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.
In her 2013 reassessment of Sex and the City on the HBO show’s 15th anniversary, New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum wrote of how the show was often criticized by men who didn’t find the main characters to be “likable,” while many women found them to be refreshing portraits of singlehood. Indeed, throughout SATC’s six seasons, male critics routinely responded to the show with disdain, characterizing everything from Samantha’s pursuit of sex to Carrie’s relationship with Big to the brunch scenes as “shallow” or “fatuous” or “frivolous.” And, looking back on those reviews today, quite a few read as overtly — almost laughably — sexist. Below, the absolute worst ways that men covered Sex and the City.
TV Gives Sex in New York a Bad Name, New York Times, 1999
“Sex and the City” is a show about four only-in-New-York narcissists — in this case, four narcissistic Tinker Bells with attitude … Now that the genial souls [ed note: women] out there have seen ‘Sex and the City,’ how many of them will ever risk going out with anyone from here again? After watching even one of the episodes, how can they respect us in the morning?”
On HBO, Meaningless ‘Sex’, Washington Post, 1999
“Sarah Jessica Parker has an in-your-face face. In her new HBO comedy series, ‘Sex and the City,’ she always seems to be thrusting it forward. She’s in love with the camera. Unfortunately, it’s unrequited.
Parker, with her scraggly hair and jutty jaw, is certainly not the worst thing about this smirky-jerky sexcom, but she usually seems so light and funny that it’s dismaying to see her in bad form, looking like a walking flea market and coming across about as subtly as a tsunami.”
Cable Gets Fresh, Scores With Viewers, Washington Post, 1999
“‘Sex and the City’ stars the radically scraggly Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, a saucy New Yorker who writes a column about relationships as she prances around Manhattan looking for love. Carrie has three friends who are all more engaging than she is: Kim Cattrall as Samantha, Kristin Davis as Charlotte and Cynthia Nixon as Miranda. Unfortunately, they are all fatuous to some degree, spending their time eating, gabbing, shopping, gabbing, having sex and then gabbing again.
In the season premiere, Carrie is trying to recover from a breakup with her boyfriend, played by leaden Chris Noth. It’s a mystery what she sees in him or, for that matter, he in her, although the opening credit sequence makes it crystal clear that she has large breasts; they are prominently displayed as she gets splashed with water.”
‘Sex and the City’: HBO’s Racy Winner, Washington Post, 2001
“‘Sex and the City’ is, after all, set among the seemingly shallow. Carrie and her three friends are affluent, glib, often frivolous and prone to prattle about penises.”
Sexism and the City, The Age (Melbourne), 2003
“Long-running television series arguably have more influence on the collective psyche than the most shocking documentaries or the scariest horror films. We start to talk like the stars in popular sitcoms.
“In the case of the New York bar and bedroom situation comedy Sex and the City, viewers have even started to date and mate like the stars. As the fifth series draws to a close on Channel Nine, it seems timely for a man to offer a critical look at the influence of this all-woman comedy.
“It may be male paranoia, but Australian women seem to have adopted attitudes portrayed in Sex and the City. Women seem to be playing the field with a more detached and critical approach, fuelled by a suspicion that all men might be ‘toxic bachelors,’ a phrase introduced in the first episode of Sex and the City.
“Some women are almost trawling for a mate. One Melbourne friend said she had made it a policy to accept every social invitation “just in case” — a kind of scattergun dating policy. It is as if the line between hunting for clothes and hunting for men has finally dissolved.”
Famous by Association, The Weekly Standard, 2004
“I have seen several episodes, and would rather watch puppies get railroad spikes driven through their eyelids, than to be subjected to Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall seeing who can out-blue-streak each other in the forced patter some have called the Vagina Dialogues. It is a show written by gay men who think they know how straight women talk. If straight women actually talked that way, I’d probably become gay, too.”
I’d Rather Not Carrie on With ‘Sex’, New York Post, 2008
“Many, especially men such as myself, are left to wonder yet again why women continue to be so fascinated by the love lives, lunching habits and materialistic shopping sprees of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte.”