I couldn't help but wonder if any of it was real ...

By Olivia-Anne Cleary
Jul 14, 2020 @ 3:55 pm
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To say I am a fan of Sex and the City would be an understatement. I worshipped the show from the moment I was introduced to Manhattan’s finest. On my first trip to New York City in 2007, in celebration of my 16th birthday, I excitedly joined the masses on a SATC tour, where I got to pose for a photo sitting on Carrie Bradshaw’s stoop — an absolute must for a true fan.  I became hooked on the show as a young teen — one of the perks of having an older sister. When my mum booked the tour for us, I couldn’t believe my luck. Yes, visiting the sex shop where Charlotte infamously purchased The Rabbit — you remember, the “cute” pink vibrator she became obsessed with — was a tad awkward, but it was also hilarious. Not to mention, we were treated to cupcakes at the landmark Magnolia Bakery, before sipping on Cosmopolitans at a bar. As a born and raised Londoner, Manhattan was, in my eyes, the only place that could match the vivaciousness of the city I called home. And as an aspiring journalist, watching Carrie live out her writing dreams, and having such a fabulous time doing it, inspired me to one day do the same. 

When I left home a couple years later, the only thing that concerned me was the thought of leaving behind my family and friends. Would I be able to make meaningful connections in a place so far from home? As anyone who has lived in a city will know, it’s very easy to feel lonely, despite being surrounded by people. I was comforted by the fact that Carrie, Samantha and co. were able to form such a strong bond. Years after my trip to NYC, when I moved to Los Angeles to study abroad at UCLA, the thought of the ladies’ friendship gave me a renewed sense of confidence as I set about making my own long-lasting connections.

While the enviable wardrobes and cosmopolitan lifestyles of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte undoubtedly attracted me to the series, it was the unwavering sisterhood between the women that had the biggest impact on me. Yes, there were a lot of sexploits along the way, but the crux of the show was always the ladies’ friendship. 

It was established early on that the leading female characters would serve as each other’s true soulmates. As Mr. Big said in the penultimate episode, “A guy is just lucky to come in fourth.” Of course, I’m fully aware SATC is a fictional series. Just because Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall’s on-screen personas, Carrie and Samantha, are the best of friends, that doesn’t mean the actresses were necessarily braiding one another’s hair behind-the-scenes. As Sarah Jessica rightly pointed out in 2016, nobody expected the male cast of The Sopranos to socialize together off-set, so the assumptions we made about SJP and the gang’s real-life relationships may have been tinged with sexist expectations. But while I understand the desire to keep work relationships strictly professional, I had always hoped that, at the very least, some of the female solidarity and camaraderie shown in SATC continued after the cameras stopped rolling. 

So you can imagine how disappointed I was when those hopes came crashing down during SJP and Kim’s toxic breakup.

There had long been rumors of discord between the pair, but viewers like myself were appeased time and time again by Sarah Jessica’s insistence that everything was fine. “This was a family of people who needed each other, relied upon each other and loved each other,” the actress said of the cast. The façade dropped in 2017 when, during an unflinchingly honest interview on British television network ITV, Kim revealed she had no intention of reprising her iconic role for a third Sex and the City film. Speaking her truth, Kim said she was “never friends” with her co-stars, and that Sarah Jessica “could have been nicer.” A few months later, during an appearance on Watch What Happens Live, SJP told Andy Cohen she was “heartbroken” over Kim’s comments. “That’s not the way I recall our experience,” she lamented.

To find out the actresses, who shared the screen for over a decade, had such different recollections of their time together, left me feeling deflated. But the worst was yet to come. Shortly after SJP’s TV appearance, Kim took to social media to announce the tragic death of her brother, Chris. In a brief red carpet interview with Extra, Sarah Jessica offered her condolences to her co-star, but Kim wasn’t having any of it. In words that no doubt cut deep, Kim returned to social media and issued a stern warning to her former on-screen BFF: “I’m writing to tell you one last time, to stop exploiting our [family] tragedy in order to restore your ‘nice girl’ persona.” Ouch! 

I felt a myriad of emotions after this breakup made the headlines. Sex and the City changed the way women were represented on TV. The show was the embodiment of female empowerment. The close and lasting bond between the leading quartet gave me hope that it is possible to maintain enduring, healthy adult female friendships. To witness the actresses who brought these characters to life engage in such a destructive breakup was troubling. Had the tales of sisterhood displayed on SATC been nothing more than an unattainable lie? Did I feel short-changed? Abso-fucking-lutely. 

However, I’ve since come to realize the breakdown of SJP and Kim’s relationship served as somewhat of a breakthrough for me. The revelation that the women didn’t get along off-screen is, in a small way, a bit of a relief. It has relieved me of the pressure of emulating the series’ near-perfect friendship group. It reminded me that the adventures of Carrie and her friends were, after all, nothing more than fiction. With this revelation in mind, I am able to enjoy re-watching the show, without the burden of living up to its impossible standards. Cheers.