Wednesday, May 26, 2010

the carrie bradshaw complex

It's perhaps only fitting that I follow up the post on Superwomen with a post on the venerable Carrie Bradshaw, a fictional character that has been alive and well to scores of women - and increasingly girls - for about fifteen years.
Now before I begin and to set the record straight: I'm going to see the second movie tonight with my gal pals and Cosmos in tow; so I'll preface the coming critique by saying that I'm totally a fan and a follower of all things SJP and Michael Patrick King come out with. But I am just a little irked (ok more than a little) by the movie's take on what was once a semi-believeable story of four working gals figuring out life, love, and fashion in the big city. Now it's become a story of four gals (still supposedly working) figuring out marriage, motherhood, and push-up bras in...Abu Dhabi?? In the words of Ms. Bradshaw herself, "I can't help but wonder"...what happened to Carrie Bradshaw?
I'm not sure at what point the character took on a larger than herself life outside of the show, but it's probably around the time that I began watching the re-runs on TBS. As it has with me, The show has caught on among young women who were practically babies during the time it first came out. I always thought that its continued popularity was a testament to the show's relevance: the topics it addressed had not yet been figured out, they still mattered. And with the exception of a few misguided attempts, the show's fashion had been so forward that it didn't look funny or outdated even five years after its original airdate.

Back in 1997, Carrie Bradshaw was a modern-day Cinderella with the shoes and clothes to match, only she needed no Prince to do the rescuing because she had made herself into what she was. Women looked up to her and aspired to fashion their own careers and closets after her's. Fast-forward to today: the Carrie Bradshaw of my generation has long hair extensions, cleavage up to her chin, and a seemingly bottomless pocketbook (does she work anymore?) that she flaunts on a camel in four and a half inch heels and dresses with glittery diamond details. I can't help but feel let down that this is the image of Carrie and women empowerment that my generation is getting: a faux sense of girl power through buying power. Case in point: the movie is releasing its own sparkly bottle of Skyy Vodka (which I'll admit, I was interested in finding) and probably a hundred other products to coincide with the release. Though I wasn't around to witness it in its original state, I miss the Carrie Bradshaw who sometimes wore lipliner that was too dark and sat in her tiny apartment smoking cigarettes and typing the contents of her next column. Somehow that Carrie seemed a lot more empowered, or at least, more real, than this stylized caricature of Carrie.

So why am I going on and on about this - why does it matter? For young women my age, and for women even older, Carrie Bradshaw is iconic. And for young aspiring writers like myself, she is an even more dominating force. Think of every fashion and lifestyle blog, the Whitney Ports and Lauren Conrads of television, the scores of 20-somethings who move to New York City every year. Her influence is everywhere, to the point where it's become problematic. I once read a job posting for an online bridal magazine looking for copywriters. In the heading, in bold-
faced caps, it read, "Carrie Bradshaw Wannabes do not apply". Sadly, I
can't help but think this is true, both of the Wannabes and of Carrie herself, whose real life applicability has become as ridiculous as her jewel-encrusted headpieces and midriff-baring tops (even if she does look great in them, she is 40+ years old. Can we just accept that?) She has crossed over into pure fantastical territory; a symbol no more of the modern-day woman but of a Queen fixed to unattainable proportions. But, I'll still go to the movie tonight for the over-the-top fashion, to see what happens (Aidan! Liza! Miley!), and for the warm nostalgia it brings to my group of friends of the first time we watched the seasons, of the outrageous bedroom scenarios, and of a gal named Carrie just trying to make her way in the big city.


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