathoned it with her full collection. When you watch the whole damn thing in a row like that, it really lays bare how obnoxious and illogical Carrie is.