I was 15, and I’d never felt like I belonged. While Turkey, and especially Istanbul, has always had a contemporary and rebellious streak, it was common to be surrounded by people who were just too narrow-minded. If they weren’t religious, they were conservative. And if they weren’t conservative, they had a collectivist nature. “What would the neighbors think?” “What would the relatives think?” I barely cared what my family thought of my lifestyle and personality.
Enter Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. While Charlotte’s less adventurous sexual choices suited me better, I related to the other three a lot more: A writer in love with clothes and shoes who arguably dated the hottest men. A gorgeous and successful woman who didn’t give a damn what anybody else thought and lived her life the way she wanted it. A successful career woman whose cynicism I appreciated much more as I grew older.
Coming from Turkey, “Sex and The City” provided more than just funny and stylish escapism; it made me feel liberated. It allowed me and my friends to talk about anything and everything without shame. And mine isn’t the only country it helped
That’s why it feels weird when I come across articles calling the women on the show evil
. Even articles that emphasized the show’s impact and relevance, like this one from The Independent
, had entries like this: “Why did it focus on four white women? It was set in one of the most diverse cities in the world, did it never occur to the production team that it might be an idea to include someone of a different ethnicity?”
These points are valid, but they didn’t even cross my mind when I watched the show then. Maybe because I’m never quite represented on TV anyway. An agnostic Turkish woman who loves wearing sexy clothes? A busy freelancer in her 30s who doesn’t want children? A romantic who doesn’t care if she ever gets married? Someone with OCD who manages it well
The truth is, more often than not, I don’t want to see myself the way I am on the screen. I want a happier, healthier version who has fewer difficult problems, and has more dating options.
The women of “Sex and the City” were beautiful, (mostly) healthy, white women with good jobs, and I loved every second of their (mis)adventures, even the cringeworthy ones.
If we have to dig into what they did wrong according to today’s values, let’s not forget all the risks they took and the taboos they broke.
Criticism of “Sex and the City” cover everything from homophobia to general superficialness
. But the truth is for every problematic joke, scene, and storyline singled out, I can come up with at least 10 examples where the show was progressive or compassionate.
Samantha dated a black man, and it ended because his sister didn’t want a “white chick” dating her brother
. She defined herself as “try-sexual;” she’d try anything once. She once dated a woman. Miranda took care of the ailing mother of her boyfriend. Carrie broke up with someone because he slapped her. Carrie’s best guy friend was gay; Charlotte converted to Judaism for the man she loved. The show openly talked about abortion.
“Sex and the City” put four women front and center, unapologetically being
themselves, flaws and all. It was the first show where men saw themselves being talked about as sex objects, as well as a show that made them face their toxic behavior.
And while the women could be vulgar, judgmental, and occasionally cruel, they loved each other. Their friendship saw them through break-ups, career ups and downs, cancer, wild disagreements, infertility, and beyond.
As a big fan, I’ll admit the show had its issues, even if we judged the show by the 90’s and early 00’s standards. Carrie cheated on her serious boyfriend Aidan, having an affair with Mr. Big while he was married. Not to mention, Samantha cheated on Smith with Richard, the guy she had broken up with because he had cheated on her.
The way Carrie put up with Big’s ridiculous behavior let me down. He strung her along, gave her mixed signals, and didn’t involve her in his life. The same went for all the women in the show. They were beautiful, smart, and independent, and yet they tolerated a lot of unstable and unattractive behavior from men. What kind of message were they sending to the millions of women watching the series worldwide?
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But because these characters represented extremes and were so different from one another, we got entertaining TV. You can’t keep people tuning in episode after episode for years without conflict. You need political incorrectness and controversy to hook the audiences. You need mistakes, and you need characters to mess things up around the clock. Whether it was grossly mishandling their finances, committing adultery or insulting the looks of the man they loved, the women did a lot of horrible things.
While “Sex and the City” had problematic characters and storylines, it would be a mistake to ignore all of the ways that it helped to usher in new, groundbreaking series by exploring themes like sexuality, friendship, parenthood and interracial dating in ways that we hadn’t seen before. And let’s not forget the laughs. There were plenty of laughs.