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Sex and The City - What Each Lady Tells You about Yourself

Are you a Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, or Miranda? Each woman feels so real, distinct, and clearly defined – so we can easily see ourselves in them, whether we’re a neurotic creative type like Carrie, a hopeless romantic like Charlotte, a confident “try-sexual” like Samantha, or an ambitious cynic like Miranda (or perhaps a mix of multiple characters.) So, which one are you – and what can we learn from each of the ladies?

Transcript

Are you a Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, or Miranda? For years, Sex and the City viewers have used this question as a kind of sorting hat or personality quiz. Each woman feels so real, distinct, and clearly defined – so we can easily see ourselves in them, whether we’re a neurotic creative type like Carrie, a hopeless romantic like Charlotte, a confident “try-sexual” like Samantha, or an ambitious cynic like Miranda, or perhaps a mix of multiple characters.

Shoshanna: “I’m definitely a Carrie at heart, but, like, sometimes … sometimes Samantha kind of comes out.” - Girls, 1x01

So, which one are you – and what can we learn from each of the ladies? Here’s our Take.

Carrie - Embrace Your Flaws

Sex and the City introduced us to one of the most iconic TV protagonists of all time: Carrie Bradshaw. Her character lived the fantasy of being a successful writer who could afford a Manhattan apartment and a closet full of expensive shoes. As Carrie put her experiences into her own words, she embodied the idea of being the writer of your own story – going your own way.

“Carrie Bradshaw is the individual. She’s the person who’s following her own path.” - Michael Patrick King, Archive of American Television

Sex and the City also framed Carrie as attractively flawed – her shortcomings didn’t make her damaged, they gave her complexity. And this characterization made it seem more appealing to be oneself, with all of your flaws, than to be perfectly put together. The show often reminds us of Carrie’s imperfections through scenes where Carrie looks stylish, then falls or gets clumsy. Of course, the pretty, clumsy woman is a common comedy trope. But Carrie’s falls are a statement that she messes up, and the takeaway is that she is more interesting and charming because of her ability to fail, get back up, and walk it off.

There’s something incredibly positive about seeing a female protagonist as the lover – the one doing the desiring of the guy, or guys – rather than as the beloved or object of desire. Carrie says “I am someone who is looking for love. Real love” (Sex and the City, 6x20). And her defining romantic trait seems to be that she needs conflict in her relationships in order to feel satisfied.

Carrie: “I’m used to the hunt. This is effortless. It’s freaking me out.” Sex in the City, 3x07

Her need for struggle explains why, for the entire series, Carrie is completely fixated on the elusive man we know as Mr. Big.

“With her love interest Mr. Big she believed they belonged together. And in a very good romantic comedy that works out, and in life sometimes that’s…a pathology.” - King, Archive of American Television

The show juxtaposes attractively-flawed Carrie with Big’s younger, refined wife, Natasha. Carrie envies Natasha’s poise and sophistication – but the show implies that Natasha’s flawlessness makes her boring and that Carrie is inherently a more fascinating person because she’s not so impeccable.

In the popular game of deciding which Sex and the City character you are, many viewers at the time would have said Carrie – and that’s because the other three were all clear, rigid types. It’s easy to point to others in your life as Mirandas, Samanthas, and Charlottes, but Carrie was more multi-dimensional and most of us perceive ourselves to be likewise complex. Like its heroine, Sex and the City contains some interesting contradictions; the women spend most of their time talking and thinking about men, but their female friends are the ones they share and analyze these sexual adventures with. So while they spend such an extended period fixating on romance, along the way these women prove themselves to be very independent, career-focused, friend-first people.

Carrie: “The most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.” - Sex and the City, 6x20.

All of these contradictions of the show are embodied in Carrie, and that’s what makes her so maddening, inspiring, and fascinating. And so it’s only fitting that we should raise a cosmo to this trailblazing TV antihero who opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

Samantha - Stay True to You

Though Carrie was the show’s protagonist, it was through Samantha that the show actually pushed the boundaries of how female sexuality is portrayed on screen. This erotically adventurous woman in her 40s embodied the revolutionary sexual freedom and independence that Sex and the City stood for when it premiered. According to Ceros’ “Stats & The City” article, Samantha uttered 210 profanities over the show’s six-season run and was featured in 40 of the series’ 96 total sex scenes.

Samantha represents an authentic version of the “Bachelorette” trope that’s remarkably rare onscreen.

Carrie: “A Manhattan legend. Straight. Steadfastly single. And sexually very active. In short: the male Samantha.” Sex and the City, 3x11

Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda are all also single at numerous points in the series, but it’s only Samantha who is committed to being a bachelorette and staying that way.

It’s also significant that Samantha is the oldest woman of the Sex and the City ladies, spending most of the series in her 40s and turning 50 in the first movie. While the show appeared to challenge the idea that women had to settle down through following four single women over 30, notably Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda do still end up in happy, settled relationships by around the time they hit that next milestone: their 40th birthdays. So their single status at most helped elongate the phase in which our culture deems it acceptable for women to remain single. Samantha, on the other hand, completely rejects the foundational idea that a single woman is only “acceptable” up to a certain age at all. So if Sex and the City revolutionized TV, it was Samantha Jones who revolutionized Sex and the City.

When a 2017 Buzzfeed quiz asked readers asked which of the four Sex and the City leading ladies was their favorite, Samantha won with 35% of the vote. However, when a different 2018 Buzzfeed quiz asked which Sex and the City lady readers saw themselves as, Samantha came in fifth out of six places with just 8% of the vote.

Samantha: “I’m a lovely person. At least get to know me, then hate me!” - Sex and the City 3x05

Even if many viewers don’t want to be “the Samantha” of their friend group, there actually is a lot worth emulating in her character. She spends the entire franchise overcoming her emotional intimacy issues, while also coming to a secure understanding that her bachelorette lifestyle isn’t a crutch or inability to change, but a way of staying true to herself and realizing her full potential.

She sets an example to prioritize our emotional well-being in relationships and reject the assumption that we need to copy others’ life choices or conform to what society considers “normal” behavior. Because to be “a Samantha” is not to be sex-crazed, promiscuous, or even necessarily single; it’s to be self-assured, emotionally evolving, and true to yourself.

Samantha: “I am harsh. I’m also demanding, stubborn, self-sufficient, and always right. In bed, at the office, and everywhere else.” - Sex and the City, 6x04

Charlotte - Believe in Love

Charlotte York is a hopeless, old-fashioned romantic. On a show which initially seems to espouse a cynical view of love, this beacon of optimism acts as an important stand-in for many viewers who can, to this day, identify with her conventional desire for a perfect-looking, fairy-tale love. Charlotte has to cure herself of her damaging romantic falsehoods before she can be ready to find the happiness she longs for.

One of the things that holds Charlotte back most is her focus on superficial, external qualities in her search for a potential husband. When Charlotte meets Trey, she believes she has finally found the exact man she’s been looking for since she was a teenager

Carrie: “Charlotte was spending all her time with Trey, a doctor from family money who had it all.” - Sex and the City, 3x08

She deems him “The One” after just a few weeks of dating. But Charlotte’s fixation on her marriage plan backfires on her. She doesn’t give herself time to really get to know Trey, so their relationship is founded only on flimsy external things in common. This nitpicking is why the show eventually matches her with Harry – a man who is the exact opposite of everything she thought she wanted, but perfect for her in every way.

Charlotte: “Harry’s not who I expected to fall in love with, but I did.” - Sex and the City 6x02

Her passion for Harry is what finally brings about the undoing of all Charlotte’s damaging love myths. she comes to understand how little the superficial elements of a relationship really do matter to her. And when Charlotte and Harry do get married, their happy wedding full of mishaps is a clear juxtaposition to her perfect-on-the-surface wedding to Trey, which was preceded by her realizing she had no intimate connection to her husband-to-be. Near the end of the series, Charlotte’s ideology about what it means to be a woman is challenged in an even more painful way through her struggles with infertility. She has to confront her old-fashioned assumptions about what motherhood must look like. And her “happy ending” in the series finale comes in seeing a picture of the baby girl she’s going to adopt. It’s a moment that’s emblematic of the joy she experiences when she stops holding herself to a too-rigid, preconceived plan.

Ultimately, Charlotte endures as a relatable character due to what’s both her most limiting flaw and her greatest strength: her romantic idealism. While for a long time it holds her back through a restrictive vision of what her “perfect” life should look like, her undying belief in love also ensures that she never gives up. So to this day, we can learn from Charlotte’s resilient ability to keep hope alive, while breaking down the barriers that are holding us back from finding true fulfillment.

Carrie: “My good friend, Charlotte, the eternal optimist, who always believes in love.” - Sex and the City, 5x02

Miranda - Own Your Strength

Once upon a time, it wasn’t exactly flattering to be labeled “a Miranda”. She was the cynical pessimist and the least glamorous of the Sex and the City women

Miranda: “I’m never gonna be a girly girl.” - Sex and the City, 3x04

But in today’s world, there are many people who would proudly call themselves Mirandas. There’s even a “We Should All Be Mirandas” t-shirt, playing on the book title We Should All Be Feminists.

Sex and the City is so much about analyzing the ins and outs of dating, there’s an implicit assumption that relationships are all-important. But Miranda calls the other women out for obsessing over men. She’s the one who most often notices sexist double standards.

Miranda: “A 34-year-old guy with no money and no place to live because he’s single, he’s a catch. But a 34-year-old woman with a job and a great home, because she’s single, is considered tragic.” - Sex and the City, 3x09

Miranda also refuses to conform to anyone else’s expectations of how her life should look or what qualifies as success. Miranda doesn’t just dish it out, she can take it, too. When she tells Carrie and Berger about a date she went on and asks Berger for a guy’s opinion, he tells her: “I’m not gonna sugar-coat it for you: he’s just not that into you” (Sex and the City, 6x04). For some of us, this blunt message would be demoralizing. But for Miranda, it’s freeing, even empowering, because she’s all about facing the facts.

Miranda stands strong in rebelling against conventions she doesn’t believe in, but she also comes to realize that some traditional things do actually make her happy, and allowing those into her life doesn’t make her a sellout. When she unexpectedly gets pregnant after sleeping with Steve while they’re broken up, she has doubts about motherhood. But after she doesn’t put pressure on herself to be a stereotypical mom, she finds herself totally in love with baby Brady. So Miranda’s character is revolutionary in how she shows that you don’t have to be either the career woman or the happy wife and mom – you can do both in a way that suits you.

When Sex and the City was on the air, there was still a stigma around women having the qualities that made Miranda who she was – abrasiveness, strong opinions, and an inability to go with the flow.

Miranda: “I miss ESPN and NPR and Dateline—I am not the honeymoon type!” - Sex and the City, 6x15

But these days, Miranda’s realism and rawness are qualities we try to emulate, and it’s just not no longer cool to hate on a woman for owning her intelligence and calling it like she sees it. Because Miranda Hobbes had the guts to go against the grain then, the character has endured as someone we look up to now.

Or Are You a Bit of Each?

If you look closer, you can read the three secondary protagonists of Sex and the City as representing the three primary facets of a contemporary woman: Miranda is the head,

Miranda: “Unbelievable fairy tales concocted by women to make their love lives seem less hopeless.” - Sex and the City 2x08

Charlotte is the heart,

Charlotte: “I think that having it all really means having someone special to share it with.” - Sex and the City, 3x10

and Samantha is the libido.

Samantha: “F*** me badly once, shame on you. F*** me badly twice, shame on me.” - Sex and the City, 6x02

As the protagonist at the center of this friend group, Carrie demonstrates a woman’s struggle to reconcile her sharp modern mind, conventional fairy-tale-loving heart, and unfiltered sex drive. Carrie’s character is ultimately an amalgamation of these three personalities, who seem so incompatible yet come together in one psyche. She balances her heart’s optimism and belief in love with her mind’s rationality and progressive values, and adds a dash of Samantha’s independent nature and daring confidence. Women to this day must accomplish this same balancing act of reconciling the disparate parts of themselves in the pursuit of love, success, and personal fulfillment.

Conclusion

The truth is the Sex and the City ladies all access their own inner Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda at different points. In the episode “Frenemies,” Charlotte and Samantha clash over their wildly opposing personalities, but then each gains more respect for the other – Samantha discovers she too has boundaries like Charlotte, while Charlotte learns to channel her inner Samantha. The episode reinforces that not only do these four very different women complement each other through their differences, but they also need each other to access deeper facets of their own personalities. And we can learn from the four ladies how important it is to discover the unexpected, exciting layers of ourselves.

Carrie: “Why is it that we can see our friends perfectly, but when it comes to ourselves, do we ever see ourselves clearly?” - Sex and the City, 4x02

Sources

Mason, Melissa. “I’m A Carrie With A Miranda Rising. Which Sex And The City Character Are You?” ELLE Australia, 17 June 2021.

Wang, Mary. “Is Sex and the City’s Miranda Hobbes Our Feminist Idol for the Trump Age?” Vogue, 6 Sept. 2017.