Giving Up Reality for a Happy Ending
In the history of television there has never been a show that more women have connected to than Sex in the City. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha are not merely fictional characters in an explicit HBO comedy, but are usually regarded as realistic representations of the modern woman. For six seasons all types of women have followed these four independent feminine symbols survive and discuss issues that are specifically relevant to their gender. Sex, girlfriends, careers, fashion, and perhaps even finding a male counterpart have all been the staples of what these women talk about. As the show aired its final episode last Sunday each of the characters seemed to find closure in their trendy NYC lives. Yet this closure came in a controversial form that could arguably contradict the entire purpose of the show. Each empowered woman could only come to their own personal epiphany with the help of a devoted man. This observation does not mean to conclude that being involved with a loved one is the antithesis of independence; however, in a show that originally revolved around the concept of being free from the expectations of men such a resolution seems paradoxical. While the idea of a nineteen year old male commenting on a series geared toward middle-aged women seems peculiar, I feel that as a regular viewer my opinion has just as much legitimacy as any other watcher. I understand I am walking through a feminist minefield where making the wrong step would blow me into male chauvinist smithereens; however, I still have one Carrie Bradshaw question that has yet to be answered: Would it have been possible to end the show with Carrie being single?
At this point in the article most men have flipped the page to the personals, but the issue at hand is far more serious than Carrie’s sex life. After numerous Emmys and flocks of devoted women swearing themselves to these complex characters, the show has developed a type of responsibility to its viewers. Unlike an episode of Friends where Rachael can have a different boyfriend every scene as long as the cute humor is maintained, the women of Sex in the City are admired strong female leads with serious real life undertones. With this prestigious position comes the dependability that these women will not only stay true to form, but also continue to promote the concept that this series gives a realistic and empowering view of a single woman’s life. Kim Cattrell, the actress who plays Samantha, declares that one of the most powerful impacts the show had on society was that it redefined the meaning of being single. The lavish lifestyle mixed with close friends and self confidence created the impression that these women were content with their current situation and perhaps even preferred it. Showing four middle-aged women not conforming to society’s life track and forming their own concept of happiness was a very positive message to display to females, and it was this theme that attracted so many watchers.
It was this type of individual empowerment while still staying true to real life that made Sex in the City so successful, but it was this interpretation of the modern woman that was ignored so bluntly in the final episode. The most obvious contradiction that appeared in the finale was the lack of interaction between the four women. While the previous episodes used their luncheons of dialogue as the backbone of the show, the ladies now acted as if their friendship was only secondary to the main issues of their life. Of course each woman was dealing with their own serious themes but the lack of emphasis on the friendship seemed unusual and wrong. The show centered around four different stories of four different women with their four different boyfriends. The close and honest companionship that existed in every episode was now portrayed as merely a buffer during the phase of life entitled “single.” Unlike Cattrell’s previous comment, Sex and the City ended with single life being ugly again. No character was left alone for fear that concluding the series with a woman alone would seem too depressing. Carrie’s love fiasco in particular appeared forced, ludicrous, and insulting to the intelligence of its viewers. Relying on the “chick flick” formula, Carrie’s old boa raced to France to rescue her from the bad foreign boyfriend (whom she had never complained of prior to this episode). Prince Charming successfully sailed across the ocean to grab her love struck Meg Ryan character and returned her to the life she always dreamed of having. Using the awkward charm of Hugh Grant, Carrie’s big American boyfriend charms her back allowing her to forget the numerous times he betrayed her. Apparently the viewers of the show must accept the fact that not only does Carrie have the ability to jump from one major relationship to the next, but also that the man who breaks her heart once per season has changed from Mr. Big to Mr. Wonderful. In a television series that used to pride itself in its realistic portrayal of the independence of women, the main character flies away in the arms of a man in her ultimate fantasy. The fear of ending a show with a woman still single in NYC was an image of empowerment that the writers felt women were not ready to see. To end such a groundbreaking series on such a low note may create the realization that the show’s main intention was to entertain and perhaps that is all it could accomplish.