Throughout the series, Sex and the City, many aspects of gender are explored; from the shows resistance of stereotypical gender norms to its hypocritical obliging demeanor to the same typecasts. Sex and the City audiences are exposed to the lives of each of the show’s four strong, independent, female characters. During each hour long episode audiences witness Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha’s struggles with the importance, desire, and influences of men, dating, and marriage (Sohn, 2002). And while they each are uniquely different, they all hold quite different perspectives and beliefs, and because so, act out on those values in varying manners. In doing so, audiences learn that each character, despite however large their attempts to resist it, all are inevitably affected by the pressures to become married. It is through these characters’ trials and tribulations in the department of love which then give birth to and sustain a witty storyline for each episode.
Yet in the writers’ attempts to create an entertaining and clever series, the show’s premise of displaying a close knit group of self reliant, dependent, and successful women as being able to maintain happiness despite their single hood, seems to become challenged. It is each of the characters’ routine dating habits and endless pursuits of future husbands that contradict this message. It is from these conflicting concepts that it is clearly visible that an underlying yearning for marriage lurks within the show’s plot and characters.
With the emergence of women’s independence in today’s society, shows like that of Sex and the City, should celebrate these feminine liberations without feeling the need to still be partially tied and bound to traditional gender stereotypes. If only the creators of “Sex and the City” were confident enough in their message of a woman’s happiness not being directly associated with her dating status, their beliefs, without any contradictions, would then be clearly evident in their show. And because so, in response, through an application of a critical feminist perspective, the incessant and applied need for women to obtain a sense of being whole, and thus complete, through the means of marriage throughout all six seasons of the HBO series Sex and the City, will be uncovered and explored.
The careful study of episodes from all six seasons of Sex and the City will allow for further analysis of gender stereotypes within the show’s context. In addition to analytically studying DVD’s of each series, Ann Sohn’s composition of “Sex and the City” episode summaries, quotes, interviews and facts, titled Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell, will also play of key importance in divulging into the inner layers of the show. Both will then allow for each character and their perception of marriage to be looked at closely and critically. This examination will also take into consideration how each of the characters are affected and treated by others because of their dating status. As well as looking at the concerns of the four main characters, other influential and regular characters on the series will be observed to expose their stances on marriage and how they go about expressing them. And from this research I will prove that the show perpetuates traditional gender stereotypes despite their efforts to break free of them.
On the surface level of Sex and the City, audiences are persuaded in believing that just like the four female characters of the show, they too can embrace and enjoy single hood. “Many fans celebrate ‘Sex and the City’ for showing fully liberated women acting on their sexual desires without guilt or inhibition” (Hymowitz, 88). By displaying the show’s female characters as successful, happy, and confident on the outside, audiences are given the notion that being single is quite alright. By depicting the characters in such a way, the show allows for much of its female audience to feel connected because of their single status as well. Today the percentage of women not opting for marriage is on the rise. “More than 40% of all adults females (that’s 43 million women) are single, including 35% of females in the ‘marriageable’ age range of 25-55; this is up from the 1963 statistic of 17% of unwed mothers in the 25-55 age range” (Vause, 77). Sex and the City gained much popularity because it was directed to a population which is growing in size; single, independent women. A recent wide range study that followed 40,000 people born in 1946, 1958, and 1970 showed that the generation of women now in their thirties have higher incomes and a better education (Barlow, 2003). The show makes tremendous efforts to prove that singledom is something to be celebrated, not dreaded- a message cheered by unattached women closing in on middle age (Sotonoff, 2004). Despite their attempts to break away from the norm, the show projects the same debilitating gender stereotypes that have existed for many, many years.
Premiering six years ago, in June of 1998 on HBO, Sex and the City gained massive popularity by audiences worldwide because of its brave and bold attempts to tackle previously shunned taboo topics. Praised with numerous Golden Globe awards, a Golden Satellite award, a Grace Allen award, as well as a list of others, proves that Sex and the City has not only gained popularity but has been commended by critics and colleagues of all sorts (Sohn, 2002). The ingenious idea of Sex and the City was one that was formed within the mind of Darren Star, the creative mastermind behind Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. Star admired the way The Mary Tyler Moore Show and That Girl both told a story about a character (Sohn, 2002). He took that inspiration and ran with it. After recruiting Murphy Brown and Cybil writer, Michael Patrick King, as well as Cindy Chupack, and Seinfeld writer, Jenny Bicks, Star began to see his vision becoming clearer and clearer (Sohn, 2002). It is these four writers who have given birth to and sustained the comedic and outrageously quirky lives of all the characters who have graced the set of Sex and the City.
By using events in which the writers themselves have actually experienced, this writing dream team has been able to produce a show which has possessed the ability to touch the lives of its audience members because of its authenticity and replication of real life (Sohn, 2002). Michael Patrick King talks about the writing process stating that, “Everything you see pretty much comes from the emotional life of one of us. For a month, all we do is talk about our lives, and then we put it all on the writers’ board, and it forms the season” (Sohn, 34). Sarah Jessica Parker explains what sparked her interest in the show when she was approached by Darren Star with the script,
“Some of the original elements of the show that first attracted me were the fresh voice of a very specific single woman in a very specific city; the candid, forthright, and intimate relationships of four women; the uniqueness and importance of these friendships; the heartbreaks, hopes, loneliness, and triumphs of being single; and the way in which we illustrate our love for our home, New York City. We have tried to remain true to these elements while continuing to grow and challenge ourselves to reflect the passing years and the changes in our city” (Sohn, 7).
The show also tackles a broad range of feminist issues, including single motherhood, abortion, homosexuality, and the glass ceiling, making it a show that can relate to individuals of all sorts (Vause, 2003). And by doing so, the writers have been able to forge bonds between audience and characters. “The fashion, the girl-talk, and the love affairs were all over the top, but ‘Sex’ became an Emmy award-winning comedy and pop culture phenomenon because women could relate to the characters” (Sotonoff, 1). And it is the show’s focus of the dating antics of its four main characters: best friends Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha which create such a unity between characters and audience. Star seems to capture the essence of this bond in saying, “On Sex and the City, you’ve got a group of characters who live in a world that the audience participates vicariously. […] People watch the show and think, yeah, that’s me. That’s my situation” (Sohn, 36). Not only have these situations caused for realizations to be generated within in audience members but the show’s staff as well. Sex and the City writer and co-executive producer, Cundy Chupack recalls,
“When I started the show, I was thirty-two and single and felt more of a stigma about being single because all my friends were starting to get married and have kids. But now I feel like these might be the best years of my life, or at least the funniest and most fabulous. When the Time magazine cover came out with our four girls on it, with the headline “Who Needs a Husband?” I remember thinking that the climate had changed for singles, partly because of the show” (Sohn, 38).
And it is the fact that each of the thirty something year old characters take pride in the fact that they are educated and successful, and most importantly have reached such status completely on their own, allows for women all over to relate.
Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, is by far the character in which most women seem to immediately identify and relate to the most (Sohn, 2002). She is beautiful, trend setting, down to earth, and a beloved newspaper sex columnist. She is the woman everyone seems to want to be like and the one everyone wants to have as a friend. Witty, fun, lovable, Carrie seems to possess the qualities which every man desires in a woman (Sohn, 2002). In her heart she is a helpless romantic who wishes to find the right man, but at the same time Carrie struggles to maintain her independence (Sohn, 2002). In the first season of the show we see her want to be her own independent and strong woman, yet she helplessly falls for Mr. Big and gets herself get lost in the infatuation he encompasses her with. And upon finding a man whom makes her fall head over heels, something she has sought out for for years on end, and despite her preconceived notations of love, she finds herself miserably unhappy (Sohn, 2002). Again just a couple seasons later we see Carrie within another relationship, this time with a furniture designer by the name of Aidan Shaw. While he one of the most faithful, honest, and true men who has ever graced Carrie’s presence, despite his persona of perfection Carrie in the end breaks off their prolonged engagement (Sohn, 2002). Through her two most serious relationships as well as her seasonal flings and mindless one night stands, viewers see Carrie learning more and more about her own views of men, marriage, and love.
Of the four friends, Cynthia Nixon’s character, Miranda Hobbes is the glass-is-half-empty, men are the enemy, nothing-goes-right-for-me pessimist. She is bitter, angry, independent, and most importantly an extremely accomplished New York City lawyer (Sohn, 2002). She has gotten to where she is completely on her own and she wants everyone to be aware of that. She supports herself, bought her own Manhattan apartment, and takes care of herself just fine on her own. And though she goes on one date after another, she finds something to criticize about every man. Her mentality on the unfair perceptions of men and women that she is constantly being scrutinized by, can be best summarized in her quote, “A thirty-four-year-old guy with no money and no place to live, because he’s single, he’s a catch. But a thirty-four-year-old woman with a job and a great home, because she’s single, is considered tragic” (Sohn, 87). Why she continues to date despite her apparent agony is quite puzzling to most, making Miranda’s repeated dating habits extremely contradicting.
Charlotte York, played by Kristin Davis, is a natural beauty to his desperately in search of one thing, her soul mate (Sohn, 2002). She is a strong believer in love and cannot wait until she meets her future husband (Sohn, 2002). One of her longstanding rules is that “women really just want to be rescued” (Sohn, 45). This rule that Charlotte helplessly lives by can be classified as a mythic convention. And it is mythic patterns like such that marginalize and entrap women because they depict them as passive (Hart, 1997. An example of such passiveness and yearning for completion can be seen in that with every man Charlotte encounters she immediately envisions their future together to see if they could in fact be right for one another (Sohn, 2002). Charlotte is the hopeless romantic who tries to keep a happy face on at all times. She is giddy, traditional, and always attempting to find the positive attributes in every man. She encourages dating and the belief of love in her three best friends’ lives because she wants marriage to grace their lives just as much as she wishes it would grace her own (Sohn, 2002).
Samantha is the say anything, do anything, sexually charged, promiscuous girl in the group. She defines herself as the woman who can have sex like a man, which as she sees it, is plainly without feeling (Sohn, 2002). Just as the stereotypical male, she has no desire for marriage, love, or even the title of a girlfriend, and at all costs she tries her hardest to stay farthest away from all three (Sohn, 2002). According to Samantha, “Marriage doesn’t guarantee a happy ending. Just an ending” (Sohn, 2002). She chooses to merely engage in sex with any and often times every man, for solely the sake of a good time with no pursuits of any furthering their brief encounter. Her distaste of relationships can be seen in a conversation with her lesbian lover Maria. As they took a bath together, Maria questioned, “Is this a relationship?” And with no hesitation, Samantha sarcastically remarked, “Well, it’s tedious and the sex is dwindling, so from what I’ve heard, yes” (Sohn, 2002). Another instance which shows Samantha’s hostility towards commitment comes from a scene where Carrie is complaining about her boyfriend, Aidan. Carrie tells Samantha that hers and Aidan’s night went as follows, “He fell asleep, and I watched gay porn.” With a smirk on her face Samantha snaps back, “That’s what happens when people say ‘I love you'” (Sohn, 2002). These negative views of relationships that Samantha seems to believe so strongly in, may in fact stem from the one and only previous relationship she engaged in years earlier, one which she was left devastatingly hurt in the end (Sohn, 2002). Yet, as much as Samantha blocks a wall around her heart, within the show’s course of six seasons Samantha unexpectedly find her self falling in love on two separate occasions.
It is these four women’s views on love and their individual experiences with men, dating, and marriage which share one commonality, the way in which gender stereotypes are so typically perpetuated within the show. It seems as if Sex and the City is set out to portray all of the four characters as completely on their own, living successful lives without the influence of a man in any of their lives. Yet, by taking a closer look and exploring the show with a critical feminist perspective, an underlying message of gender stereotypes can surprisingly be found lying beneath the show’s surface.
When taking on the perspective of a feminist critic, the rhetor is attempting to uncover a trend of domination which takes place involving some form of identity within an artifact, in this particular case, gender. “Feminist criticism is the analysis of rhetoric to discover how the rhetorical construction of gender is used as a means for domination and how that process can be challenged so all people understand that they have the capacity to claim agency and act in the world as they choose” (Foss, 157). The main focus of feminist critics is “on the rhetorical process by which these qualities come to seem unnatural and ways in which that naturalness can be called into question” (Foss, 157).
A critical feminist critic is concerned with uncovering what a particular artifact portrays as the standard and appropriate behavior for both women and men. In doing so feminist critics “do not introduce politics into a text but expose the politics already there” (Hart, 287). Within Sex and the City one can look at and dissect the role of men being the sole beings who hold the key to achieving a sense of completion and happiness in a woman’s life. The women in the series are seen as not being entirely “whole” when they are hampered with the status of “single.” The characters’ desire to find a soul mate perpetuates the American idea of marriage equaling a sense of happiness for women while being a burden upon the lives of men. While the women of the show persistently date, the men that they encounter oftentimes are frightened by the thought of marriage and instead idolize the bachelor lifestyle. “You may discover that women are portrayed in an artifact in ways that accord with particular forms of male interest–they are depicted, for example, as sexual objects for men” (Foss, 158). Indeed this stereotype of women being at the disposal of men can be seen and further analyzed within the show, since it is mainly the women that are seeking out companions.
Another aspect of the feminist perspective is that there is a gendered, subject position offered to the audience. While in most artifacts the audience is asked to relate to a masculine position, Sex and the City instead takes on a feminine viewpoint through its main characters’ narratives. While the way in which the audience views the show comes from the eyes of four women, masculine influences still come into play. In a way men seem to run the lives of the female characters. Their moods, emotions, and course of events throughout each day are often altered in part because of a man. Whether they are fighting with their mate, on the lookout for a new, potential date, or are attempting to make time for a man within their hectic schedules, the women’s days are constructed and altered in some shape or form around a man.
Three continuous main themes are evident within the series, Sex and the City. It is these themes that will be used as the units of analysis to reveal the gender stereotypes that present themselves within the show. Throughout the series each of the four main characters as well as several of their other friends and acquaintances share one commonality; they each are in search of a man and ultimately marriage. “The ‘Sex and the City’ girls had ambivalent feelings toward marriage, on one hand avoiding all of its trappings but yet always viewing it as the ultimate goal” (Sotonoff, 1). This search signifies that they lack feeling confident with themselves and their single status and because so, need a man. Also, marriage in itself is often glorified by the female characters and is seen as something that will enable them to reach a sense of completion and wholeness. While the women of the show hold marriage as a much desirable state, the male characters are portrayed as both fearful and reluctant to get married. Because there is such a reinforcement of these ideas, they seem to prove that they are not only important grounds to which the show is based on, but ideal issues that will enable one to better analyze the show.
While Sex and the City revolves around four strong, successful women, their pride of being independent is questioned by audiences because of their routine dating habits. In each episode audiences are exposed to each of the character’s revolving door of dates, it then proposes the question, “Are these women really content with themselves?”
In season two, episode four ever so properly named, “They Shoot Single People, Don’t They?” we see Carrie being offered to appear on the cover of New York Magazine. After sleeping through her call time, she arrives at the shoot looking hung over, tired, and completely worn from the late night she had just endured. She dismisses her appearance in thoughts that her hair and make up would instead be done for her by the magazines team of experts. Instead upon entering the shoot, cigarette still in hand, she is thrown in front of the camera only to have some of her worst photographs taken. Thinking that the issue was going to be dedicated to being fabulous and single, when her cover premiers she finds herself looking washed out and ragged with the bold lettering, Single and Fabulous? printed beneath her. That one piece of punctuation allowed for much talk amongst all four of the characters. They were then thrown the idea that is being single all that great. The way in which Carrie was depicted as unattractive and terribly unkempt seemed to mock one’s status of being single. Purposefully photographing her in such a way allowed for other single readers of the magazine to question their own identity and self worth. What many may have overlooked was that if she was not in fact single would she look any better and why? How indeed could a man have vamped up her appearance? Would she then have someone to impress instead of letting herself go because she has given up on the search for a man? That simple question mark which replaced the directness of a period allowed for many to review their own selves and dating lives. And it is this questioning of how wonderful single hood can be that is presented in many ways throughout the show. While this particular episode approached it in a very direct manner with its focus on the question mark, others tip toe around it allowing it to covertly be present through the storylines.
Another instance in which the single status is portrayed negatively comes from a conversation that the four girls are having within season one, episode three, “Bay of Married Pigs.” Charlotte, the desperate romantic, finds herself hating the stigma that being status brings to her and brings up the issue while they all enjoy breakfast at their local coffee shop.
- Charlotte: “I hate it when you’re the only single person at a dinner party and they all look at you like you’re a-“
- Carrie: “Loser?”
- Miranda: “Leper.”
- Samantha: “Whore” (Sohn, 2002).
Not only does this conversation revolve around the way in which those that are married view singles, but the punctuation in the conversation is quite interesting as well. The way in which Carrie offers her response in the form of a question may signify that she is in somewhat of a denial that being single is all that bad, while both Miranda and Samantha, as indicated in their use of periods, use affirmative statements demonstrating that they have already come to their conclusions and firmly stand on the grounds which they believe.
Another example of questioning one’s single status and searching for acceptance comes from one of Carrie’s many quandaries. In one episode as Carrie sits in front of her laptop searching for words to write in her next column, her thoughts are narrated in the form of a voiceover, and she ponders,
“What if Prince Charming had never shown up? Would Snow White have slept in the glass coffin forever? Or would she have eventually woken up, spit out the apple, gotten a job, a health-care package, and a baby from her local neighborhood sperm bank? I couldn’t help but wonder: inside every confident, driven single woman, is there a delicate, fragile princess just waiting to be saved” (Sohn, 2002).
Carrie’s thoughts bring up many ideas. Carrie touches upon the fact that the women of today are in fact successful and achieving what many women never fathomed that they could, but despite all their accomplishments are they truly happy? It seems that Carrie brings up the question of would all these successful and single women trade in their achievements for love? Deep down within each of these self motivated and talented women is there a yearning for a man? While these women are proving what was once thought of as unimaginable, are they really feeling a lack of complete self because of the absence of a man in their lives? Carrie’s thoughts provoke the idea Sleeping Beauty lived out what every woman dreams of and if that had never happened would she instead have to in a way settle for the next best thing-getting it all done on her own? And if so, is being single and accomplished just “the next best thing?”
This same idea of women wanting to escape their single hood also brings about the issue that marriage ensures women a sense of wholeness. This can be witnessed in season four, episode three, “Attack of the Five-Foot-Ten-Inch Woman.” As the girl’s sit and have coffee they converse in how depressing marriage is for them it breaks into,
Carrie’s voiceover: “There are very few things that this New Yorker loves more than Sunday brunch. You can sleep until noon and still get eggs anywhere in the city. Alcohol is often included in the meal. And Sunday is the one day in the week when you get the single woman’s sports pages, “The New York Times Wedding Section.” As Charlotte sits reading the paper she blurts out in disbelief and disgust, “This is so depressing the oldest woman on this page is 27!” As the group of girls discuss how depressed that little marriage factoid has made them, Charlotte continues reading, “Until recently the bride, 24, worked as an account supervisor at Ogglebee and Nader. Twenty four!!!” Sarcastically the four women discuss how they love it that so many of the wedding announcements make use of the phrase, “Until recently the bride…” Carrie offers her own insight saying, “Meaning she quit her job once she found her soul mate slash investment banker.” Miranda bitterly states her interpretation, “It’s so retro. Okay I have a big rock on my finger now I can stop pretending I care about my career.” And after much laughter from all four women, Samantha jokes, “Until recently the bride had a life of her own” (Sohn, 2002).
What the audience witnesses is the fact that once a woman marries she then loses her identity in her husband. It is as if once a woman marries her independent lifestyle must be bid adieu. This just proves that the traditional views of men as the sole breadwinner in a household are still alive in the minds of many. Another example of this can be seen in season four, episode seven, “Time and Punishment.” As the girls sit around their favorite coffee shop having brunch Charlotte interrupts Carrie asking if she can change the subject. She then proceeds to announce that she is thinking about quitting her job at the art gallery. Shocked by her contemplating leaving her much loved job, the women question her as to why. Fumbling for an excuse Charlotte says, “I’ve been driving myself crazy lately just trying to get everything done, and Trey suggested…” Disgusted by the words that seemed to escape Charlotte’s mouth, Miranda slyly questions her saying, “Trey suggested?” And becoming more nervous as to her friend’s reactions Charlotte attempts to justify her choice saying, “Well, he mentioned maybe I might quit. And really I have been driving myself crazy and for what? The gallery? What has the gallery ever done for me?” Carrie reminds her that she should stay because she truly loves her job. Still trying to make up excuses Charlotte rambles on, “Well, soon I’ll be pregnant and that’ll be huge, plus I’m redecorating the apartment and I always wanted to take one of those Indian cooking classes, and sometimes I’ll walk by those Color Me Mine pottery places and I’ll see a woman having just a lovely afternoon glazing a bowl” (Sohn, 2002).
Here audiences see Charlotte turning into one of the women that Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and herself all have hated. Charlotte was now reconsidering leaving her once beloved job because it had been suggested to her by her husband Trey. Another interesting element to Charlotte’s ordeal is the reasons in which she justifies leaving her job. All of the ways in which she attempts to rationalize her decision seem to fall into the traditional views of females. She first uses the excuse that she will soon be pregnant. By saying so she dismisses the notion that in America today women still work both while pregnant and after giving birth. Her second justification is that she is currently redecorating their apartment, another job that is typically assigned to women. Charlotte then goes on to say she has always wanted to learn how to cook Indian food. Cooking is almost often associated with women as well. All the reasons Charlotte had listed fit into the stereotypical female role. She was leaving her successful position as an art gallery director, something which screamed self earned independence a quality often associated with males, to instead be casted into the predictable house wife role. It is as if Charlotte’s hard work, dedication, and passion for the gallery no longer mattered once she married Trey. This particular situation can be seen as a perfect example of a mythic convention. Because so, this episode of Sex and the City can be considered as entrapping for women, just as fairy tales and romance novels are (Hart, 1997). It can be labeled a mythic convention because it, along with fairy tales and romance novels, “‘Do nothing to challenge [women’s] separation from one another brought about by the patriarchal culture’s insistence that they never work in the public world to maintain themselves as the property and responsibility of men'”(Hart, 289). And it seems as if Charlotte, and most of the other women portrayed in the show, work extremely hard to get where they are, with their only motivation being that they know getting there is the next best thing to marriage. And as unfortunate as it is, once they achieve what they had always really wanted, marriage, they quickly forget what they had strived so hard for.
While the majority of the women in the show dream of finding their soul mate, the men depicted within the show seem to feel just the opposite. It seems that the male characters are fearful of love, commitment, and marriage. In the “Evolution,” the eleventh episode of the second season, as Carrie begins dating Big again, she wishes that he would want to “let her in.” In Carrie’s terms, she wanted to be able to keep some feminine items, like a blow dryer and face wash, at Big’s to not only make things more convenient in the morning, but to also make her mark and know that she is reaching a new level with him and their relationship. Upon her attempt to leave a handful of personal items behind at his apartment, Big instead returns to pick her up for a date with a bag of goodies in hand. The goodies were the items she had left. After doing so, Carrie contemplates, “What is it about Big’s apartment? Nothing ever sticks. It’s like Teflon for women” (Sohn, 2002). By Big rejecting the idea of Carrie’s stuff being left at his apartment he is in a way rejecting the seriousness of the relationship. Carrie’s items are an extension of herself, and because so he is rejecting her and her hopes of a closer and more intimate relationship.
Big’s rejection of seriousness also can be seen in his avoidance of returning Carrie’s “I love you.” After constant fretting and days of losing herself in utter confusion as to why Big will not say it back to her, Carrie receives a phone call early one morning. On the other line was Big. Without even a simple “Hello,” Big spouted out to Carrie, “Listen. I know what you are really pissed off about. But it’s just something I’ve gotta do in my own time! Okay? Well, I fucking love you! All right? You know I do….But it’s just a tough thing for me to say, because it always seems to get me in trouble…when I say it. Okay?” And with a smile that emitted a sense of relief, Carrie replied with a simple, “Okay” (Sohn, 52).
This can also be seen with all of the men that each of the four women date casually. Most seem to want nothing more than sex, a characteristic associated primarily with men. For example in season one, episode three, “The Monogamists,” Charlotte is told that her current boyfriend can no longer go on dating her if she continues to refuse performing oral sex on him (Sohn, 2002). In “Valley of the 20-Something Guys,” the fourth episode of the same season, Charlotte is broken up with because she would not engage in anal sex because she feared doing so would label her as “Mrs. Up the Butt” (Sohn, 2002). In episode five of the same season, “the Power of Female Sex,” Carrie dates a French architect who ends up leaving her three thousand dollars after having sex with her. In all of the instances the men were only dating the women for the purposes of sex and only sex (Sohn, 2002). This seems to be a continuous theme that runs solidly through most of the male characters that are introduced into the show. These men represent the stereotypical male persona as being sexual, and often times aggressive when it comes to their acts of sex.
For a show whose four main characters are successful, professional females who all have thriving and flourishing lives which have been constructed on their own, such prideful personas are continually contradicted throughout the whole show. This then makes for a quite controversial questioning of the writer’s intents. While the characters on the outside project independence and a hope for women to receive full equality in the future, the actions that these characters partake in take away from this liberating statement. Through their endless pursuits of a husband, dating routines, and men acting as their mood elevators, the four female characters on this show are allowing for the men in their lives to hold a substantial amount of power over themselves. And because in all of the episodes of Sex and the City traditional gender views are depicted within each of the characters, audiences must decide for themselves whether or not these women are in fact content with being single. It is these women and their undying yearning for a husband to complete them, despite their own self acquired successes, which seem to signify the most conventional of gender stereotypes.
After looking closely at the perspectives of marriage which are perpetuated throughout Sex and the City I conclude that despite the show’s portrayal of the advancement in women’s independence, gender stereotypes still seem to lurk within the plot and the characters. It is quite discouraging that a show, whose foremost intent was to display four successful, single women, still has to resort back to the notion that men have superiority in this world. In doing so, the show continues to reinforce the disgrace that no matter what lengths women begin to reach on their own, they will always be burdened with the stigma of traditional feminine stereotypes, more specifically that a man completes a woman. And because so, marriage continues to hold a rein over the lives and emotions of women, leaving them feeling inadequate and unfulfilled when single. Instead of being content with the accomplishments and achievements that they have earned, women today are still not granting themselves full recognition of their triumphs because they simply lack a husband. Until women can learn to first love themselves, they will not be able to feel fulfilled simply by being loved by someone else.
Through this careful examination of Sex and the City, it can be seen that the world is still far from reaching equality between the sexes. If shows which try and highlight the wonders and joys of singledom amongst modern women, still fall victim to gender stereotypes, then it can be seen that there is still quite a long way down that road to equality that still needs to be traveled. Because of this tragedy, other forms of media, whether it be television series, movies, or song lyrics, must take note that there needs to be an emergence of independent and strong women in order to break away from these gender stereotypes which are putting a strain on women of all ages in our society. Women need to be granted respect, power, and authority in our various forms of communication and media without feeling ashamed in doing so. And as these great women emerge they need to be embraced by society with open arms, instead of being shunned for their initiative and bravery.
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