Sex and the City aired its first episode on June 6, 1998 — in honor of the occasion, we’re taking a look back at 20 years of SATC. Read all the Cut’s anniversary coverage here.
Desus and Mero co-host Desus Nice was around 16 or 17 when he first started watching Sex and the City with his older sister during season three. “She would watch it religiously every Sunday,” he remembers. “At first, I was like What’s this that she’s watching?” Soon, though, he was hooked — sucked in by the plotlines, particularly Carrie and Aidan — and then all of the sudden he was keeping his Sunday nights free, just to watch the show. Eventually he’d seen all six seasons twice, plus the movies. “I won’t talk about those,” he says. “They are not canon.”
These days he’s an admitted SATC superfan. What grabbed him wasn’t so much the fashion or the sex, he says; it was the relationships: This was a show about “going out with friends in New York, and having to maintain friendships while your life changes and you have to make time for different priorities. One of your friends has a kid now; one has a business. How do you still make that brunch thing happen? I think people still relate to it.”
In honor of the 20th anniversary of the show, the Cut talked to Desus about feeling sympathy for Steve, and why Carrie deserves Big.
What was it about the show that got you interested?
It was so foreign to me. Growing up as a young black guy in the Bronx, this took place in New York, and I lived in New York at the same time — but it’s not a New York I would ever come in contact with. The places they were going at the time, I never even heard of; I’ve just walked by. It was kind of like a safari thing to me. Also, because I was starting to date, I was like, Oh, this is what it looks like from the inside out. I was able to see certain behaviors I did: I was in my Berger phase or my Aidan phase.
When you watched with your sister, did you find that you guys had battle-of-the-sexes moments?
Every time a man would do something and she was like, “Oh, men are such trash.” I was like, “You have to understand!!” I wasn’t as hard on the male characters as she was. She was like, “Oh, they’re disgusting,” and I was like, “You don’t know what made him do that or you don’t know how…” It taught me to remove my male gaze, more.
Did you find yourself identifying with male characters more?
Some parts, yes. It’s funny: 20 years later, when I watch it, my views have completely changed. The characters I was completely against, now I understand why they were the way they were. Like, Steve? I thought Steve was one of the whiniest characters ever in the history of television. Now watching it, I kind of see the power dynamic between him and Miranda — having a kid, how that changed him, and his whole mother thing. At the time, just his little weaselly voice — [Slips into Steve voice] “Miranda, Miranda, I’m going to play basketball.” I was like, “Ah!” I couldn’t stand him. At the same time, there was a level of frustration that he had because he felt that she didn’t take him seriously. It’s one of those things where you’re dating someone with a more powerful job than you. I have a little more sympathy.
Why do you think your opinion changed?
My interactions with women changed. Instead of just watching the show, like “Oh, wow, I wonder what I would do in that situation?” I actually was in that situation. Now I’m a little more sympathetic to the characters — and especially some of the stuff Carrie did at the time I did not understand.
Like when she was messing with Aidan, and he’s fixing her apartment, and then Mr. Big called her and out of nowhere, she just cheats on Aidan with Mr. Big, and then she smokes in the bed. It’s like “Why, why would you do that?” She knew she didn’t really want that and sometimes that’s just how relationships are. At the time I was like, “I would never do that. If I had a great relationship like that, I would never just toss it in the garbage like that.” But it wasn’t for her. It was not a relationship she wanted. That happens.
I feel like the biggest question to ever emerge from Sex and the City was “Aidan or Big?” Who would you have chosen?
If I was Carrie, I should have chose Aidan over Big. But if I was choosing for Carrie, she deserves Big. Big was kind of an oxymoron: he was the most immature of all the guys she ever dated; you wanted them to grow up, and because he was older than her, you thought he would lead her or teach her how to be mature. And at the end of the story it was like, You two are both terrible people and you really don’t deserve happiness.
So there’s certain behavior that you’re rethinking now — Carrie dumping Aidan, Steve being whiny — but do you feel that Berger deserves any redemption for the Post-it break-up?
You know what? I don’t think he does. There’s been times I wanted to do the Post-it break-up, and the only reason I don’t do it is because of that episode … because I know that’s like, a cowardly way to do it. You become the bad guy; no matter what the reason is, you are just the worst person ever. You have to at least give them their chance to cry or yell at you or call you names. You have to at least do it face-to-face. A Post-it note? She dodged a bullet there.
You know how you know it was bad? Because in that episode, when the cop saw it, the cop was like, “No, I’ll release you.” When you’ve got NYPD on your side in a breakup, then listen, you’re on the right side of history. You’ve been wronged.
What was your favorite episode?
There was also when they went to, I want to say, the Hamptons? Samantha ended up tossing a watermelon through a glass window. She was dating that player with the weird lips. But I think I’ll go with the Berger episode, actually.
What about it?
That was like a real, true New York episode. They were in the Lower East Side or something, smoking weed; the cops were involved. It was just about your friends rallying around you after a breakup. So that was a quintessential. At the end of the day, the show is about four women, their relationships with each other, and growing up in New York. That was one of the true episodes where they showed that.
Do you have a favorite character, of the four?
I really like Charlotte, because Charlotte was very neurotic. She kind of grew on me, because she was kind of prudish in the beginning. If they started talking about sex during brunch, she’d get up and walk out — and her whole thing with Harry walking around naked. She came around and she was one of the more lovable characters toward the end.
And who was your least favorite?
I know she’s running for governor now — please do not get me thrown in jail. I did not like Miranda because, at the time, I didn’t get the show. I was so mad; I was like, “She’s breaking them apart, she’s moving to Brooklyn, who moves to Brooklyn?”
But she was way ahead of her time. She came off as kind of hard-nosed and hard-headed, and all she was trying to do was get what she wanted exactly how she wanted it. There’s nothing really wrong in life wanting that. More people need that in their relationships: She’s saying I want A, B, and C with you, and if you’re down with it, let’s make it happen, if not, I’m moving on. That’s an important message to learn.
Also, out of all of them, she kind of had her life together for real, and I think I kind of resented that. She’s a real adult and the rest of them are trying to have fun. I didn’t like that. But that’s changed. Now, imagine if you asked a circle of four friends, you’re like, “Which one am I?” If they don’t say Miranda, you’re like, “Really, that’s what you think about me?” Twenty years ago you wanted to be Carrie. Now you don’t want to be the Carrie in the group; Carrie’s a mess.
Out of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, or Charlotte, who would you date?
Probably Samantha because she had one of the nicest houses and she was always going fancy places.
Now are you a Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, or Charlotte?
That’s a good question. Sad to say, I’m probably a mix of Carrie and Samantha. A terrible thing to be — but I am in New York, got no kids.
We can’t all be Mirandas.
Right. One day.