It’s impossible to open your social feed (or at least my own) these days without seeing Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, Stanford or even Natasha filming “And Just Like That” on the streets of New York City.
Which means we can’t open our social feeds without being reminded of “Sex and the City,” and of some of the foundational “lessons” we learned from the show. Among those was the power of women’s friendships and of having each others’ backs. We’re all for that here at Ellevest.
The show was undoubtedly groundbreaking in many ways — as one New Yorker writer put it, “to me, as a single woman, it felt like a definite sign of progress: since the elemental representation of single life at the time was the comic strip “Cathy” (ack! chocolate!), better that one’s life should be viewed as glamorously threatening than as sad and lonely.”
But the series (and the films) feel rather dated today.
Which is a good thing, because women+ have made hard-won progress since the 90s. And not “just like that.” In 2021 it’s all but obvious: Big was a horrible boyfriend (and fiancé and person), the lack of diversity on the show is jarring, the pervasive materialism directed at women feels exasperating, and the series gets women and money so. very. wrong.
Which is surprising. You would think “Sex and the City” would have gotten money right, right? After all, it’s about four independent, modern women, each with successful careers, making it in NYC in the 1990s and early 2000s.
But a lot of it doesn’t make sense, and there was too much magical money thinking. For example, somehow Carrie Bradshaw made enough money writing the occasional newspaper column to buy those designer clothes and those designer shoes and those designer handbags and live in that charming apartment in that charming neighborhood. Without a roommate. (Same goes for that huge apartment in “Friends,” but that’s a topic for a different Op-Ed).
And this money magic made Carrie so blithely unaware of her finances that she unknowingly spent the equivalent of a down payment on that charming apartment on those shoes … and wasn’t able to calculate how much those shoes had cost her. Comeuppance for a life of materialism?
No, not at all. Instead she survives some ups and downs, all in glamorous outfits, and eventually marries her tall, dark, and handsome (and very wealthy) boyfriend. Oh, sure he leaves her at the altar with her bird veil, but that’s just part of her journey to the ultimate goal of marriage. (Don’t get me started on Charlotte. Don’t even.)
In contrast, Miranda — presented as the least appealing character — was career-oriented, and she traded the glamour of Manhattan for a financially responsible home in Brooklyn for her family. (Of course, now her Brooklyn home would be worth an absolute fortune, but at the time it was framed as a dreary step down.) She earned more than her husband, and the price she paid for that transgression was that she was seen as humorless and career-obsessed — and that her husband cheated on her. Ugh.
Let’s hope “And Just Like That” feels more timely when it comes to telling good stories about women and money and power.
We’re hardly short on present-day examples, as Melinda Gates and Laurene Powell Jobs take leading roles in investing for positive impact, and Mackenzie Scott is giving her billions away. (One can’t help but compare that to her ex-husband’s choice to spend money on a suggestively shaped rocket to take him to space.)
There’s also no shortage of possible storylines for these women when it comes to owning and controlling their money — there are so many great money moves to be made in your 50s, after all. Maybe Carrie takes the lead on hers and Big’s estate planning? Or instead of a cleaning-out-her-closet montage, it’s a spring cleaning of her finances? Or we see Miranda asking for more at the law firm she works at or maybe using her savings to start her own damn firm. Maybe Charlotte is an impact investor in the making, and there’s a whole coffee shop scene about aligning your values with the dollars you invest and spend.
OK, I’m not a TV writer — but all I’m saying is this: Just like these women talked openly and honestly about sex and women’s lives at a time when it was taboo to do so on the small screen, we’d like to see them have those same kinds of conversations about money and power and building their own wealth in this reboot. Conversations that have nothing to do with buying “too many shoes.”
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