In my days of post-senior essay reverie, I’ve become the sort of TV-consuming monster I only dreamed of being back when I had real responsibility. I’d worked my way through countless current sitcoms when one day, I walked in on a housemate watching “Sex and the City” on his laptop, and walked out six hours later with the entire first season under my belt. I watched the earliest stages of courtship between Carrie and Mr. Big, saw the frank sex scenes and the chronicles of weekly brunch. I felt like I was home again.
Though I’ve probably seen every episode at least thrice already (and that’s not counting the edited reruns on TBS), watching the show again as a grown lady has been an entirely different experience. It seems so much more relevant this time around, as if the vignettes were speaking to something true in my life. For example, I spent one whole day wondering if I was a slut, before returning home just in time to catch my crew watching the episode “Are We Sluts?” (The answer, in case anyone was wondering, was: No, sluts don’t exist, and we are awesome.) I’ve had some sexual experiences (and some social experiences) that mirror what I see on the screen now; what was once general laughter has been supplemented by the cathartic twinge of identification.
It’s like I’m watching SATC with new eyes, and those eyes have brought with them an important realization: I’m fairly invested in the lives of all four women, but it’s Carrie’s plotlines that leave me screaming at the computer screen. I am a Carrie.
Carrie narrates the show, and though she is undoubtedly the protagonist, she is also the most erratic, absurd and whimsical character. Most people really hate her or think she’s a childish excuse for a grown woman. But I just love her. We have plenty of things in common: She writes about her personal life for a wide audience; she’s messy and a poor financial planner; she wears her emotions on her sleeves. She believes in love deeply, but she’s also a lustful serial dater. It obviously takes a lot of hubris to identify primarily with the main character, but Carrie is a freaking narcissist, and so am I.
Obviously, SATC character identifications are a meme so asinine they were mocked in the first episode of another HBO zeitgeist-hound, “Girls,” but even that scene established the debt that TV shows about women — and the 21st century popular female consciousness in general — owe to the show. The sexual rules that I follow, even if they frustrate me (in order of importance: have sex, fall in love occasionally), were brought to the mainstream largely thanks to Carrie and the gals.
Because of that, the final scene of SATC will always stick with me. After a giddy brunch with all of her friends, Carrie is walking down the street in a ridiculous fur coat, when she gets a phone call from Big. It’s simple, but she just seems so happy. And I think those are the stakes of identifying with Carrie (or Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte for that matter); we know she gets a happy ending. I guess I really want one of those, and watching Carrie’s road to it, pratfalls and all, makes us feel assured that we’ll get them too.
Rewatching SATC as graduation draws near has reminded me that some happy endings are possible. I’ve gone through four yearlong “seasons” of my own in college, and I think the pratfalls were worth it, more or less. I’ve been frustrated and lost myself a few times, and had enough intellectual, emotional and physical dalliances. Now I’m ready to make like Carrie and move on, take some risks, live out some cliches, and find my fur coat and Mr. Big (whatever form those will take). In true Carrie fashion, I will probably overshare my feelings about it on the Internet.