As a sheltered teenage girl, I found myself watching midnight reruns on TBS. I was living vicariously through Sex and the City and developed my own American dream to be single, stylish, and free of my family’s traditional expectations. The characters in Sex and the City gave me a kind of hopeful, satisfaction that someday I’d be able to live the glamorous, single girl life in NYC that was so evident in each episode.
Each character, Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha, represented four modern women in every sense. And each episode unfolds the funny, squeamish, sad, and very “real” tales of the single woman in a jaded city of uncertainties, awkward moments, and random meetings. You might get caught up in Charlotte’s web of expectations and relationship rules, contemplate Samantha’s trysexuality (she’ll try anything once), challenge Miranda’s obstinance against male dominance, or even declare an honest affirmation that Mr. Big is indeed Carrie’s true soulmate.
My four high school girlfriends also watched the show and began a fixation on choosing which characters they were most like. I as Charlotte, Anne as Carrie, Valerie as Miranda, Neela being unidentified, and Stephanie as the obvious Samantha. We tried to re-enact Sex and the City discussions through bashfully, blunt cafeteria conversations.
Our daily lunchtime banter consisted of embarrassing Facebook dating mishaps, curious 16 year old questions about relationships, and my own rules and regulations for developing the right relationship. My friend Anne challenged our theories and stories with her own unreal expectations of men as she glossed over magazines of tennis star Roger Federer in full oiled glory. Stephanie divulged into every single juicy detail as she funneled through a series of high school boyfriends with too many names I cannot remember. I myself, created limits for my love life as I followed my immigrant parents’ warnings against not having a boyfriend.
We felt a lot more comfortable engaging in conversations that became our very own Sex and the City round-table discussions over lunch. We held the same comfort and irresistible clarity that only a few close friends could share. But we debated the expectations of being held into a particular mold of a character. We contemplated the role of each character to our lives at the current moment.
It was only after my older sister and I started arguing about which character we really were that I realized how different I thought I was from the “Park Avenue Princess” Charlotte. We watched the episode when Charlotte started obsessing over a color scheme and my sister looked at me in certainty and said, “That’s you.”
I disagreed with her thinking “I changed, I grew! I’m more of a Carrie not Charlotte.” I told her she was like the stubborn Miranda because of her lawyer habits and disagreement with male superiority. I told my sister she was not Carrie, the character she believed to be.
We went to the World Wide Web to settle the score. We began googling Sex and the City character quizzes and sure enough we found a handful of results. But the ultimate authority had to be Cosmopolitan’s online quiz. We took the quiz side by side and as I anticipated my result, my sister received:
50% Carrie and 50% Miranda
A few minutes later I received my character:
I was in disbelief. I thought after taking about 15 questions my score would definitely reflect my changed personality. But there it was. My character… Charlotte right next to quizzes like “Secret things that turn him on” and “Are you obsessed with your ex?”
Two weeks later, I was still sure that my quiz result was wrong. The feeling of having an incorrect personality burned me. I decided to take the quiz again. And to my definite surprise I got sexy Samantha.
Who was I? I was suffering from a bout of character depression that led me to the realization that these characters are extreme versions of an altered reality…made for television. For millions of women to identify with. Yet these same women cannot come to a consensus about which character they are, so they must rely on a quiz result.
A friend’s boyfriend exclaimed his annoyance with women and their tendency to label themselves as Sex and the City characters. He said, “These characters aren’t real.” But part of me disagreed. They were made so women could laugh, cry, hope, and live their very real love life mishaps through the experiences each character faces.
Perhaps the success of so many female centered television shows is due to the connection developed between real women and female characters. Identification has become a way for women to connect with characters in pop culture. Even in childhood we identify ourselves with labels to make things easier within our social groups. You can be the leader, you can be the athletic one, you can be the girly-girl, and you can be the quiet one. Popular television and entertainment has made it easier for us to identify with characters inherently giving specific roles to each individual. Sometimes that may cause all the trouble. What is important to remember, as the popular SATC character Carrie says,
We need to learn to look past the label…to the person. And learn to write our own rules.