Why 'Sex and the City' Never Goes Out of Style

Why 'Sex and the City' Never Goes Out of Style

Everyone and their mother seems to be rewatching Sex and the City right now, and we’re getting in on the fun! It’s the perfect binge for a “hot girl summer.” In the ever-changing landscape of television and film, few shows have achieved the enduring popularity and cultural impact of "Sex and the City." Originally aired from 1998 to 2004, this HBO series, created by Darren Star and based on Candace Bushnell's book, captivated audiences with its portrayal of four strong, independent women in their 30s navigating life, love, and careers in New York City. Decades later, a wave of nostalgia and a renewed appreciation for its timeless themes has prompted many to revisit the series. But what makes "Sex and the City" still relevant today?

A Fresh Representation of Women’s Lives

"Sex and the City" broke new ground in television by offering a candid, humorous, and often unflinchingly honest look at women's lives. Carrie Bradshaw, Miranda Hobbes, Charlotte York, and Samantha Jones each brought unique perspectives to the show, representing a spectrum of female experiences and viewpoints. People often say, “Who is the Charlotte in your friend group?” or “I’m 100% a Miranda,” almost as a personality quiz. (My friends say I’m a little bit of Carrie and a little bit of Samantha!)

The show was genuinely revolutionary in its portrayal of female friendships. It explored the more complicated sides of friendship and adulthood and celebrated that relationships with friends can be just as significant and fulfilling as romantic ones. This focus on friendship over romance was a refreshing departure from the conventional narrative that a woman's ultimate goal is to find a man. Episodes like "Ex and the City" (Season 2, Episode 18) highlight this theme, where the women come together to support Carrie after a breakup, underscoring the strength and importance of their bond.

Timeless Themes

One reason for the show's lasting appeal is its exploration of universal themes that continue to resonate. Love, sex, relationships, and the quest for personal identity are issues that transcend time and culture. "Sex and the City" delved into these subjects with a level of depth and honesty that was rare for its time.

For instance, "The Drought" (Season 1, Episode 11) explores sexual insecurity and performance anxiety, topics that are as relevant now as they were then. Similarly, "The Baby Shower" (Season 1, Episode 10) addresses the pressures of societal expectations regarding motherhood, a theme that still resonates with many viewers today.

Fashion as a Form of Expression

One of the most distinctive aspects of "Sex and the City" was its emphasis on fashion. The show's costume designer, Patricia Field, created iconic looks that defined the characters and influenced real-world fashion trends. From Carrie Bradshaw's eclectic, avant-garde outfits to Charlotte's classic, preppy style, the fashion in "Sex and the City" was as much a character as the women themselves.

Carrie's infamous "naked dress" (Season 1, Episode 6) or her tutu ensemble in the opening credits are prime examples of how the show utilized fashion to express individuality and personal growth. These iconic outfits continue to inspire new generations of fashion enthusiasts and designers—and classics, too! We all still would love to get our hands on a pair of Manolo Blahnik pumps, right? 

A Progressive(ish) View on Sexuality

"Sex and the City" was groundbreaking in its frank discussion of sex and sexuality — in 1998. The show was unapologetic in its portrayal of women enjoying and exploring their sexuality, challenging the societal taboos of its time. It provided a platform for conversations about sexual health, preferences, and the complexities of modern dating.

Episodes like "The Monogamists" (Season 1, Episode 7) and "The Freak Show" (Season 2, Episode 3) candidly explore the characters' diverse dating experiences and sexual preferences. These discussions remain relevant today as society continues to push for more open conversations about sexuality and gender.

As a single woman in her 20s, I find it reassuring that challenges like "situationships," ghosting, and bad dates are timeless aspects of pursuing relationships, both on and off the screen. Watching characters navigate these issues in a show from 1998 mirrors my conversations with my girlfriends over drinks in 2024. More than 25 years later, we're still facing the same relationship dilemmas and mulling over what to do about it over Cosmopolitans at a cocktail bar. 

The Nostalgia Factor

Nostalgia plays a significant role in the show's resurgence. For many, "Sex and the City" represents a time of cultural and personal discovery. Rewatching the series allows fans to relive the iconic moments, witty dialogue, and memorable episodes that left a lasting impression.

The revival series "And Just Like That..." has also reignited interest in the original show. Premiering in 2021, the reboot brings back familiar characters while introducing new ones, offering a blend of nostalgia and contemporary relevance. The continuation of the storylines allows us to reconnect with the characters they love and see how their lives have evolved in a modern context.

What Hasn’t Held Up

Despite its many merits, "Sex and the City" has elements that have not aged well. One of the most glaring issues is the show's lack of diversity. Set in one of the most multicultural cities in the world, the main cast and most recurring characters are overwhelmingly white. This lack of representation is strikingly out of line with current values and the push for more inclusive media.

Additionally, some of the show's portrayals of relationships and gender roles now seem outdated. For example, Samantha's character, while groundbreaking for her sexual freedom, often perpetuates stereotypes about promiscuity and single women. Miranda's struggle with balancing career and motherhood sometimes falls into the trope of the "career woman who can't have it all," a narrative that many argue is a limited portrayal of women's lives.

The show occasionally dips into problematic humor, with jokes insensitive or offensive scenarios today. Instances of biphobia, transphobia, and body shaming are present, reflecting a less progressive time in television writing. For example, in "Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl..." (Season 3, Episode 4), Carrie’s discomfort with her bisexual boyfriend highlights a perspective that feels outdated and insensitive by today's standards.

Revisiting the series today allows for a critical reflection on these issues and how they might address them in contemporary storytelling. The show's flaws also provide an opportunity for growth and conversation. As society becomes more aware of the need for diverse and inclusive representation, viewers can appreciate the progress made while acknowledging the work that still needs to be done.

“Sex and the City" stands the test of time because it perfectly captures the ups and downs of being a modern woman. How it deals with friendship, love, career, and fashion still clicks with people today, offering both a nostalgic escape and a reflection of our current lives. Fans keep coming back to the series and find its themes just as relevant now as they were 20 years ago. It's more than just a TV show; it's a cultural icon that continues to spark conversation and inspire us in our constantly changing world.

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