Why 'Sex and the City' Is So Goddamn Meme-Able
The creators behind four popular SATC-inspired Instagram accounts reflect on the show's 20th anniversary.
Twenty years after Sex and the City premiered on HBO, on June 6, 1998, the show about four single girlfriends living and loving in New York City is a bonafide classic. Judging by the number of people who still watch re-runs, and the popularity of the myriad Sex and the City-inspired Instagram accounts, there's a lot about Carrie Bradshaw, Miranda Hobbes, Samantha Jones, and Charlotte York that still resonates.
Some aspects of the show are incredibly dated, like Samantha referring to her neighbors, transgender sex workers in the Meatpacking district, as "trannies." Or that episode where Carrie kisses Alanis Morissette and outs herself as being extremely bi-phobic. But Sex and the City is also virtuous in its celebration of female friendship and sexual agency.
To reflect on the show's enduring legacy—and what's changed about entertainment and the world in the past two decades—VICE tracked down the masterminds behind some of the biggest Sex and the City Instagram accounts.
Chelsea Fairless and Lauren Garroni are the women behind @everyoutfitonsatc, who also coined the #WokeCharlotte meme. Dan Clay is known for emulating Carrie Bradshaw as his drag persona #CarrieDragshaw. MirandaMondays, whose creator declined to reveal her identity, is a celebration of the show's most pragmatic character. And Stephen Leng is the man behind @samanthajonespr, an homage to the most freewheeling one of the bunch. The following interviews have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
VICE: How would you describe the legacy of SATC in 2018?
Chelsea Fairless: From the streetwear influence to how women are portrayed—even the lasting impact of Magnolia Bakery—that all trickles down from Sex and the City. The show only feels dated because its existence pushed the narrative needle forward so much.
Lauren Garroni: There really has been no show that has replaced it. There have been shows about female friendships and fashion, but Sex and the City had this aura that cannot be duplicated. The show is no more problematic than other 90s show like Friends. The re-view of all these shows have their cringe-worthy moments and that is often where the meme-able moments come from, like our oft used hashtag #FuckingCarrie. We all love Carrie, but sometimes she can be a lot… and problematic.
MirandaMondays: As soon as you turn the show on, everyone starts dissecting who in their friend group is each character! It’s wild to think how different our society is in terms of politics and social media, yet for some reason, as soon as you put on Sex and the City people instantly identify with one of the four women. I think this speaks volumes to the writing.
Dan Clay: I connect to the more uplifting, confidence-boosting side of Sex and the City. Like how the show teaches you—even when you’re in this big, bad world of New York City—to put your friends first, love yourself as much as you love any guy, and wear what you want to wear, not what you think is going to fit in.
[It’s easy to] view singleness as a problem to be solved, and that’s something they address head-on in the show with some great, classic moments, like, “Maybe we can be each other’s soulmates,” or “Some women aren’t meant to be tamed.” In these moments, you’re really like, “Oh my god, yes! Girl power!”
Certainly there are some cringe-worthy moments, so I love things like #WokeCharlotte. I was just re-watching the LA episodes, where Samantha gives Carrie a dildo, and she is just aghast. It’s like, “Okay girl, you’re supposed to be a sex columnist living in New York City.”
I mean, that speaks to how much has changed in 20 years.
Clay: Totally! And thank goodness! I think a lot of the plotlines are still quite current and powerful, like not apologizing for your success as a woman, and not diminishing yourself to please a man. But yeah, there are definitely some moments that are like, “Come on ladies.”
Stephen Leng: I don’t think a lot of what they said and did would fly now. It would be a very different show if it was released today. Remember when Friends came to Netflix, and people started to notice there were really no people of colour, and they said kind of homophobic things all the time? The same goes for Sex and the City—certainly not as much, but times have changed. I used to find Carrie’s relationship with Stanford really one-sided, actually, and I wondered why someone like him, who seemed like a really sweet guy, would put up with this awful friend who just seemed to use him whenever her other friends were unavailable.
Why do you think the show still resonates for people? And what makes it so meme-able?
MirandaMondays: The subject matter hasn’t really changed. I think about the genius quote by Carrie (the only time I’ll reference Carrie) where she said, “In New York City, you’re always looking for either a job, a boyfriend, or an apartment.” I mean, 20 years later, men and women here are still struggling to find an affordable apartment, a job they actually like, and someone they can take to dinner with their friends and not hate.
Clay: The best moments of Sex and the City combined plot with fashion in these instantly recognizable moments. Like, when you see Carrie in a cowboy hat, you know that she just saw Big with Natasha.
Also we superfans know the characters are complex and evolve over the course of the show, but all four characters are also archetypes, which plays into the parlor game of “Which character are you?” Even people who’ve never watched Sex and the City know whether they’re a Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, or Charlotte.
But also what makes the show so re-watchable is that you kind of grow with it and connect to different parts of it. When you first watch the show, maybe you connect with Charlotte because you’re more pure. Then when you watch it again, maybe you connect more with Miranda, who’s a bit more world-weary.
Leng: I think Samantha and Miranda are the most meme-able of the four. They said the more outrageous things. Carrie and Charlotte were a bit more middle-of-the-road, whereas Miranda and Samantha took the extreme view on things quite often. That makes it fun to play around with 20 years later.
Why’d you start your Instagram account?
Fairless: I used to work as a photo researcher, and one thing designers always asked for were outfits from the show, but it was surprisingly difficult to find the ensembles beyond the most popular ones. Two years ago, I was having dinner with Lauren, and I mentioned how I wished a website existed with every outfit from Sex and the City. And she remarked that in 2016, that would be an Instagram, and here we are.
MirandaMondays: Honestly—and I am being so honest—my job rolled out a social media contract, but I wanted to be free to speak about how terrible men in New York City can be, how horribly women get treated in day-to-day life, and how fantastically brutal yet painfully funny it is being single in New York (or anywhere) after 25.
Clay: I never planned on knowing so much about Sex and the City. [Carrie Dragshaw] was a Halloween costume, and some miracle algorithm made it go viral. I thought, why not keep going? When the Halloween tutu pictures ran out, I had to decide whether to buy more Carrie Bradshaw outfits. It was so not part of my life plan. Every time I post, I think, This will probably be it. But it just keeps on kicking.
Leng: I was really hungover one Sunday last summer, watching Sex and the City, and I was like, Why has no one done a Samantha Instagram account? So I set one up, thinking no one would be interested and I’d probably delete it in a week or a day. But @mirandamondays very quickly picked up on it, and within a week, I had 1,000 followers.
How do you choose what to post? And what makes a post successful?
Garroni: I wish I could say almost two years in that we have an editorial calendar, but it's really organic and, at times, impulsive. Whatever catches our eye as we rewatch episodes. We also have our “Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours” in Sex and the City, and sometimes we'll remember an outfit from the deepest recesses of our minds and have this urge to do a post about it.
MirandaMondays: I draw inspiration from the subway, which is ironic since it’s such a huge part of Cynthia Nixon’s campaign for governor. I will be on the subway with my headphones in, no music, and just think, What the fuck do I want to tell the world today? That’s the best part of @mirandamondays—no responsibility to anyone. I think what makes a post successful is how relatable it is, like, we’ve all been ghosted, we’ve all masturbated, and we’ve all eaten cake out of the trash—or at least wanted to.
Clay: In the beginning, it was just the outfits I thought were major with some slight logistical considerations. I have broader shoulders than Carrie, so certain dress types don’t work for me. If I’m being honest, most of the outfits take a decent amount of time. I think if I was to add up the hours I spent searching for the perfect giant flower, or the right feather boa to glue on the back of a bright green miniskirt, I would check myself into an insane asylum. Like, this is really getting out of hand.
Have the stars of Sex and the City acknowledged your account?
MirandaMondays: Yes! The greatest moment of my life is when Cynthia Nixon followed me on Instagram.
Fairless: It's pretty wild. Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon all follow the account. The show's costume designer Patricia Field does as well, which is amazing because without her work we wouldn't have this account.
Sarah Jessica will comment on posts from time to time. Kristin Davis will DM heart emojis if we do a post about Trey. And Cynthia Nixon's campaign recently reached out to us to collaborate on merch for her.
Clay: Sarah Jessica Parker has been unbelievable, like I’m still overwhelmed by how consistently kind she’s been. I met her on Watch What Happens Live, Andy Cohen’s show, and she was just so delightful and fun. And she really got it! She got why I was doing it—the energy I was trying to put out in the world—so she’s just been amazing. Patricia Fields has been equally delightful, and we actually did a photo shoot together. It’s totally surreal for me to be interacting with the people who created this show that I watched obsessively as a kid. I feel like I picked a very kind woman to impersonate on the internet.
Leng: On [Kim Catrall’s] birthday, I posted a picture of her looking very fabulous which she liked, but she did not follow me. If you look at who she does follow, she’s not so into Sex and the City. I think the only person she follows is Patricia Fields…but I may be wrong. There was a time when she followed the other ladies from Sex and the City, I believe, but not anymore.
Leng: She has no chill.
Which character do you identify with the most?
Garroni: Chelsea and I use the Sex and the City characters as zodiac signs to identify ourselves. I identify as a Miranda with a Carrie rising.
Fairless: I'm a Miranda with a Samantha rising.
MirandaMondays: My favourite character is obviously Miranda, but I also love the woman who moved to New York from London in the pilot, who meets a man who does a whole song and dance and then ghosts her. I am that woman getting played to my core. Except instead of meet-cutes in townhouses, it’s happy hour wine specials with a dude I met off Tinder!
Leng: I have to be honest, Samantha’s not my favorite. Miranda is my favourite. I think she was the one who pushed the boundaries the most. But looking back, I would say Samantha is probably the easiest character to celebrate, because she was so free to be herself. She knew who she was the whole way through and didn’t compromise.
Clay: I have a lot in common with Carrie Bradshaw. I wish that I didn’t. I actually feel like this little project is helping me overcome that. I have a very overly-active internal monologue; I spend too much money on shoes; on my worst days I find my self-worth in my relationship status. I’m also kind of adventurous with how I dress, and I’m confident and a little bit wild—especially like early-seasons Carrie. I have a very Miranda job. I’m maybe a little too in touch with my Samantha side as well. But I think a part of the show is that you have all of them in you.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.