Mr. Big and Carrie Bradshaw were a terrible match. Picture: AP/New Line Cinema
Mr. Big and Carrie Bradshaw were a terrible match. Picture: AP/New Line Cinema

How Carrie Bradshaw became the feminist anti-hero

Sarah Jessica Parker is currently visiting Australia.

On Sunday, she's spruiking her shoes in David Jones and over the next couple of days she'll attend Business Chicks breakfasts, where my generation of women will pay $275 to get very excited at meeting their Sex and the City heroine.

But not me. No disrespect to SJP but, for me, the actor is synonymous with Carrie Bradshaw. And far from being a cool, quirky, tutu-clad inspiration, Carrie - more than any other woman I've known - was a big fat liar.

I was 29 and working in a London newspaper office when Carrie and her clutch of besties burst into the public imagination, leading otherwise intelligent women to sit around drinking pricey cosmopolitans and speculating on which of the four characters they were most like.

Of course, EVERYONE thought they were Carrie. She had the best job, the best clothes, the best lines, the best hair and the best boyfriends (although Berger - remember him? - was an aberration).

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But 21 years on from Carrie's debut and four hundred million re-runs later, anyone who still admires Carrie is clearly an idiot. Because far from releasing women from societal constructs and positioning them as the masters of their own destiny she taught a generation to be indecisive, self-obsessed, materialistic and terrible with money.

Carrie Bradshaw may be appealing on-screen, but in real life most people would hate her. Picture: supplied
Carrie Bradshaw may be appealing on-screen, but in real life most people would hate her. Picture: supplied

We should have picked it from the opening credits. Even your average nine-year-old - having long grown out of wearing tulle - could predict that a bus cruising through Manhattan on a rainy day might spray water on to the footpath. But not Carrie.

For six years she showcased a peculiar - if stylish - brand of learned helplessness. She bought Vogue magazine instead of lunch, "invested" in shoes rather than property, wrote myopic little columns that never appeared to extend longer than two lines and pranced around in her knickers while a series of men variously attempted to fix everything from her taps to her self-esteem.

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Of course, she was fictional but she was an archetype. And instead of teaching women striding into a new millennium to take ownership of their lives, she showcased being victim to the same old tropes: controlling men; debt; high emotion and self-doubt. It's no more preposterous than her closet full of Manolo Blahniks to suggest that she robbed my generation of their self-sufficiency. She was a living, breathing poster girl for credit card debt. Had women invested the $5,000 they spent each year on designer handbags and shoes into superannuation they'd be able to retire a decade earlier, travel the world and drink all the cosmopolitans they want.

Many SATC fans now consider Miranda and Charlotte to be the heroines of the show. Picture: Craig Blankenhorn/New Line Cinema
Many SATC fans now consider Miranda and Charlotte to be the heroines of the show. Picture: Craig Blankenhorn/New Line Cinema

Worse, Carrie sold women multiple lies about love. At the end of season one she pesters Big: "Just tell me I'm the one." Later, she allows Aidan to buy her an apartment and is surprised that he rescinds the purchase when she dumps him. She stomps over Aidan's feelings, wearing his engagement ring around her neck and she thinks counselling is for people "who can't solve their own problems".

Far from teaching women to have a Plan B and C, to build a worthwhile life in their own right and clearly communicate their needs, Carrie was a masterclass in narcissism, neediness, neuroticism.

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She may have been the girl crush of my generation, but over six long seasons which addressed many of the challenges of modern womanhood - work, friendship, breast cancer, financial struggles, single parenting, infidelity, lost love - she utterly failed to evolve.

Frankly, if Carrie was around today she'd be 53, regretting not diversifying beyond writing a single weekly column and ugly crying as much as her Botoxed brow would allow. She'd be eBaying the shit out of all her shoes, selling off her vintage Vogues and bemoaning all the money she'd wasted on taxis and cocktails.

By modern standards, Carrie barely worked. Picture: supplied
By modern standards, Carrie barely worked. Picture: supplied

She'd regret aiming for the ephemeral "perfect" rather than settling for "good enough".

But in fairness, the one thing she'd still have is her friends and if she was lucky, one in particular might have forced her to see sense. Because, retrospectively, the real star of Sex and the City was Miranda. She was the one with a proper job, a healthy perspective and a survivor's attitude. Unlike Carrie, she cooked for herself, went to the gym and learned to compromise when her relationship with Steve flailed then resumed. She had parents she cared about - Carrie's seemingly did not exist - and unlike her heel-tottering friend she was not a crashing snob who believed Manhattan was the centre of the universe.

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As she said in one episode: "All we talk about anymore is Big or balls or small dicks. How does it happen that four such smart women have nothing to talk about but boyfriends?"

In real life, Miranda would've taken Carrie in hand. She'd have found her a gig writing stories for Amnesty International and forced her to hire an accountant. Every other weekend she'd have commandeered Carrie into volunteering in a soup kitchen in Queens.

Now if that was the story Sarah Jessica Parker was going to tell, I'd love to hear it. Instead, I suspect she'll be talking about shoes.

@angelamollard



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