Don't Let The Sex And The City Cast’s Notorious Infighting Complicate The Show’s Legacy

Photo: HBO/Newsmakers.
On Wednesday, in an op-ed published on Refinery29, Cynthia Nixon called herself a Miranda. Briefly, all was right in my conception of the universe. As a fan of Sex and the City, I’ve long been tempted to associate the show’s actresses with the characters they portrayed, as if the show’s reality superseded actual reality. Cynthia is a Miranda.
In the same way, I liked to think that the four actresses were best friends, just like their characters were. After all, friendship between Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda, Samantha (Kim Cattrall), and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) was the centrepiece of Sex and the City. The show’s men came and went (and more often than not, came back again), but this quartet was a constant. Sex and the City provided a model for an intimate female friendship that persisted throughout adulthood and wasn’t pushed aside by romantic progressions. Wouldn't it be pretty to think the stars’ lives mirrored their characters’?
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My grand illusion about the Sex and the City cast being united in friendship ended in February 2018, when Kim Cattrall very publicly confirmed her once-rumoured feud with co-star Sarah Jessica Parker. In her pointed Instagram caption, Cattrall clearly wasn’t her character, Samantha. She was Kim — and she was angry.
The outburst was incited by the unexpected death of Cattrall’s brother, Chris Cattrall. After Parker offered her condolences to the press and via a comment on Cattrall’s Instagram post, Cattrall responded with an Instagram photo that said, “I don’t need your love and support at this time tragic time, Sarah Jessica Parker.” She proceeded to call Parker “cruel” and a “hypocrite,” and wrote, “Let me make this VERY clear. (If I haven’t already) You are not my family. You are not my friend. So I’m writing to tell you one last time to stop exploiting our tragedy in order to restore your ‘nice girl’ persona.”
Ultimately, Cattrall's outburst confirmed what had long been suspected: Cattrall and Parker do, indeed, have (potentially one-sided) beef. Hints of the Cattrall-Parker feud have been percolating since the show ended in 2004, and Cattrall chose to sit away from her co-stars at that year’s Emmys. In 2017, The New York Post gave a detailed rundown of the set’s alleged “mean girl” culture, which spurred the drama.
In the years after the show ended, Cattrall and Parker tried earnestly to brush the rumours of infighting aside. “I don’t think anybody wants to believe that I love Kim. I adore her,” Parker said in a November 2009 interview with Elle. Two months later, Cattrall blamed the rumours on a media cycle hungry for cat fights in an interview with The Daily Mail. “I think Sarah was right: people don’t want to believe that we get on. They have too much invested in the idea of two strong, successful women fighting with each other. It makes for juicy gossip and copy.... She and I are sick of this. It’s exhausting talking about it, and a real bore,” Cattrall said.
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Cattrall is right: The media loves stirring up a female feud. But in this case, there really was a feud. Their strained dialogue became more overt come 2017, when the third Sex and the City movie was canceled after months of negotiation – and it was reportedly Cattrall’s decision. Once Cattrall pulled out of the project, both women spoke more freely about their disappointments with the movie and with each other. In a conversation with Piers Morgan, Cattrall implicated Parker’s behavior in her decision to not participate in the third movie: “I really think [Sarah Jessica Parker] could have been nicer. I don’t know what her issue is, I never have.” Parker told Andy Cohen she was “heartbroken” about the deterioration of their relationship.
All of this is the prelude to February 2018, when Cattrall ended any illusions about her feelings towards Parker on Instagram. But should this outpouring of hurt and bad feelings change how we perceive Sex and the City, and its example of enduring friendship? No, of course not. If anything, this incident clarifies how misguided any policing of co-stars’ real-life, non-fictional friendships is.
Cattrall and Parker may look like their characters, but they are not their characters. As fans of the show, we can interpret, examine, negotiate their characters’ impact on our lives and our own friendships, but can’t apply the same rigour to understanding the actresses’ relationships. Perhaps Cattrall said it best in a 2004 interview with The Telegraph: “Are we the best of friends? No. We’re professional actresses. We have our own separate lives.” Let’s allow them their separate lives, their separate disputes. We can keep Carrie and Samantha and their everlasting sisterly love for ourselves.
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