“Welcome to the age of “uninnocence”. No one has ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’, and no one has ‘Affairs to Remember’… Instead, we have breakfast at 7am, and affairs we try to forget as quickly as possible. Self-protection and closing the deal are paramount. Cupid has flown the co-op.”
— Carrie Bradshaw
The year is 1998, and we’re gifted ‘Sex and The City’. The birth of Candace Bushnell’s semi-biographical masterpiece onto the small screen. Manhattan. Cocktails. Unapologetic sex in designer heels.
The tv show defined a generation of women. Women found control in their relationships. And their perception of their place in the world changed for the better. The heroines, Samantha Jones, Miranda Hobbes, Charlotte York and the Carrie Bradshaw, became the cornerstone of modern relationship commentary.
Everything they pondered about love resonated with the women of the early noughties. But as we surge in the twenties, do these fictional women still represent modern-day relationship values? Or is their experience and narration a thing of the past?
How relevant is ‘Sex and The City’?
“It’s like the riddle of the Sphinx. Why are there so many great-unmarried women, and no great-unmarried men?”
— Carrie Bradshaw
The pilot is an intriguing introduction into the world of dating in Manhattan. And we discover after a few brief minutes there is a great divide. It’s men versus women, and men possessed all the power.
This is part of the SATC ethos throughout most of the series, and into the movie. Rarely do we see dating life from the male perspective.
But this separation of sexes draws a longbow from modern dating. We now have a greater conversation about dating fluidity. Where the lines of dating and gender are evolving.
It isn’t men versus women, nor is it so much a fight as it in an uprising. We wrestle more with our sense of identity, and how we’re accepted by the world. Black Lives Matter and the Me Too movement are living proof of our shifting values.
Marriage isn’t between ‘man and wife’, nor does traditional marriage reign supreme. In fact, marriage isn’t the number one thing we hope to gain from relationships.
It’s happiness. Yet, happiness is an underlying theme of SATC too.
So has dating really changed?
“Look, you’re a successful saleswoman in this city. You have two choices: you can bang your head against the wall and try and find a relationship or you can say SCREW ’EM, and just go out and have sex like a man. …Without feeling.”
— Samantha Jones
As the pilot dances around men versus women in relationships, we learn about the changes in power.
Samantha embodied the change. Female liberation was represented by her unapologetic approach to dating and sex. She was the poster girl, right from the start, of women doing what they want. She was a beacon for women who wanted to assert themselves in relationships.
The pilot opens a debate about modern dating; is there is still a distinction between male dating behaviour and female dating behaviour in 2021?
Is it impossible that the two can’t be the same, nor perceived equal?
Do women still need to declare their independence?
“It’s all about age and Biology. I mean if you wanna get married, it’s to have kids, right? And you don’t wanna do it with someone older than 35 ‘cos then you have to have kids right away and that’s about it. I think these women should just forget about marriage and have a good time.”
— Peter Mason — Advertising Executive — Toxic Batchelor
There is no mistaking the misunderstanding between the men and women of the show. Peter Mason embodies the battle of assumptions between the opposing sexes throughout the series.
2021 is a little less assumptive. More than ever we, men and women, are making our own decisions about when we get married, when we have kids, and how our future looks.
With greater opportunities, like IVF and surrogacy, women aren’t the same thirty-somethings hunting for men. They aren’t as focused on their ‘expiry date’. Nor are they necessarily focused on men, dating or relationships at all.
But do men still think women in their thirties are hunting for husbands? And breeding material?
The men in my life seem a little less focused on the assumptions of women. They seem more fixated on being less assumptive, in fear of putting a foot wrong.
This won’t be the last time SATC will make assumptions about men’s ideals of dating.
Nor will assumptions like this continue to plague our protagonists
Most men are threatened by successful women. If you want to get these guys, you have to keep your mouth shut and play by the rules.
— Charlotte York
The rules of dating underpin the entire six series of SATC. What women should do to find a man, keep the man, and keep them both satisfied.
And the men aren’t exempt from the rules. What men should do in relationships, how they should treat a woman, and what not to do.
The concept of dating rules is ever-changing in this series. As Samantha tries to defy the rules, the romantic Charlotte tries to live by them. Yet, the rules define their relationship attitudes.
Do we still have relationship rules? And are we still playing by them? Is 2021 about making our new rules, or defying the rules?
“Did all men secretly want their women promiscuous and emotionally detached? And if I was really having sex like a man why didn’t I feel more in control?”
— Carrie Bradshaw
Carrie isn’t so sure that this new modern-day approach to dating feels like her. And she is right to feel unsure. It means changing everything she knows about the opposite sex. And approaching her romantic life with optimism, rather than foregone conclusions.
If Carrie is unsure in 1998, how relevant is she in 2021?
What the pilot indicates is an exploration of more questions. More analysis. More possibilities of changing values. That dating isn’t so black and white. And in 2021, this has never been more true.
Which begs the eternal SATC question; do these women have it figured out? Would they survive dating in 2021? Or do their notions of dating still ring true over twenty years later?
Has our dating attitudes and behaviours evolved?
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.
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