“Exactly How Powerful Was Beauty?”

How relevant is Sex and The City? S1, Ep.2: “Models and Mortals”

Image created by author — with licenced graphic

Episode two. And we’re discovering who these four women are, and the values that shape their dating lives. Carrie is inquisitive. Miranda struggles with her intelligence. Samantha is hung up on her aging beauty. And Charlotte, is well, Charlotte.

This episode reflects the mentality of the original Sex and The City book; Manhattan. And what could be more pertinent to The Big Apple than the models? This city is the beacon for models, more so than the other fashion capitals of the world.

As a Melbourne girl, where fashion is very much part of our culture, models aren’t taking over the streets. But the Manhattan influence is dripping all over this episode, and I’m not mad about it.

Yet, models don’t fare well in this episode. Neither does the concept of beauty. It seems like the characters worry about how they size up to the model standard of beauty.

I’m wondering how well this episode has aged. In my opinion, some of it not very well. Yet other parts are still definitely on the money.

Why did they say this to Miranda?

Miranda is at a group dinner with a serial model dater, Nick. His friends are thrilled to discover she’s an intelligent, accomplished woman. And that she isn’t a model. And to her surprise, his friends don’t hide their dismay at his choice of women, and their pleasure at Miranda’s lack of model status.

I still find this exchange incredibly fascinating, from a social point of view. Why these women felt the need to tell her this is curious. If they wanted the relationship between Miranda and Nick, why would they say this?

Surely divulging this information isn’t wise, especially so early into the relationship. Most women don’t want to know about their date’s history, especially during this formative stage of the relationship. And as two women, shouldn’t they know this would put Miranda off?

Modelling: good or bad?

The concept of being a model has changed so much since this episode first aired in 1998.

Models were models. They walked the catwalk, they appeared in magazines, they were an elusive profession. But in 2021, modelling isn’t so clear cut.

We have this confusing middle ground; influencers. They aren’t models as we’ve come to know the profession, but there is an alignment in their work. Perhaps if this episode was set now, influencers would fall into the same category. The characters might not refer to them as models, but something else.

Is the label ‘model’, on an influencer, good, bad or otherwise when it comes to dating? The episode paints these women as beauty-obsessed, difficult to engage with, and unintelligent. It implies that to be smart, you can’t be a model. Or vice versa.

I don’t think this is the issue anymore. It’s ‘judgment’ that is the issue.

I don’t think we can judge an entire profession the same way they have in the episode. We’ve evolved past this type of unfair stereotyping, especially when it comes to dating. To turn someone away based on their profession would reflect poorly on the dater.

We would likely label them shallow in today’s standards. The dater would face the social jury and found guilty for being so quick to judge.

A Fashion Moment

And can we appreciate Carrie’s little black dress in this episode? We’re starting to see why Carrie becomes one of the most influential fashion icons of the modern era. She is natural in what she wears. She wears the dress. The dress doesn’t wear her.

Would Carrie be so forgiving of the camera in 2021?

When Barkley, who grows up to be Harvey Specter, proudly displays his array of perverted cameras to Carrie, she hardly bats an eyelid.

In fact, she’s curious. It’s easy to excuse Carrie’s dismissal of Berkley. As a sex columnist, it’s her job to be open to the exploration of fetishes. But his illegal voyeurism, violating the privacy of the women in his bed, she’s accepting.

It goes without saying that this behaviour is more than disgusting by today’s standards. But what we tolerate less is the boasting and bragging of this. The way he is so brazen when tells Carrie, and the way she almost encourages him, wouldn’t be fathomable now.

And there’s no way Carrie could support such behaviour and still remain the heroine of this piece.

Later in the episode, she calls Berkley a pervert. I wished she had said this to him, and not to Samantha.

Would Samantha want to be filmed with the rise of social media and celebrity sex tapes?

When Samantha hunts down Berkley to become the star of his next film, she expresses her complicity with his behaviour. She views the illegal activity as a status symbol of her beauty. If he films her, she has model beauty.

It’s one of the most tragic scenes to watch. Samantha seeking validation from a man’s perversion. It doesn’t seem like the Samantha we come to know. Nor does it seem to empower women.

It doesn’t pain men in the healthiest light either, which is unfair to the men who respect women. It’s strange how light-hearted this storyline is. And how degrading it is too.

If I’m honest, I didn’t think dating was this complicated either. It’s at this moment, I’m not sure if this is a Manhattan problem or purely fictional.

So how powerful is beauty in dating now?

Carrie says she felt invisible in this episode, amongst the beautiful models. And I can relate to this feeling.

You notice every man in the room look elsewhere but at you. You see their eyes concentrate on every detail of their hips, thighs, hair, eyes. And when you ask them if they remember your name, they’re convinced we never told them.

Their attention is ‘model’ fixated.

But I know this feeling subsided once I found the one. How cliched, I’m sure you’re thinking, but I realised this feeling can intensify by the sense of hunting and competition.

Hunting for a partner, or looking for love, and ‘competing’ with the other potentials around you. I don’t feel this competition with my husband. He never makes me feel invisible. He often makes me feel like I’m the only girl in the room.

I never wanted a partner fixated on beauty. Because I know I’m far more than my genetic appearance. Whilst attraction is important, beauty is completely in the beholder’s eye.

How well has this episode aged?

If we were editing this episode now, the entire feature of Barley and his voyeurism tapes wouldn’t exist. Or we would see him scolded by our protagonist and thrown in jail where he belongs. We might see a more vulnerable, realistic side to the model. One that is completely jaded and critical of them.

But I wouldn’t change the ending for anything. When Big says, “But the thing is, after a while, you just wanna be with the one that makes you laugh, you know what I mean?” is perfection. That’s what dating is all about; the feeling, not the looks.

Timeless.

I’m having a Carrie Bradshaw moment. I’m sitting at my desk, in heels and a sweatshirt, contemplating the latest encounter I had with one of my friends. I turn to my computer, scribble down my musings on relationship and life.

As the thoughts run through my head, I contemplate what Carrie would think. How would she have perceived life? How relevant is ‘Sex and The City’ in 2021?

I’m Ellen McRae, writer by trade and passionate storyteller by nature. I write about figuring about love and relationships through fictional-reality.

Relationships. Drama. Gossip. Innuendo. Bad Dates. Failures. Learning about life/business/love the hard way// https://ellenjellymcrae.com/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store