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Why Sex and the City Is Still Important, 10 Years Later

Feb 22 2014 - 10:17pm

The Sex and the City [1] series finale aired 10 years ago. Since the show ended, much has been made about the character profiles it introduced, the fashion trends it helped catapult, and the fantasies it perpetuated; but what's most memorable about Sex and the City — and what we should continue to celebrate — is its depiction of single women in society. The main characters of the show were represented not as lonely or broken but as smart, well-rounded individuals with full lives, great careers, and amazing friendships. Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte proved that whether or not you have a significant other, your friends can become your family — men come and go, but you can always be "each other's soulmates." The show's fashion and food references, as well as its brand of postfeminism, are still relevant in pop culture today. In addition to the fact that there have been two big-screen sequels, a spinoff series, The Carrie Diaries, is currently airing on The CW — and when Jennifer Lawrence famously tripped up the stairs while accepting her Oscar last year, did we not all exclaim that she "fell in Dior?" [2] Here's why the iconic HBO show still matters, even a decade later.

It portrays single women as being self-assured and confident and emphasizes the importance of female friendships.

Sex and the City changed the way we as a society think of single women. Before SATC, the single girl trope wasn't always a desirable one. But Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte prove that single women can lead interesting, full lives despite not having a significant other. They are modern women in a big city with careers, apartments, and disposable income and can support themselves without men. And when one or more of the ladies does find themselves in a relationship, it is never more important than the bond between the four of them. Seeing this gives us permission to prioritize female friendships over finding love and tells us that it's OK to value platonic unions just as much as romantic ones. Not everything on the show totally holds up today (and we may cackle at the some of the outfits and flip phones), but the core messages of Sex and the City — the empowerment of women and the strength of female friendships — will always be relevant.

It shows a lifestyle that many young women still strive for, however unattainable it may be.

During Sex and the City's six-season run, those of us in our formative college years dreamt about living in a fabulous Manhattan apartment, sipping cosmopolitans at Pastis and Balthazar with fabulous friends, wearing fabulous outfits, and being endlessly approached by handsome men who wanted to take us out on dates. Would Manolo Blahnik [3] or Magnolia Bakery be as well known and revered if it weren't for Sex and the City? It's possible; but once Carrie's favorite shoe brand and cupcake spot were made known on the show, it wasn't long before there were waiting lists at Barneys and lines around the block on Bleecker Street.

What's more, the women of Sex and the City provided inspiration on how to be independent and self-sufficient; just as we wanted Carrie's spectacular footwear collection, we also yearned for Samantha's bravado. So no, we may not be wearing giant flower pins or gold nameplate necklaces anymore, but we still very much consider cupcakes a delicacy and Christian Louboutins the gold standard in shoes. The great thing about the show is that it continues to sell us on the fantasy, even though we now know how far-fetched some of it is. We're aware that Carrie's job as a sex columnist writing one article a week would barely pay for groceries, let alone a brownstone between Park and Madison. And though her lifestyle could be called unrealistic or foolish, that argument is missing the point. Every TV show and movie has some element of impracticality, and that's why we watch. We all want something to indulge in and aspire to and the glamorous, funny, flawed characters on the show will always serve as inspiration of who we could be, even a decade later.

Sex and the City changed our attitudes about women and sex on television; without it, there would be no Girls.

When Girls [4] premiered in 2012, it drew comparisons to Sex and the City, despite being lauded as a younger, hipper, more realistic version of the show. The main characters — Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna — are in their early 20s, live in Brooklyn, and are navigating their way through life while dating, working, having sex, and cultivating friendships. Some of the personality traits of the Girls girls can even be seen as similar to those of the SATC ladies — for example, Jessa's got the sexually confident attitude of Samantha, while Hannah is a writer with a tendency to be self-absorbed (sound familiar?).

After the first episode aired in 1998, it was clear that Sex and the City was going to be different from anything else on TV. Not only do the main characters have sex (and lots of it), but they talk about it. They rehash the details of their dates, trade bedroom tips, and provide constant unfiltered conversations that are slightly scary to some people but amusingly refreshing to others. When you watch a show like Girls, you have to wonder if the progressive subject matter would fly today if Sex and the City hadn't previously broken those taboos; women freely and openly having a dialogue about things like STDs, abortion, and masturbation seems standard now, but 10 years ago it was Sex and the City that first tackled those topics and paved the way.

And of course, it still makes us want to fall in love.


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