Every superhero needs an origin story. And, in a way, that’s what Carrie Bradshaw was — an iconic, almost mythical character on whom millions of aspiring Gothamites, writers, fashion obsessives, and women projected their future selves. Carrie even had superpowers; she managed to look absolutely well-heeled (literally) on the salary of a freelance columnist, memoirist, and sometimes Vogue contributor.
On one hand, you almost don’t want to know about Carrie’s past. She’s such a quintessential New Yorker, so perfectly embodying the zeitgeist of the late '90s and early aughts that it’s easy to imagine she somehow sprung, fully formed, from the pavement of the city she pounded in her Manolos and Choos. She clearly didn’t come from Manhattan; no matter what was thrown at her, Carrie always viewed New York through non-jaded, rose-colored glasses — completely free of the blasé, been-there-done-that affectation of someone who spent her formative years growing up in the city that doesn’t sleep.
Except, just as Superman and Spider-Man have their origin stories told over and over again because fans need to know the mythos of their fantastical beings, we do want to know Carrie’s backstory. How did this unconventionally attractive, risk-taking writer with that signature Bradshaw gumption become the cultural embodiment of the single, independent woman making it on her own in the Big Apple? What was the little girl with big, curly hair like in high school?
We want her to be someone who always stood out; an individual who definitely was not the most popular or self-confident girl in school but always managed to get things done in her own fashion. That’s why it’s such a disappointment that the actress they cast as young Carrie Bradshaw in The CW’s adaptation of her origin story, The Carrie Diaries, is so totally Manolo Blah-nik. AnnaSophia Robb may have the same hair as her adult Sex and the City predecessor, but that's about the only link that makes sense; she’s just too polished and aware of how cute she is to truly capture the essence of the unique Carrie Bradshaw.
Carrie knows she’s not the supermodel in the room; she’s finely attuned to how different people see her. Even on Sex and the City, she constantly questioned her own identity in relation to others (especially when the others were gorgeous, leggy 20-somethings). Sarah Jessica Parker played Carrie with the perfect blend of New Yorker neuroses mixed with the self-confidence that emanates from someone who knows what she wants and isn’t willing to change who she is unless it comes from within. When she walked down the street, it was with a strut that said “I know you’re looking at me, and on some level, I’m uncomfortable with that, but you know what? This is me. I’m different. I’ve got my own opinions — and you can take it or leave it.”
In The Carrie Diaries, Robb lacks those fundamental elements of Carrie-ness. Her perfect, Kewpie-doll cuteness never shows any moments of doubt or uncertainty. If life throws her lemons, they don’t put her into an existential quandary, where step one of problem-solving is always careful self-examination and rumination, and step two is taking action from her own decisions. Things just sort of happen around her while she floats on as an adorably dressed teen in the '80s. That “It” factor isn’t there. For example, in the pilot, it’s just not clear why a fabulous New York City fashion insider would take Carrie under her wing and invite her to a party at Indochine. Her signature unexpected, self-deprecating, creative comments and perspective just never emerge.
We really couldn’t help but wonder: Is this really the best embodiment of our Manhattan superheroine?