There was a time when Carrie Bradshaw was flat-chested. That was 12 years ago when Sex and the City first aired on HBO and introduced us to four refreshingly realistic female characters – Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte. As someone who wasn’t “allowed” to watch Sex and the City (but did anyway), this series played a small but critical role in my understanding of how women are represented on television. These four women were successful and flawed. They struggled to balance careers and family. Their marriages and relationships failed. But no matter what they always stuck together.
With the second Sex and the City movie set to premiere on May 27, I’ve started contemplating the development of these four characters. How have they changed since we first met them?
For starters, the production costs between the series and the movie franchise are definitely higher. Just compare the first season DVD cover to the poster for Sex and the City 2. Carrie suddenly has cleavage (and opera glasses? Maybe to see that Big is terrible for once and for all).
Of course characters, especially those who have existed as part of our cultural dialogue for as long as Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte, have evolved over time. This happens to real women too.
What is perhaps most apparent from this picture is how Sex and the City has developed into a franchise and a star vehicle for Sarah Jessica Parker. Carrie Bradshaw is Sex and the City.
The first season of the series emphasized the friendship of these four women. In its current installment places Carrie and her relationship with Big at the center. The other women have fallen into the background, relegated to being Carrie’s sideshows and lesser narratives. Most strikingly with Miranda.
As a young woman coming to terms with societies traditional expectations for women (children, family) is never simple. Miranda’s struggles were always most relatable to me. I could see my future in Miranda’s story. She was one character with an impressive career built from her academic and professional accomplishments, who then becomes a working mother. Her presence was always an anomaly and a gift to this franchise. With the Sex and the City films though, Miranda’s marriage and status as a working mother are simply background noise while we’re told that Carrie’s venture into the wedding industrial complex and her search for true love is what matters.
I am no longer a starry-eyed teenager dreaming of my future. While I love that Sex and the City is female-driven star vehicle (and earnestly support it for that reason), I accept that this franchise does not reflect the story of all women. SATC always has and always will be a fantasy of the American female experience.