June 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of Sex and the City, a revolutionary show about four women talking frankly about sex and their desires in New York. This story was originally published on November 23, 2016.
I recently came upon a mystery photo of myself. I have ZERO recollection of the night, the place, the outfit (yikes), but based on one tiny detail — my cocktail — I can say with some confidence the approximate year the photo was taken and with whom I was hanging.
The cocktail is a cosmopolitan, which means I was deep in my Sex and the City phase, saying the word “fabulous” a lot, wearing high heels I couldn’t walk in, and rolling deep with my college friends Sara, Caitlin, and Jenny. The four of us fancied ourselves as the twentysomething versions of the four main SATC characters. In our youthful search for identity, we inhabited them: the way we talked, dressed, went out, drank, dated, talked about who we dated, and talked about sex were all hugely inspired by the show.
I remember our conversations about who was which character. At the time, the highest praise was to be “the Carrie” of the group. To be “the Charlotte” or “the Samantha” was endearing or empowering, respectively. But you know who no one wanted to be? “The Miranda.” Being called the Miranda meant that you:
B. Were kind of a heartless hard-ass.
C. Were work-obsessed and no fun/not spontaneous.
… And that you ate chocolate cake out of the garbage.
My negative view of Miranda stayed with me long after I had memorized every single line from every single episode and stopped watching the show. But you know what? I got it all wrong. Miranda Hobbes is actually the most badass character on SATC. And since I have seen the light on Miranda’s excellence, it’s has also shaken up the way I perceive the other characters, and even the show itself.
Until this October, I hadn’t watched a single episode of Sex and the City in about six years. But this insane election had me searching for something lighthearted, comforting, and familiar while I curled up in the fetal position on my bed. Putting the characters aside for one moment, I have to say that I was shocked to see how misandrist the show is, particularly in the early seasons. Carrie’s voice-over consistently qualifies men according to their earning power, social status, sexual reputation, and not much else. I watched some episodes with my boyfriend and found myself cringing at certain parts, trying to imagine if we were watching a show in which men discuss women in that way. (Oh wait, that show does exist — it’s called Entourage.)
Furthermore, while I was in my 20s, I always viewed Carrie and Big through the lens of her perspective and experience. But watching it now, I don’t think I would have wanted to date Carrie either. She is needy, unclear, manipulative, and intrusive. For example, if you were spending time with your mom (at church!), and the person you were casually dating showed up when you had explicitly told them it was your alone time with your mom, what would you think?
Which brings me to Miranda: She is the only one who keeps it real for Carrie when it comes to Big. And, in fact, when all the women are sitting around the brunch table obsessing about men, Miranda is the one who gets up and tells them:
“All we talk about anymore is Big or balls or small dicks. How does it happen that four smart women have nothing to talk about but boyfriends? It’s like seventh grade but with bank accounts. What about us? What we think, we feel, we know — Christ! Does it always have to be about them? Just give me a call when you’re ready to talk about something besides men.”
It was rewatching that exact scene with 33-year-old eyes that made me realize my relationship to Miranda and, yes, even SATC had changed: When I was in my 20s, her freak-out felt boring and judgmental (ugh, typical Miranda). But now, I'm like, “Amen sister!”
Look, I understand that love and relationships are a central pillar to practically everyone’s life — but it’s just one pillar of many. When I was younger, maybe my life was not fully developed enough to realize that — it was all about friends and, well, fucking. But that changes as time goes on and realities of adulthood creep in. Miranda is the only one who seems to recognize that. She doesn’t compromise her career for men, she doesn’t look for validation from men, and she doesn’t look at marriage as (in her own words), “Okay, I’ve got a big rock on my finger, now I can stop pretending to care about my career.” She is also impermeable to judgement, like when Magda switches out her vibrator for the Virgin Mary. She’s the only one who doesn’t serially invite drama into her life, and doesn’t play out destructive patterns repeatedly. Looking at her now, I’d say Miranda is the only one of the four main characters with whom I would want to hang out on a regular basis. She may not be perfect or the most empathic character all the time, but at least she keeps it real 24/7.
I was curious to know if any of my friends have had similar Miranda awakenings in recent years. I emailed a few people and found that, indeed, everyone who watched the show with their thirtysomething eyes had experienced a total about-face. My friend Katelyn said, “You spend so much time with Carrie that of course she seems the most rounded character, the one you most sympathize with, but it’s classic Stockholm syndrome. Meanwhile, the only one who maintains any kind of grounding and actual (versus fantasy) relatability is Miranda. And maybe we see her as a badass because, in the spectacle of fantasy and conspicuous consumption and imbalance toward the heart or libido, Miranda is the rebel. She's the one who will walk out into the street looking like a dump, or get braces because it's practical.”
Another friend pointed out, “For me, people said I was 'The Miranda,' and I never wanted to hear that, because she was the non-hot one and was kind of snarky. I still feel that way about her, but the bigger thing that happened when I rewatched the show not too long ago is that I thought the show sucked. I used to love it, and now I find it obnoxious and unbearably lame. I was so surprised I felt that way.”
Indeed. It’s always a little sad to look around and see that your friends aren’t as fabulous as you thought they were. Carrie, Samantha, and Charlotte will always have a place in my heart — kind of like old friends I wish only the best, but with whom I've fallen out of touch. But as I continue to grow up, I want to grow into a smart, mature, confident, driven woman, who loves deeply, but also doesn’t take any shit from anyone. In other words, I’ll happily be the Miranda.