SEX & THE CITY was cancelled back in 2004 (15 freakin’ years ago), but nevertheless, a few months back I came across YET ANOTHER article lambasting its protagonist, Carrie Bradshaw, as a negative role model. Like most such editorials, it was written by a woman, and all I could think was, “Why is this a thing?” Why is this iconic character from this pioneering series that prioritized female voices and friendships so maligned by so many? But it is a thing. A big one. Here are just a few handful of article titles that resulted from a quick Google search:
Let’s be Honest, Carrie Bradshaw is the Worst / 21 Reasons Carrie Bradshaw is Actually Really Annoying / 33 Reasons Carie Bradshaw is Annoying / Carrie Bradshaw from Sex & the City is HORRIBLE / The Sex & the City Scenes that Prove Carrie Bradshaw is the Worst / 7 Times Carrie Bradshaw Lied and gave me Unrealistic Expectations (and they just go on and on.)
That’s a whole lot of Carrie-hate.
In most of these Carrie-critiques, her character is taken to task for her perceived failings as presented in itemized lists: how she made this selfish choice in that episode and exhibited that petty behavior in another. To repeat myself: Why is this a thing? If Carrie had no flaws and made no bad decisions, it would make for a mighty boring show. And it’s not as if she’ doesn’t also exhibit many admirable traits and behaviors as well. So why does she foster such ire?
I tried to think of other characters—male, female or otherwise—who get the same unbalanced, hypercritical treatment and came up empty. There are endless downright despicable characters out there in film and TVland, yet most get a free pass for their bad behavior. Heck, some are even lauded for it. Remember Richard Hatch from the first season of Survivor? He won a million bucks for treating other people like shit, setting a whole new precedent that rendered mean, backstabbing behavior the contemporary model for success—and he’s a real life person (then again, he also has a penis.)
And herein lies the real trouble. This Carrie-bashing is symptomatic of a much greater problem: a double standard that requires independent women to exhibit only exemplary, universally likeable behavior or risk being labeled as a pariah. Carrie Bradshaw is by no means without reproach. Nor is Sex & the City without reproach. But both provided much needed female voices in a context that previously was not being heard. And while, yes, the show would have benefited from increased intersectionality, it should not be dismissed without recognition of the progress it did contribute in terms of gender nor singled out for this all too common weakness, especially when so many other contemporary shows/films, fail far more miserably on this front.
So, yes, by all means let’s absolutely discuss the weaknesses—and strengths—of our culture’s most iconic characters. There’s much to learn from this type of discourse. We should also realize that not every character must serve as a role model. We can even go ahead and hate Carrie Bradshaw if that’s honestly how we feel. But we must also realize that when one broadcasts such hatred, when one unfairly singles her out the way so many independent women are unfairly singled out on a daily basis for not satisfying patriarchal expectations of what it means to be “likeable,” one should probably stop and ask, is Carrie Bradshaw really the one who’s the problem here? Personally, I think not.
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