Sex and the City

Recap Of The ‘Sex And The City’ Pilot From Someone Who’s Never Seen It

By Sara Levine | January 14, 2021
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Yes, what you just read is true. I, a living, breathing woman between the ages of 25-35, have never seen Sex and the City before. Why, you may ask? The answer is simple, honestly: my parents would have rather chopped off their own feet and cooked it up for dinner than let me watch a show that had “sex” in the title as a kid. (When girls in my grade made their bat mitzvah themes things like “Lex and the City”, my mother was positively scandalized.) And yet in my house, we grew up watching Law & Order: Criminal Intent as a family, so what does that say about me? 

Anyway! Once I got older I really had no interest in watching Sex and the City, an opinion that has been reaffirmed by the countless articles pointing out just how cringeworthy and problematic it was. I thought that, coming upon my third decade of life, my complete ignorance of this cultural phenomenon would become irrelevant, much like the show’s fashions. But now that a reunion has been confirmed, I feel the need to finally try to understand what everyone was talking about 20 years ago. I think I know the gist: Carrie is the annoying one, Samantha is the slutty one, Charlotte is the prude one, and Miranda is just kind of there. At least, that’s what the memes tell me. We all are sooo one of these characters. We all want to be the Carrie (for reasons that elude me) and yet are probably all the Miranda. 

So, in an effort to finally be able to relate to people and not have to pretend-laugh at Sex and the City references, I decided to fire up my friend’s HBO Max account and see what the fuss was all about. Here’s my honest recap of the Sex and the City pilot.

The eponymous pilot opens with our narrator Carrie typing, “Once upon a time, an English journalist came to New York. Elizabeth was attractive and bright, and right away she hooked up with one of the city’s typical eligible bachelors.” I’m not going to retype this whole monologue, but the gist is, Elizabeth made the classic New York mistake of hooking up with a finance bro. And just in case you aren’t from the city, Carrie makes sure to hit you over the head with how “quintessentially” New York the whole encounter is, by saying “in typical New York fashion” at least six times throughout this whole love story. If you don’t live in New York, let me just say, that yes, it is in typical New York fashion to have a guy blow smoke up your ass and then completely stop speaking to you after he stands you up for plans that he proposed in the first place!! Sorry, I’m fine. It’s fine.

Elizabeth’s love story is much like my own, in that Elizabeth and our finance bro “dated” for two weeks until he ghosted her. The only difference is that at least Elizabeth got dinner out of it, when all I get are drinks and a vague promise to order a pizza if I were to come over to “watch Netflix”. Or, at my lowest point, one 99-cent can of Arizona iced tea. So, I know this show premiered in 1998, but to me, the fact that this is a story worthy of an investigative-type piece in a literal newspaper is alarming. I wonder if I could get a job at the NY Post using my diary entries as writing samples at this rate?

Further underscoring my point that Carrie should not be a professional writer is this little gem of hers: “Cupid has flown the co-op,” she says, with a self-satisfied smile. I hate it with every fiber of my being, and it’s kind of sad to me that straight women in the late 90s apparently were getting treated like sh*t by men in the same way that we are now, but apparently nobody was talking about it? The only thing worse than getting ghosted left and right is thinking you’re the only one who is getting ghosted left and right. I suppose if we can’t get better treatment, at least we have the memes.

Cut to a montage that feels reminiscent of Hitch (don’t come for me, I’m very aware of who must have inspired whom in this scenario) of random dudebros giving their takes on why so many amazing women are single. Oh boy, I feel a rage blackout coming on. One guy, in between chest presses at the gym, says that it’s because in their 20s, guys are controlled in relationships by women. By their 30s, they’re “devoured by women”. He says that like it’s a bad thing, but I feel like any straight man would be thrilled to be devoured by women. What do you all want!

what do you want

Another dudebro doing bicep curls says, “you don’t want to do it with someone over 35, because you have to have kids right away.” He advises women over 35, “forget about marriage and just focus on having a good time”. I almost shut the show off at this point, but decided to persevere at the expense of my blood pressure and general well-being.

Cue more sexist and ageist nonsense: older women don’t want to settle, what women really want is Alec Baldwin (no thanks, if I wanted to get screamed at for no reason, I’d do more SoulCycle classes); women are too picky and turn down guys left and right for being too short, fat, or poor. Enter: Miranda with some sanity, to say that even the short, fat, and “poor” guys are still assholes. (It’s almost as if you can’t tell if someone’s a good person by their height, weight, or bank account.) Gotta be honest — I did not come here to affirm how timeless this show is, but the degree to which I feel attacked is proving otherwise. 

At Miranda’s 30-something birthday dinner — that was not me being lazy, they only specify it’s a birthday in her 30s because, you know, women aren’t allowed to age — Samantha comes prepared with some wisdom. She says, you can either bang your head against the wall and try and find a relationship or you can say “screw it” and just go out and have sex like a man. 

Charlotte: You mean, with dildos?

I mean, she’s not wrong.

Miranda says that guys in New York don’t want to be in a relationship with you, but they also don’t like it when you only want them for sex. “All of a sudden, they can’t perform the way they’re supposed to,” she says. I know this is not ~the point~ but Miranda saying that a man’s only purpose is to provide sexual pleasure is kind of iconic. Am I too jaded to properly critique this show?

Carrie: Oh come on ladies, are we really that cynical?

Speaking for every single woman in New York:

I’ve decided that I’m definitely a Miranda because of this part where she’s like, “this guy took me to dinner and read me a poem. What a serial killer, can you imagine?” *Scrolls up to earlier musing about how I don’t even get taken to dinner* Interesting.

Carrie’s like, “So you really think it’s possible for women to pull off the whole ‘having sex like men’ thing?”

I will say that I do kind of resent that the premise of the entire show is built on this toxic double-standard where only men can have unattached sex. Do the women really have to be having sex “like men” or could they simply be having casual sex? The whole thesis is basically, “Women be catchin’ feelings, am I right?” And look, I know this was 1998 and maybe that’s the only lexicon they had at the time, but now it feels incredibly lame to have a writer’s room that’s like, “what if we have women… who date… now hear me out…. like men! Enjoying sex and everything! Genius, isn’t it!!”

And just when I thought SATC might be somewhat timeless in its accurate portrayal of dating in New York, while at lunch with Carrie, Stanford hits us with this dumbass quote: it’s straight love that has become closeted. Right, because I’m afraid to walk down the streets of New York holding the hand of my boyfriend for fear of vitriol or attacks. I bet the writer who came up with that one was real proud of themselves.

But they’re back to realistic portrayals by giving Carrie a “loathe of my life” named Kurt Harrington (tracks) with whom Carrie kept hooking up throughout her 20s despite Kurt being a walking piece of trash (tracks again). I feel… reluctantly seen. However, Kurt was good in bed, and Carrie decides he’ll be her guinea pig in the experiment of “can women indeed have sex without getting attached?” 

Carrie’s big pickup line? “So, how’s life?” Genius. I can see why they gave her a writing column. These two are practically gyrating against each other in what appears to be a crowded restaurant in the middle of the day. 

Me watching this: 

could you not baby

They make a booty call for 3 O’CLOCK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AFTERNOON. Ok whatever, spoken as if I haven’t done that exact thing after brunch. Ok, you’re right, during brunch. 

So they bang at 3pm as indicated — or, actually, context clues lead me to believe Kurt just went down on Carrie, which is hilarious because you know Kurt is the type of guy whose face has never gone near a set of labia because he “doesn’t like the smell” (you can tell by his teeth). When Kurt asks Carrie to return the favor, she says, “oh sorry I have to go back to work.” Ma’am? I understand that you write a sex column, but I am pretty sure the newspaper would not count this as “necessary research” that needs to be conducted on company time.

After bouncing, Carrie is like, “I did it. I had sex like a man. I felt powerful, potent, and incredibly alive.” And look, I’m all for being sex positive, but Carrie, the reason you feel powerful isn’t because you had sex without immediately catching feelings (which take a minute to develop anyway—they’re like Polaroids in that way). It’s because you left a guy hanging. And truly, there is no feeling more powerful than that, and I support you, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 

And it is while she’s riding this high when Carrie literally bumps into the character who will be known as Mr. Big (it’s amazing how much info you can glean from memes these days — maybe this is why people are so stupid). 

And there it is, the insensitivity I’ve been hearing so much about: When Skipper is complaining about how he hasn’t gotten laid in a year because he… pause for collective gasp… respects women… Carrie says, “are you sure you’re not gay?” I don’t have the time or energy to explain all the ways in which this is wrong, and not a thing one person should ever say to another person. So let’s just flag that and add it to the tab.

All the girls are spending the night at a club called Chaos (minus Charlotte, who’s on a date with some rich guy and determined not to put out). I stopped going to clubs pretty much the second I stepped foot in Marquee, but I’m supposed to believe these 30-something-year-olds are willingly clubbing on a work night? No. 

Carrie is trying to set Miranda up with Skipper, but the problem is that Miranda will think Skipper is mocking her when he’s actually just being sweet and direct. Me again. 

And I can see why Miranda is single, because she just used the phrase “ipso facto” in actual conversation. None of my lawyer friends have ever spoken this way, and neither has any real human. 

Who else happens to be at the club? None other than Mr. Big. Samantha spots him, and here comes the unintentional best line in the entire episode.

Samantha: You see that guy? He’s like the next Donald Trump, only younger and much better looking. 

That line, and I sh*t you not, is followed by Carrie saying of Samantha: Samantha had the kind of deluded self-confidence that caused men like Ross Perot to run for President.

Or men like… Donald Trump. Wow, maybe we do need a reboot of this show.

Meanwhile, after Charlotte’s date that apparently was at the f*cking Met Gala because she and Capote (who tf is named Capote) emerge wearing a tux and a ballgown, Char falls for the classic ruse of “want to come back to my place to check out my painting?” Except in my case, it’s usually more like, “want to come up and see my roof?” when his roof is just his window and his window looks out over an air shaft.

Oh, Charlotte. Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte. You have fallen for the oldest trick in the book and still think you have the upper hand. The way this bitch is sighing and smiling to herself, she thinks she’s some master pickup artist when she’s clearly about to get ghosted.

I lied, it’s even worse: Capote gets in the cab with her to go to the club! Lmaoooo is this how men acted before dating apps? Maybe millennials didn’t kill dating after all. 

Speaking of the club, Samantha is over in the corner trying to fellate a cigar, and I am so uncomfortable I want to jump out of my skin. She shoots her shot, which I completely respect, although her methods are a little aggressive for my taste: inviting Mr. Big to the room downstairs. He doesn’t take the bait, because we are supposed to believe he is ~evolved~ and ~sensitive~ when in reality he probably just likes being the pursuer and is turned off by a woman with confidence. Yeah, I’ll say it!

In the end, Miranda and Skipper hook up and Capote takes Samantha home. And this is what we in the biz call a pretty successful night, we’ve got half the girls getting it in. Not bad for a club called Chaos, because if this stayed true to the name, there would have been a lot more vomit at the end of the night.

Carrie starts to walk home and then sees Mr. Big and just… gets in his car?? Is this the 1990s or the 1970s? This could easily be the intro to a Criminal Minds episode.

Carrie’s bullsh*tting ability is somewhat respectable, though. When Mr. Big asks what she does for work, she calls herself a “sexual anthropologist” and says, “right now I’m researching this article on women who have sex like men.” Like, you have a freelance writing assignment and you are talking to your friends about their dating lives. I do that all the time, should I be updating my resume?

Big: But you’re not like that.
Carrie: Well, aren’t you?
Big: Not a drop. Not even half a drop.

You can all but see the puddle that’s forming in Carrie’s underwear at this admission BLATANT LIE. Yeah, I’m beginning to see why people hate Carrie (aside from the terrible “cupid flew the co-op” puns). From what I’ve gathered (again, from the memes and a few headlines), Carrie will spend the next six seasons of this show on and off — and possibly a movie or two — doing Olympic-level mental gymnastics to justify this one statement made by Big in the back of a cab when almost everything else he does proves the exact opposite. And this is why you don’t let the resident delusional dater give dating advice to the masses of New York City! Who knows how many generations of women she’s led astray with her misguided musings? Okay, none, because this is a fictional show, BUT STILL. 

Carrie asks Big if he’s ever been in love and he says “abso-f*cking-lutely”. And that’s supposed to be some groundbreaking admission? Lol, even the most twisted f*ckboys I know would admit they’ve been in love, but that’s usually the problem: “one girl mildly hurt my feelings 16 years ago and that’s why I will only lead people on from here on out.” The 90s were whack. I think I’ve said all I needed to say on this pilot. They got the cynicism and general sense of uselessness with dating right; the rest was a lot of cringe. Samantha and Miranda are the only redeeming characters thus far. We didn’t really need this reboot, and we definitely don’t need it without Samantha or some sort of Samantha stand-in. 

Images: HBO; Giphy (3)

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