Tying One On With Sex And The City
Are the women of SATC bawdy boozehounds or subtle sippers?
None of you people need me to mansplain the cultural impact Sex And The City has had on the western world, from the common use of "abso-fucking-lutely" to an inability, when one hears a vibraphone, not to expect someone in a tutu to get splashed. And, of course, the cocktails.
"I need a huuuuge drink," Carrie moans in this, the fifth season, as Sam and she cross the country by train -- one of the many scenes on this show in which alcohol plays a central role. Booze is so ubiquitous in SATC that it's hard to find a thinkpiece on alcohol's role in collegiate excess that doesn't mention the show -- "Carrie Bradshaw swilling cosmos" is the template for "college girls binge drinking," suggests one, while another refers to the "giddy pudendum-waxing" of the show as a reason why "the market for women's drinks was booming...Cocktails sugared up like candy. The apple martini. The cosmo."
But five seasons into the show, I am not so sure that SATC is as closely linked to rampant alcohol abuse. Sure, in past seasons, we've seen Miranda so anxious about being with a hot cop that she gets wasted; Carrie showing up at Big's after getting her drink on; and Charlotte knocking on Trey's door after a tipsy night. All bad decisions, but all relatable ones. Yes, all these adult women have occasionally drunk too much, but not every time they go out, and not without there being a consequence. And you need look no further than Season 1's "The Baby Shower" to see the show's opinion of routine excess: Laney Berlin (even in flashback) is not, we're shown, a glamorous character. She's a mess.
So, with this being Booze Week on Previously.tv, it's the perfect time to break down how alcohol is used on Season 5 of SATC. Pour yourself a drink, and let's take a look.
As a weapon
After discovering Richard in bed with another woman in Season 4, a broken-hearted Samantha seems to be enjoying his efforts to win her back. After he leaves a message asking her to meet him at SushiSamba (perhaps a bad choice given the act in which he was caught), Sam shows up, which Richard seemed to expect! He's ordered her a dirty martini, he says.
"Dirty martini, dirty bastard," Sam says, before sweeping out.
As a bare boob accessory
When a sailor played by Daniel Sunjata (in an execrable Louisiana accent -- I mean, it was so bad that it reminded me of the "Patches" episode of Difficult People) invites Carrie and the gang to a Fleet Week shindig, Charlotte uncharacteristically announces that she's going to get laid. So when Navy officer Matt Cook asks to see her breast, she acquiesces...
...but that's all she's up for, as it turns out. She's barely touched her cosmo (which seems like a totally normal thing to be served at a Navy party) and Cook's dark liquor barely has a dent. So we cannot blame her exhibitionism on the a a a a a alcohol, as Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx might sing.
As an effort to appear relevant
When Carrie gets the opportunity to turn her columns into a book, she meets with two cosmo-swilling staffers of her soon-to-be publisher, played to brittle perfection by Amy Sedaris and Molly Shannon.
"I'm having a cosmopolitan with the woman who wrote about cosmopolitans!" Lily Martin (Shannon) says, to Carrie's thinly-veiled dismay. You can see Carrie thinking "Okay, this drink is o-ver. O. V. E. R."
As class distinction
We meet Mary, Steve's mother (Anne Meara), after Miranda agrees to have Brady baptized. As Miranda helps Mary up the stairs for a midday meeting at the chapel, the attorney clearly catches a whiff of something. "Is your mom drunk?" Miranda asks Steve accusingly. "Nah, just a couple of beers" the bar owner says...and the weight of Miranda's judgement feels palpable. In Miranda's world, while the occasional three-martini lunch might be part of the gig, a couple of domestic cans is for other people. People who live in Queens.
"Imagine Steve, in a wig, drunk!" Miranda says to Carrie later, when describing Mary to Carrie. And she's not wrong! But the edge of class-based contempt Miranda has for this woman (who, yes, seems EXTREMELY TRYING) isn't becoming.
As something to do while being stood up
I will always wonder what happened to Ted, Carrie's blind date who never showed. Could Ted have saved Carrie from whatever I fear is about to happen with Ron Livingston's Jack Berger?
Could Berger throw up flags that are any redder? Seriously, who baby that walks like a man (but rides a motorcycle like, well, a baby) could not seem like a worse decision if he actually wore a shirt emblazoned with a biohazard symbol. This is a guy who makes multiple joking (?) suicide threats regarding the commercial failure of his most recent book; lives with his girlfriend but spends a flirtatious afternoon with a woman he just met; goes out and buys a friggin' Harley following a breakup; and, once he becomes available, literally runs away from Carrie the first time they sit down and talk. Ted, please return and intervene!
In celebration of an escape from child-rearing
I'll admit it: when Miranda deadpans to Carrie that she can't take a trip to Atlantic City because "I'm not ready to be separated from the baby," she TOTALLY GOT ME. Her subsequent "gotcha" is fantastic! Of course, I did start reaching for my revolver when Steve returns, saying he can't handle caring for Brady for the weekend. Steve is so repellant that I'm considering setting up a Kickstarter to fund Sex And The City 3: Steve Dies A Horrible Agonizing Death. Who's with me? Though I am not a huge fan of Magda, who as played by Lynn Cohen seems more like a lady who lives in the woods in a house made of candy than any sort of domestic professional, thank goodness she's there to take over for that bespectacled rat. That way, our girls can make dinner at the Taj Mahal.
To get people to show up for a book launch party
Any published author who is not named King or Rowling can tell you that, like Carrie's ability to easily straighten her own hair with just a blow drier, the over-the-top book launch party for Carrie's column compilation is sheer fantasy.
More realistic, perhaps, are the results of Sam's poorly-timed facial peel (shouldn't she have known better?), which leaves her face looking an awful lot like Harry's post-wax back.
Ah, yes, Harry Goldenblatt. I'm still trying to decide how I feel about Harry, I think? It bothers me -- both on this show and in life -- that we are so often lectured that delightful men come in unattractive packages, but that same lesson is rarely presented regarding ugly women. Can you imagine this show allowing a woman with the female cognate to Harry's flaws finding love with a man as kind, sweet, and hot as Charlotte? Of course not.
Of course, none of this is Harry's fault! And I love how loose, relaxed, and happy Charlotte seems around him. So my jury remains out.
As a way to make it through a three-day train trip
In the only display of actual drunkenness we see this season, Sam and Carrie kill a bottle of champagne as they endure the previously-mentioned train ride from New York to San Francisco.
Sam has an interesting arc this season, reuniting with Richard and then breaking up with him when she realizes she can't bear her constant anxiety over his wandering eye. When, in an infidelity-related panic, she dashes up those casino stairs in that horrid pearl thong (emoji for stinky things goes here), eventually announcing "I love you too Richard, but I love me more," I was so proud of her!
Out of all the characters on this show, Samantha is the one who veers closest to cartoon (it doesn't help that she's ladled a lot of the Borscht Beltiest jokes), and it would have been safe and easy to keep playing her sexually-free single note. But, instead, we get to see Sam let loose on Carrie at the fitting for her book cover shoot, with Sam saying "I cannot believe that you would judge me after everything we've been through...I will not be judged by you or society" for how she dresses or whom she fucks. It's an uncomfortable, genuine fight between friends, played excellently by both actresses. Similarly, the way Samantha processes her breakup with Richard feels remarkably true to character, from her post-breakup demand for the use of his Hamptons home to her breakup-induced rage toss of a cantaloupe through one of that very house's windows.
In conclusion, based on what I've seen thus far on Sex And The City, it seems unfair to lay any bad booze decisions real-life women make on this show's doorstep. Yes, the characters drink, and alcohol is present at every celebratory moment, but that seems an accurate depiction of the lives of most adults who choose to consume booze. These women aren't out getting hammered every night; they don't seem to be taking risks due to intoxication; and none of them seem to be using booze to hide from their problems or gin up the courage to act uncharacteristically.
In fact, I'd argue that SATC provides women with great examples of how to live an adult life as a drinker, with drinks being savored, martinis being left behind instead of chugged, and excess portrayed as exceedingly un-glamorous.
And speaking of un-glamorous, though it has nothing to do with booze, I must leave you with this shot from Carrie's San Francisco book reading, in which she apparently opens for early '00s internet sensation Mr Winkle. I have nothing to say about it, which is fine, because it speaks for itself.
Episodes Left To Watch
Eve's Sex & The City Marathon Diary
- Season 1 Of Sex And The City Makes All Sorts Of Whoopee
- Sex And The City's Second Season Gets Meatier
- Sex And The City Gets Too Big For Its Britches
- In Season 4, Sex And The City Puts Miranda Through The Wringer
- Tying One On With Sex And The City
- Sex And The City Starts To Pair Off
- Sex And The City Winds It Up