Fifteen years after its premiere, Sex and the City remains groundbreaking, fun, sexy, and firmly entrenched in our hearts and minds. But though it aptly taught millions of love-starved fans about the hazards and wonders of dating in the big, bad city, certain love lessons from Sex and the City are as ridiculous as Carrie Bradshaw’s weirdest outfits.
Once, and only once, do I recall seeing one of the four women — Samantha — date a man who lives outside Manhattan. She met him on Staten Island after Carrie dragged her three girlfriends there in the season three opener. For the rest of the show, the other boroughs didn't seem to exist.
Don’t believe me? Mr. Big was a Wall Street tycoon who lived in an undisclosed location in Manhattan before moving to Napa, California. Jack Burger had a house in the Hamptons and a place in the city. Aiden Shaw lived right in downtown Manhattan. Aleksandr Petrovsky’s loft was somewhere downtown, too. Steve Brady was a Queens boy living in a dumpy Manhattan apartment. Trey MacDougall's digs were on Park Avenue, and Harry Goldenblatt's bachelor pad appeared to be near his midtown office. It’s conceivable that Smith Jared lived in another borough, but Samantha met him in a hip Manhattan restaurant, and they practically moved in together after that.
Any true New Yorker knows there are plenty of men and women outside the relatively tiny island of Manhattan. Even successful lawyers, doctors, and Wall Street tycoons, like the Sex and the City women were used to dating, sometimes settle in the boroughs for a little more peace and quiet, not to mention a bigger bang for their buck. Though some New Yorkers like to think Manhattan is the center of the universe, it’s not.
In a season six episode titled "The Ick Factor," the women make fun of grand gestures of romance such as playing the piano for a woman or reading her a poem. "Ick!" Miranda declares when hearing about Carrie’s adventures. And Carrie literally faints when her boyfriend, the uber romantic Aleksandr Petrovsky, tries to dance with her to music being played outside Lincoln Center.
It is hard to believe that modern women are incapable of appreciating romance. Night after night of ball gowns and violins might be too much for any person, but the occasional poem or ballroom dance seems like a great way to keep excitement and intrigue from dissipating from the relationship, especially if there's genuine emotion behind it.
When the actresses wanted to cover up during love scenes, they wore bras. I am not a woman, but I’ve been assured by many of them that wearing a bra during lovemaking is uncomfortable and unrealistic. In the context of the show, the idea is equally unrealistic. Four women with as much command of their sexuality as Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and (especially) Samantha would probably have known this.
In a season six episode, a Jewish mother sets Charlotte up with her son. The date is boring, but the guy tries to be sweet by bringing Charlotte flowers on their first date: carnations. Which, according to both Charlotte and Carrie, are "filler flowers." Receiving the gift sends Charlotte over the edge, and immediately helps her conclude this is not the man for her.
Carrie’s boyfriend, Jack Burger, is the only voice of reason in the scene. He asks the women if they would really dump a man for bringing them carnations. Carrie says no, but only because she happens to like carnations. Otherwise, the dude is out of luck.
In an early episode of the series, Charlotte sits at the brunch table with her friends and declares that women just want to be rescued. This immediately provokes harsh responses from her friends. Carrie, however, goes on to wonder if Charlotte is right.
For better or for worse, it appears that Charlotte is.
Though the show is meant to portray four independent, professional women in control of their sex and love lives, each woman appears to be rescued by her man by the series finale. After all, Charlotte moves up in station by marrying and divorcing Trey, keeping his Park Avenue apartment in the process. Her second husband, a prominent New York attorney, moves into this apartment with her. Though they start dating when he is but a mere bartender, Miranda marries Steve only after he becomes a successful business owner. Carrie is quite literally rescued by Mr. Big from the abusive clutches of Aleksandr Petrovsky in the series finale. And even Samantha, a successful businesswoman who single-handedly built Smith Jared’s Hollywood career, becomes richer and more powerful by attaching herself to Smith’s rising star.
The fact that all four women’s lives improved because of their husbands’ status is quite a big letdown. The opposite scenario is extremely possible, and would even have been in keeping with the show's progressive tendencies. Still, despite some flaws, Sex and the City was a thoughtful exploration of love and life that continues to inform and entertain.