If your social media feeds are saturated with Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha, and you’re not sure why—today is the 20th anniversary of the first episode of Sex and the City airing. When a show talks so candidly, and for the first time, about sex, about love, about friendship, about being a woman, it’s bound to become a significant cultural marker, and that’s exactly what Darren Starr and Candice Bushnell did with their 1998 premiere episode where, at a birthday party for Miranda, the four women vow to stop searching for the perfect male and have sex “like men.”
People tend to have the same criticisms of Sex and the City—and many of them are fair to say. Of course they lived out-of-touch financial lifestyles and of course, sometimes their sexual liberation disguised a rather traditional worldview, but it’s hard to point to other mainstream television shows that depicted women and their sexuality so openly. They talked about masturbation, infertility, performance anxiety, and the possible, occasional attraction to sandwiches.
But the point of Sex and the City is not Sex and the City—it’s how each of us interpreted what the show gave us. Sometimes that comes in the form of disliking the show, or of paying it tribute for being even more influential The Sopranos, or simply, or of simply considering the sound of Samantha Jones’ voice as it “slunk and shimmied” around Manhattan.
This evening, as you have your HBO GO playing reruns in the background, read these truly great odes to Sex and the City, to its actresses, and to Candace Bushnell, the woman who started it all.
Rachel Tashijan writes for Garage about how “Sex and the City” book version was more influential for her than the TV show. “Her characters are often dark and evil people…and are candid about the realities of money and love and relationships in a way that makes the groundbreaking nature of her column much more apparent,” Tashijan writes. “It’s hard to imagine any of these people eating a cupcake, let alone waiting in line for one.”
Emily Nussbaum’s 2013 New Yorker piece on how people misunderstood the show is the perfect tribute to a show both reviled and deeply loved — and usually some combination of both. “It’s a classic misunderstanding, I think, stemming from an unexamined hierarchy: the assumption that anything stylized (or formulaic, or pleasurable, or funny, or feminine, or explicit about sex rather than about violence, or made collaboratively) must be inferior,” she writes.
The New York Times interviewed women who moved to New York City to chase their Sex and the City dream. In some cases, they stayed and in others, they left. Either way, the city and the show shaped them. “What kind of person would I be if I had never moved to New York?” one person who had since moved to Germany speculated. “Definitely not someone that would move his entire life to another continent, that’s for sure.”