Glamorous Vs Gritty
Sex and the City aired on HBO from 1998 to 2004. Since I didn’t have HBO except for a brief few months in 2003, I did not get hooked on the series. I heard about it frequently, but didn’t know what the fuss was about. Eventually I watched a few episodes and then got the DVDs at the library.
It was an honest and entertaining look at sex and the single woman. There are many things I liked about the show. The four main characters were interesting and engaging. I tuned in to see how they dealt with their various relationships. However, I didn’t like all the aspects of the show. Primarily I was troubled by the way that they touted themselves as open-minded, but, in reality, their tolerance was limited. While they embraced the LGBT community, they were often judgmental about motherhood.
Sex and the City could have easily been taken from the pages of Cosmo. It dealt exclusively with successful women who lived a cultural hub and were pretty well off. They weren’t always easy to relate to when are a poor girl from a Midwestern town. Spending $400 on one pair of shoes or jetting off to Paris with a Russian lover are things were normal girls just can’t do.
In 2012, eight years after Sex and the City ended, HBO produced the series Girls. At first it looked a lot like Sex and the City. It follows four females throughout their romantic adventures in New York. But that is where the similarities ended. Sex and the City takes place in Manhattan while Girls takes place in Brooklyn. The women of Sex and the City were in their late 30s and the girls of Girls are in their late 20s.
Carrie Bradshaw and company are from Generation X. They were all born in the 1960s and are highly educated, active, balanced and happy. They are an idealistic generation who exhibit an entrepreneurial spirit. The big issue for Generation X was the end of a job for life, unlike today’s Generation Y who appear to be seriously questioning the nature of having a traditional job at all.
The girls of Girls are a different generation. They are the Millennials or Generation who were born after 1981. The complaint that the characters are aimless and narcissistic is a complaint about the Generation in general and is not specific to Hannah and her friends. Hannah is part of what Jean Twenge calls Generation Me.
Jean Twenge considers Millennials confident and tolerant, but also identifies a sense of entitlement and narcissism among Generation Me. The world Hannah lives in is one that came after an economic downturn. Fashion is a luxury that these girls can’t afford. College no longer guarantees a good paying job let alone a career. The challenges she faces in carving out her place in the world are common across the classes.
Though it annoying at times to here Hannah whine, the bleaker tone of Girls is easier to relate to than the rather buoyant tone of Sex and the City. Sometimes I just want to shake some common sense Hannah, but I do admire her bluntness. She is honest even when it isn’t flattering. Overall, Girls is more realistic even if it isn’t always pleasant to watch. Then again, reality isn’t always pleasant either.
Do I prefer one show over the other? No. Both are fine portrayals of women. Both are a snapshot of a specific time and place. You can’t compare apples to oranges or Generation X to Generation Y. So long as you view these two show in their proper context, but can be enjoyed for what they are.