In Sex and the City, the girls meet for lunch once an episode. They meet each others boyfriends, protect each other from the bad ones (or at least they try to, CARRIE). They go to clubs and parties and book launches (if only). They go on holiday together. Arguments last for an episode and by the next one, all is not just forgiven, but forgotten. Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that last one; this was an episodic show, after all, but it got me wondering…
Is television’s portrayal of friendship just as damaging as its portrayal of romance?
Everybody knows about Sex and the City’s most unrealistic facets; owning your own apartment in a city like Manhatten (seriously, I would kill for an apartment like Carrie’s wherever it was), and the endless line of men falling for the leading ladies. They were all lovely, but they weren’t that lovely. Neither of these things bother me; I already know that I’ll probably never afford to own my own place, and I don’t really want a boyfriend either.
What I do want, I’ll admit, is something else SatC portrays; a group of ride-or-die, through thick and thin friends.
Other shows are guilty of hypnotizing audiences this way; FRIENDS and How I Met Your Mother being just the first that come to mind. But these kinds of friendships don’t happen in real life, do they? People fall out, grow away and apart from each other. Five years since meeting my two closest friends, we now only see each other a handful of times a year. We haven’t fallen out, we just don’t see each other anymore. Much as I hate to think about it, this is probably only going to get worse.
Everyone who watches SatC knows that many of the lifestyles on show are utterly out of reach, but it isn’t so obvious that the clique of ladies (plus one Stanford) is almost as imaginary.
It could just be me, but I really don’t care about finding a boyfriend. You could tell me that I never will, that I will be perpetually single, and I would continue to go about my life the same as ever. Tell me the same thing about friends, though, and I would lose sleep.
I have never related to a character more than I did the first time I heard Miranda Hobbes say, “I don’t know, maybe there isn’t someone out there waiting for me”. Having been told countless times myself by coupled friends and relatives, “Don’t worry! You’ll meet someone,” when asked That Question, and just wanting to say, “I don’t even want to meet someone!”, Miranda always made me feel seen.
But Miranda had Samantha, Charlotte and Carrie. I don’t have that same network, and sometimes the reminder of this has made me feel so lonely I could cry. Thing is, I don’t think I’m actually that lonely. Not really. By TV standards, perhaps, but not by real world standards. Friendships are the foundations of many TV shows and people fall in love with them. (Because I fully believe you can be in love with someone in a platonic manner.)
People are in love, I think, with the idea of having those people who are always there, ready when needed. “Someone to face the day with, make it through all of the rest with.” But when we make it out there, to the real world… people move away. Their work schedules clash unavoidably. It’s hard to find someone to make it through all of the rest with, when you can’t even find someone you have the time to meet with for dinner twice a year.
So TV isn’t realistic. Alert the presses! But it still plants over-inflated ideas in peoples’ heads. Is that something to actually worry about? Is it bad for our mental health? Going back for a moment to Queen Miranda, she got hooked on the relationship between meta-fictional Jules & Mimi, didn’t she? And it was only after all her episodes of the show were deleted, and she was forced back into reality, that she was okay again.
There are a lot of questions in this blog so far, aren’t there? Lets try for some more certainty from now on.
SatC never set out to be some sort of real world depiction of Manhattenites. It was supposed to be feel good, but when each and every aspect of romantic relationships were explored, every last angle examined, it could have been a good idea, I think, to look at friendship though a similar lens.
The show had so many openings to shift the focus to just the girls for an episode or two that it never took. Samantha temporarily dropping Miranda after she gave birth to Brady is one that comes to mind, or the ever-infamous incident when Carrie cut Charlotte out of her life for not offering to help her buy her apartment. In both of these instances, there was opportunity for interesting character exploration.
Our non-romantic relationships are important too! They can be flawed as much as romantic relationships, and in a show where the central friendships were so special, I think they should have been better explored.
I mean, I know I never watched the show for the sex or the men. I watched it for the ladies, and I would have liked to see more of them. When I finally got to the final two episodes, I cannot express my disappointment when I found out that the focus would be on Carrie, in Paris with that boring ass Russian, rather than with her friends. The people I watched the show for.
This fantastical friendship had me irrevocably and unapologetically hooked, and when there was next to no focus on it in the final minutes of the show, I felt cheated. If they weren’t together in the show’s final episodes, what did that mean for me, in the real world? I had come to put this friendship on a pedestal, but it wasn’t even the focus in the end.
I realised I was expecting too much from them. Much like the unrealistic conclusion to Carrie’s story with Mr Big, her friendship with Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte was just as much a fantasy.
Perhaps I’m wrong though. Maybe, if there is someone out there for everyone, as Charlotte York believed, my soulmates are out there as well, somewhere in the wide world. Maybe we just haven’t found each other yet. Maybe we never will. But maybe we will tomorrow, and that’s all I need to know.