By Saira Khan
I’m about two-thirds through rewatching the “Sex and the City.” And boy, do I have some thoughts.
Look, I know much has been written and said about the problematic things in this show. So why do I keep rewatching, you ask? Because it makes me laugh, and it makes me cry. It’s a damn good show. But I do find myself shaking my head at the same things every time I rewatch it (like how every brown person on this fucking show has a goddamn accent). And in the current political environment–when we are more alert than ever about identity, casual racism, and internalized misogyny–it’s impossible to ignore the glaring missteps “Sex and the City” took. And so, I made you a list of a few episodes that absolutely do not stand the test of time.
As a way to ease into this journey, let’s take a moment to gawk at Carrie’s fucking Allah necklace. Let’s add this to the long list of Things You’ll Never See on TV Again At Least Until Ivanka Trump Is President. On one hand I’m like, “O.K., breathe,” (it was the past, we’ve come a long way since then), on the other I’m screaming “APPROPRIATION!!”
All plot lines courtesy Wikipedia.
“Politically Erect,” Season 3, Episode 2.
Plot line: Carrie wonders if there can be sex without politics, while Miranda and Steve assess their level of commitment.
Essential Quote: “I always vote for candidates according to their looks.” -Samantha
Every episode of “Sex and the City” fails the Bechdel test but this one is especially atrocious. We all have friends with whom we talk about sex and our love interests…but we also talk about race, social justice, movies, books, and, yes, politics! Not only does this episode make it seem like women are incapable of talking about anything other than men, Samantha proudly proclaims that she votes for the president based on how attractive he is. Sigh. The fact that our current President is a former reality-TV show host and that 53% of white women voted for him is not lost on me.
“Boy, Girl”: Season 3, Episode 4
Plot line: Carrie’s new love interest turns out to be bisexual; Charlotte’s male alter ego is unleashed; Miranda feels suffocated by Steve.
Essential Quote: “I’m not even sure bisexuality exists. I think it’s just a layover on the way to Gay Town.” -Carrie
I hate everything about this episode.
Let’s start with Carrie. How is it that a fucking sex columnist doesn’t understand bisexuality? What? She seems 100 years old, going above and beyond to be awkward and judgmental. Fuck off, Carrie. Sorry (not sorry) there’s a glitch in your white heteronormative matrix. But also, fuck off everyone. Please watch the conversation below and cringe in horror with me.
“No Ifs, Ands or Butts”: Season 3, Episode 35
Plot line: Carrie’s smoking becomes a problem when she goes on her first date with Aidan Shaw. Miranda makes more time for Steve in her life. Charlotte dates the worst kisser she’s ever met. Samantha dates a black man whose sister is prejudiced.
Essential quote: “It’s not black talk, it’s African American talk” -Samantha
Oh boy. Holy crap. This episode feels more unreal every time I watch it. The show, which premiered in 1998, came on the heels of “Seinfeld” and “Friends.” In her book “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” Issa Rae describes this new era of TV and the erasure of people of color:
“…as the decade made way for the new millennium, cable exploded with its own original content and film studios began to obsess over international box office sales. Somewhere along the line, we became unrelatable and invisible to the Hollywood system. Our images and diverse portrayals just weren’t worth the dollars and effort anymore. The images I had grown so accustomed to seeing slowly disappeared, and it seemed to happen all at once.”
People of color were reduced from being protagonists to props—only seen in the background, on the street, rarely speaking? This may explain why we see few POCs on “Sex and the City” but it sure as hell doesn’t explain how the first actual role black people had on the show involved bigotry against whites. Are you fucking kidding me? And for the record, just because a bunch of white people say they don’t think something is racist doesn’t mean it isn’t fucking racist.
From the way she speaks, to the way she dresses—everything about Samantha in this episode is total bullshit.
“Cock a Doodle Doo”: Season 3, Episode 18
Plot line: Carrie meets with Big for the first time since his marriage ended. Miranda gets frustrated when she thinks the Chinese take-out girl mocks her stay-at-home lifestyle. Charlotte moves back into her old apartment and gets an up-lifting visit from Trey in the middle of the night. Samantha feuds with the raucous transsexual prostitutes who conduct business outside her apartment at two in the morning.
Essential Quote: “I am paying a fortune to live in a neighborhood that’s trendy by day and tranny by night.” -Samantha
Talk about transphobic. I know this show was written in the early 2000s, but shit. Watching this now, I cringe so hard at the language they use to talk about trans women. In fact, it’s so shitty I don’t even want to get into it. Just watch the clip. And by the way, you know they ended this episode? With Samantha inviting the ladies she’s trash talking to a rooftop party to drink flirtinis!!! We can all go to bed happy now.
“The Agony and the ‘Ex’-tacy”: Season 4, Episode 1
Plot line: Carrie thinks about men and the future when no one shows up for her birthday party. Miranda confronts her married friends about her single life. Charlotte tries to deal with her separation from Trey. Samantha tries to seduce a celibate monk.
Essential Quote: “How old are you? Look, you don’t have to give an exact number; pick a box… Thirty to thirty-five, thirty-five to forty, forty to forty-five. Really? Forty to forty-five.” -Carrie
I have one qualm with this episode. Carrie dated Mr. Big for two years and had an affair with him and yet, SHE DOESN’T KNOW HOW OLD HE IS? No, I don’t buy it. What kind of bizarre relationship is this? Who doesn’t know how old their significant other is? I get it if you just met but two years? Get out of here.
“Baby, Talk Is Cheap,” Season 4, Episode 6
Plot line: Charlotte and Trey (Kristin Davis, Kyle MacLachlan) agree to take an important step together; Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is reunited with an old love.
Essential Quote: “Oh my God, he’s online! Can he see me?” -Carrie
How in the world does Carrie not understand how the internet works? Can he see me? Really? This scene just adds to how stupid the show makes women look. Fast forward, please.
Given the attention this show has been paid, this is far from a comprehensive list. But I’d love to hear from you about your more recent “uh..what?” moments when revisiting Sex and the City. If you have any episodes or scenes that you find especially problematic, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, back to binge-watching!