A Myth of Independence


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A Myth of Independence

  1. 1. Claire Teylouni<br />FSEM 1111-06<br />November 1, 2009<br />A Myth of Independence<br />Sarah Jessica Parker is most famous for her role as Carrie Bradshaw on the television series Sex and the City, which, created by Darren Star, began on June 6, 1998 and ran for six years. IMDB, the Internet Movie Database, describes the plot: “Four beautiful female New Yorkers gossip about their sex-lives (or lack thereof) and find new ways to deal with being a woman in the 90's.” This show is one of many television shows that highlight America’s fascination with observing and following the rich and fashionable. While “rich” is a term that must be used loosely, as no particular character on the show was uncommonly wealthy, not one ever had trouble dropping up to $40,000 on high-heeled shoes. Though the show does show some progress for women in both society and the workplace, it is impossible to watch the show without receiving the impression that a New York City woman cannot go a day without spending away her feelings, regardless of whether or not the spending money exists. Sex and the City, while it does feature strong, independent women, is a false representation of women living in New York City because of the way the characters spend ridiculous amounts of money and the way they shop to cure any problem that might arise. <br />Sex and the City does, admittedly, feature four strong and (for the most part) independent women. The first and most well-known of the bunch is Carrie Bradshaw. In the series, Carrie writes a column about love and relationships for Vogue magazine, and also has written several books. Next is Samantha Jones, who is a beautiful and very successful Personal Relations executive for an acting/modeling company (and she dates one of the model/actors). Then there is Miranda Hobbs, perhaps the most logical of the group, who is a lawyer, and is known for making decisions by writing down the pros and cons of a situation. Samantha and Miranda work fulltime at their jobs. Carrie most likely does as well; though she is never pictured at an office (as it is easy to work from home as a writer), she is pictured several times meeting with her Vogue editor.<br />The fourth character is Charlotte York, the girliest one of the group. It is, for the most part, unclear what Charlotte does for a living, though in her younger years she was supposed to have been a model. Charlotte, surprisingly, is the one who always seems to wear the most expensive clothing—apparently she is independently wealthy in some way. This is just one example of how the four women of Sex and the City work hard and play even harder. With the exception of perhaps Samantha, who makes a large amount of money as a PR exec, if these women were living in the real world they would be extremely financially unstable. There is no way that a columnist, a former model, or even a lawyer can responsibly spend as much as Bradshaw, York and Hobbs do. It is clear that Carrie Bradshaw spends more than she can realistically afford: “I’ve spent $40,000 on shoes and I have no place to live? I will literally be to the old woman who lived in her shoes!” Additionally, at a jewelry auction that is said to “be the one thing that brings all different kinds of New York women together,” Samantha Jones is prepared to spend $50,000 on a flower diamond ring she wants to buy for herself. <br />Furthermore, Samantha wants to buy the ring because “…this flower ring is the essence of [her]. One of a kind, filled with fire.” There are few people in the world who are willing to spend $50,000 on something that is not a car, or even a home, but Samantha and the rest of the Sex and the City women happen to be in this group. The expensive things that the Sex and the City women buy are not bought for practical reasons, but in order to satisfy their out-of-control superficial desires. Samantha goes on to say, “Let’s go spend some of my hard-earned Hollywood money… I deserve this.” In the show, women are defined by the way they shop, and shopping is defined as a source of bonding for women. Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte shop when they have had a bad day, when they need to take their minds off of something emotional or stressful, when they are frustrated with husbands/significant others, or because they just feel like they need to. Bradshaw exhibits her blatant disregard for financial responsibility when she says, “But I rationalized that my new shoes shouldn’t be punished just because I can’t budget.” She also claims, “I like my money right where I can see it—hanging in my closet.” And, most ridiculous of all, Carrie says, “When I first moved to New York and I was totally broke, sometimes I would buy Vogue instead of dinner. I just felt it fed me more.”<br />Sex and the City is not the only popular television show that promotes a woman’s requirement to shop and be fashionable. Gossip Girl is another such show which, though it focuses on a younger audience and is set in high school as opposed to the work place, endorses the same superficial image of women. One of the main attractions of the show is the clothes worn by Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf, the two main characters. Both prominent in high New York society, Serena and Blair are surrounded by the world of the Upper East Side. Perhaps worse than the Sex and the City women, Serena and Blair have never worked a day in their lives, and yet have expendable wealth that is unfailingly spent on expensive brand-name clothing (As Blair says, “Whoever said money that doesn’t buy happiness didn’t know where to shop.”). To add insult to injury, the characters of Gossip Girl also seem to look down upon those who are not as fortunate and ridiculously wealthy as they are. This is especially clear when Blair says, “There's a reason we never went downtown. It's awful. The minute you cross 14th Street people forget there's a class system.” Gossip Girl revolves around the lives of the rich and famous (of an elite prep school) and puts forth the message that girls who are not wealthy, beautiful, and fashionable cannot live satisfying or, from Blair’s perspective, acceptable, lives. <br />In the opening line of the Sex and the City movie, Carrie says, “Year after year, hundreds of twenty-something women come to New York City in search of the two L’s: Labels and Love.” According to Sex and the City, then, it is impossible that a woman might move to New York City to pursue an occupational opportunity. It is unfortunate that Sex and the City and Gossip Girl are such popular television shows among the teenage generation, because they feature women with upset priorities. Sex and the City advocates a myth of independent, working women—it features women who are not even close to being financially responsible because they are captivated by expensive brands and crumble in front of a designer shoe rack. This myth of independence argues that women can be equals among men in the workplace, yet in actuality are driven through life by a will to shop and a desire to find a man to support their obsession with material objects. <br />