How Sex and The City ruined dating for younger women
There are several news headlines that have made me want to tell the world to bog off for the day, and go back to bed.
Many of them, admittedly, involve that thin-lipped Oompa Loompa Donald Trump. But another news story from earlier in the month really made me despair for humankind and wonder if this dust bowl of a world was a decent place at all.
It was the groan heard round the world when Sarah Jessica Parker dropped a tantalising (possibly horrifying) hint that Carrie Bradshaw and her band of merry Manhattanites could be making a comeback. "I don't think any of us have said no," she said of the idea of dusting off those frivolous frocks and sitting around, moaning about Big for one last time.
For her part, Kim Cattrall has commented that jumping back into Sam Jones' britches "could be fun".
What wasn't fun by anyone's yardstick was the two-hours-plus Sex and the City 2. The first movie was one thing - a feature-length fashion show, mainly - but watching Samantha Jones lose it over yams and hormones really was the death knell for the whole enterprise.
"It is 146 minutes long, which means that I entered the theatre in the bloom of youth and emerged with a family of field mice living in my long, white moustache," wrote one critic at the time. "This is an entirely inappropriate length for what is essentially a home video of gay men playing with giant Barbie dolls."
A shame, really, because its small-screen forebear was a zippy, tightly packaged trailblazer. Back in the Nineties, TV series about friends were plentiful; Cold Feet, This Life and, well, Friends. Each was salty and fresh in its own way, but Carrie Bradshaw & Co truly blew the doors off, unearthing a whole new part of the landscape we never even knew we wanted
Much of Sex and the City's conceits still hold up well today: the idea that female friendship is Titan-strong, and that 30-something women have plenty of self-love to administer before they start looking for it somewhere else.
In time, other shows would explore this better: Lena Dunham's Girls was the first to touch on how complex and imperfect female friendship can be, with its bitching and subtle competitiveness. Broad City features two main characters who don't give a single fig about sexuality: one day Ilana fancies a woman, the next she's hooking up with men. Neither of them would run from a game of Spin the Bottle with Alanis Morissette, simply because they felt 'weird'. But what do millennials think of Sex and the City these days?
Do they watch the repeats on Comedy Central and feel their stomachs flip at the clothes, the conspicuous consumption, the prissiness of our four heroines, who seemed, at the time, like the most exciting libertines in all of New York?
Transplanted into 2016, the Sex and the City characters would flounder. Carrie, the journalist, certainly wouldn't be living the high life on one single column, and without an email address to boot. And as a sex columnist, she'd be handed her head for deeming bisexuality 'a layover on the way to Gaytown'.
Samantha Jones would be slut-shamed from morning to night, the ghosts of exes past rendering Facebook a no-go zone for her. Miranda, the most successful one, is the least cool, Token Sarcastic Bitch one. Charlotte in particular, with her obsession with marrying rich and being treated like a princess, looks particularly grim in the cold light of 2016.
She was a die-hard follower of The Rules (playing hard to get, basically), meaning that she would only accept Disney-prince levels of chivalry from men. Not only that, her endgame was to give up work once she married (a choice every woman is entitled to make, granted, but Charlotte turned married life, with its volunteering and decorating, into the ultimate First-World Problem).
Certainly, the social codes of Manhattan's dating scene seem ridiculously quaint now. Slobbering over Manolos and designer handbags is gauche, and not something most 30-somethings today are all that interested in. Most of them just want to cover their rent. As for moving to Paris with a man who makes absolutely zero room for you in his life? Forget it.
Worst of all, while Sex and the City featured many positive lessons and strong representations of women, one conceit has stuck around: that women are materialistic gold-diggers who only want a perfect prince charming (Black Amex card, not optional).
Is it wrong to say that these messages have ruined dating for younger women? Do younger men see a group of single women and think of those glistening Sex and the City scenes? Do men think we're nothing more than a self-congratulating gaggle of gal pals who bitch about penis size and receding hairlines?
No one can argue that dating hasn't become hugely cut-throat for the Tinder generation, and I can't help but wonder (sorry) if it's because men somehow expect women to be as vacuous, focused on marriage and self-obsessed as Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha.
Above all, Sex and the City has dated woefully because today's young singles, apparently, aren't having any sex in any city.
Apparently, 15pc of 20 to 24-year-old Americans haven't done the deed since the age of 18, compared to only 6pc of Generation X-ers when they were the same age.
Last year, research by Match.com found that 49pc of 20-somethings hadn't had sex at all in the past year.
It's perhaps unfair to lay the blame solely on one TV show, but all we can hope for is that Sarah Jessica Parker's wish for a third Sex and the City film is not much more than wishful thinking. Time hasn't been kind to the show's legacy, but a third film really would be a stiletto heel administered where it hurts.