6 Episodes of “Sex and the City” That Made This Millennial Cringe

Binge-watching the HBO show in this current political climate, it’s impossible to ignore the glaring missteps the creators took.

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!!”

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Moving on.

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 propsonly 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 dresseseverything 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 saira@highstrung.com. Now, back to binge-watching!

How 3 New TV Shows Get F*cking Right

How “Insecure,” “Fleabag” and “Chewing Gum” get messy, dimpled, and quite often un-sexy sex right.

By Frida Oskarsdottir

 

According to everyone writing about it, we are in the Golden Age of Television™. TV has gotten smarter, more diverse, andbest of all for us slutty monogamists who are forced to sleep around through otherssexier. Networks like HBO have always been able to spice it up a little more than cable, but in the last few years there has been a unanimous push to portray sex as it really ismessy, dimpled, and quite often un-sexy. We also see much more of sex and intimacy from women’s points of view, and not just women searching for lovesometimes it’s just women searching for the D.

These forays come as a welcome corrective to the good ol’ “women with completely symmetrical breasts and very few speaking lines orgasming in 45 seconds despite being in extremely uncomfortable positions” trope (“Sopranos,” I love you endlessly but I’m looking at you). There will always be the soft lens, sensual lovemaking followed by both parties’ private bits strategically covered with clean linen sheets. There will always be the overly ecstatic gasps despite what appears to be minimal clitoral stimulation. But there will also be honest-to-god cellulite, repositioning, and sweat that isn’t dewy. Variety is good.

In thinking about my favorite TV shows of the past year, I realized how uniquely and creatively sex was used as a plot device and sometimes even a secondary character. I put some of these recent binges (sorry not sorry that they’re all female-led) through the sex-machine to explore the role f*cking plays in each through a few select moments.

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“Insecure” (HBO): There’s a lot to love about Issa’s world. The men are smoking hot, the women are flawed and complex, and the music is always on point. Issa is so often in her mind that much of the show’s portrayal of sexuality is through her fantasies. This might be why when she does finally hook up with the one-that-got-away-with-his-8-pack it is essentially a real life wet dream, complete with slow thrusts and an almost unbelievably toned butt (CGI?). The scene itself is a more traditional Hollywood-version of sex, but in the context of the show it works just right as a way of portraying her temptation. The penultimate scene of Season 1 parallels this, when Lawrence finally gives into his demons with a flirty bank teller in retaliation against Issa. The sex itself is basically porn — all tennis grunts and “daddy’s” — but the viewer can’t help but feel his pain while watching it.

Another stand-out scene follows Issa’s best friend, Molly, as she decides she just can’t stick with nice-guy Jared despite their obvious chemistry. Her discomfort with his previous sexual experiences with men comes to a head (wink, wink) while he’s going down on her. The camera angle and his bobbing allow Molly to see exactly what a man might see when receiving fellatio, and it’s all a bit too much. It’s also riotously funny and somehow a little melancholy at the same time, better known as great TV.

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“Fleabag” (Amazon Original): In “Fleabag,” the eponymous protagonist has an active sex life, which could skew young and carefree. Fleabag may be young, but her cares pile up as high as someone who has lived through a lot of tragedies, which we learn she has. Suddenly, boning a guy you just met up against the counter in a restaurant isn’t so spontaneous and quirky; the more you watch, the more sadness imbues her actions until you end up ugly-crying into your mug of wine. Like most of her behavior, her sex is impulsive and occasionally fraught with regret even as it’s happening.

Lika Issa in “Insecure,” Fleabag also has a lively inner monologue which the viewer experiences as spoken aloud even in conversations with others, and even mid-coitus. We learn firsthand exactly what she’s thinking before, during, and after sex because she tells us, or sometimes, asks us, “Do I have a massive arsehole?”

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“Chewing Gum” (Channel 4; Netflix): Tracey, the 24-year-old cashier and enthusiast of basically everything, is one of my favorite TV characters from the last 5 years. She’s so RAW. Given that the media’s portrayal of older virgins is often as pathetic, neutered puritans, Tracey’s horniness for life is as refreshing as it is hysterical. Her manic curiosity about sexuality is unleashed in Episode 1, when she is mercifully dumped by her gay Christian boyfriend. She takes control of her own destiny with the cute guy down the way with the help of a more experienced friend and, of course, Beyoncé. Following her friend’s advice to “sit on his face,” Tracey forgets to first take off her pants and underwear. This could be a metaphor for the rest of the season. Oh, Tracey, never change.

Virginity continues to play a role throughout the series in anything but typical fashion. While Tracey is eager to jump over what she sees as a hurdle to sexual liberation, she plays by her own rules, seeking reciprocal pleasure rather than simply penetration. One of the better — although admittedly hard to watch — scenes includes her, cutie Connor, and a “Unicorn” called Sasha, plucked from a threesome app in an attempt to help Connor see Tracey as a sexual being ready to bloom. What ensues with Sasha isn’t what they had in mind, but it does lead to an important moment between Tracey and Connor that allows Tracey to put herself and her desires at the forefront of their intimacy, traditional sex roles be damned.

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