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Two TV shows both set in New York City, both focusing on four women and their lives, both progressive of their portrayal of women, and both produced by HBO. One was hugely popular and successful during its time, and the other is gathering its own reputation and following. So which one is better?

Sex and the City (SatC) first ran from 1998 to 2004, with six seasons and later two movies. (We do not need to mention the movie sequel. It’s unanimously agreed that it was terrible.)

What was great about SatC was that it was about modern women. Women who were independent, who could support themselves, who had power, who were confident. These types of representations through the four leading ladies were not common on TV, and especially not in the entire principal cast.

SatC broke a lot of taboos by talking about subjects that weren’t mentioned often on TV, mainly revolving around sexual issues, like sexually transmitted infections. For a lot of women, this is how they learnt about their own body, because it had previously been deemed socially unacceptable to talk about such matters. The matter of fact and sometimes comedic way these “forbidden” topics were dealt with allowed women a new way to view themselves.

However, SatC received a lot of criticisms as well as acclaim, and large portions were from feminists.

The main problem listed, and which I agree with, is that all the major storylines revolve around women and their search for boyfriends/husbands. For instance, Samantha, the biggest supporter of sex without emotion, ends up paired with a guy. Miranda even acknowledges it when she asks, “How does it happen that four such smart women have nothing to talk about but boyfriends?”

In fact, the six seasons could be summarised as Carrie waiting for Big to realise the sweet deal he has. Instead, he acts like a jerk for the majority of the time and then they get married. Oh wait, he first gets cold feet and ditches their wedding.

Then they get married.

Personally, I also found it hard to relate to and superficial at times. All they seem to care for is men and fashion, which I know doesn’t represent my, or other girls’, priorities.

In the first episode of Girls, Shoshanna (one of the four main girls) has a giant SatC poster on her wall that she points out. She also matches up each of her friends and herself with the corresponding characters from SatC. Girls is aware of their similarities. They want the audience to realise that as well. In many ways, Girls is SatC, just ten years later.

Like SatC, Girls is portraying a new type of woman than what is currently on TV. Conversely, where SatC depicts women as successful and fashionable, Girls shows women who are relatable. Struggling to get a job, struggling to pay the bills, struggling to find their own place in the world. The women in Girls aren’t thinner than a stripper’s pole, or have the same amount of make up on as a stripper. When we look at them, we see ourselves.

The majority of women today aren’t counting their collection of Louis Vuitton handbags, but are more concerned with what is the smallest tip you can possibly leave behind without being rude, because you need that money for your fare home.

Sex and the City is what we wish we were. Girls is what we are.

That’s not to say there aren’t any problems with Girls. Disapproval of Girls, though, has largely come from its lack of diversity. Here again are four white, heterosexual, educated and privileged women. It focuses on girls, but only a very small, exact group of them. It isn’t representative of a majority, but is targeted towards a specific audience to enjoy.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which one is better. What’s important is that there are more shows like these, with the focus on women and real issues relating to women, because the biggest criticism of both is that it isn’t ‘representative.’ This is only said because there are so few shows that are about women, so they unfairly get burdened with having to speak for all women, no matter if they’re gay, straight, black or white. Not only is this impossible and ridiculous, TV shows about men never get held up to the same scrutiny.

Hopefully the success of these two TV shows will make producers and big TV executives realise that a show with an all-female cast is an advantage, and not a weakness.

Listen to similar discussions related to pop culture on the podcast Memoirs of a Fangirl.

This article was written by a Hypable user! Learn more and write your own right here.

  • akacj18

    i like your point at the end, saying that neither is better because both have their own audiences, merits, and pitfalls. 

    to continue off your last sentence, i WOULD say tv execs are starting to “get” that having strong female casts, or female-LED casts, are an advantage – 2 Broke Girls, Once, & New Girl being a few (of many) fresh examples. 

    • http://www.eigakanthemovietheater.blogspot.com Jenny Leigh

      Lots of TV shows have strong female casts! Grey’s is another example, and I rather love Greek. Desperate Housewives is another…there are so many. However, this is the first time girls of a certain age (20′s) aren’t depicted as airbrushed models. I think that’s where many people are feeling it’s breaking the mold.

  • hpatdh33

    I only watched 2 episodes this season when my mom would watch it, what I saw I liked.  I will probably watch it when/ if it hits netflix

  • http://twitter.com/JennaDickes Jenna Dickes

    You summed it up very well. For me, SaTC is just too shallow to ever take seriously now. It got popular when I started middle school so I’d sneak watching it and learn about the things they didn’t talk about in sex ed. I wasn’t active at all then but it felt good and somehow liberating to hear women talk about sex that way. I think it made the younger generations who watched it more open about talking about sex for sure. At the same time though, Carrie was supposed to be the protagonist and she was unbelievable emotionally immature. I’d say even less mature than Hannah in a lot of ways (again, why I could never take SaTC seriously). Most of the relationships in that show were horrible yet they portrayed them as romance and such.

    With Girls, the characters are also flawed, but they aren’t romanticized like the women in SaTC were. That’s part of why I love the show, it’s honest. Also, it’s not pretentious like a lot of what comes from our “hipster” generation. Lena Dunham just gets it :/

  • Jessica

    This is a great article. I love Girls, but I haven’t watched Sex and the City, but you gave enough information to help me accurately compare them on some level.  And what you said about Girls is so true. It is such a relatable show.  Especially since I am in fact a white, straight, girl who goes to college. But it’s more than that.  Girls isn’t shying away from any of the grittier or less glamorous parts of life, like you said. And that’s one of things I love about it.

  • http://twitter.com/axpez Alicia Perez

    I love Girls but I actually have a huge problem with it that’s been creeping up from my subconscious. As a straight, educated female living in a big city, I still find most of the story unrelatable. Why? Because I’m a person of color. As a Latina, my story in New York City will be drastically different from these four, privileged, white girls. I wish the creators would have added a person of color into the cast. Even a token character would have been better than an all-white cast. They’re really alienating a large part of their audience by not having any PoC in the main cast.

    • http://www.eigakanthemovietheater.blogspot.com Jenny Leigh

      I feel like you’re right! That’s my one complaint about the show. I’m not going to lie, I’m white, but even I have trouble relating to these girls. How is it that all these white people somehow found their way together in NY? I went to a much smaller town for college, but even I don’t have all white friends (quite the opposite actually). My last roommate was Japanese. I feel like in today’s culture, girls (and guys!) have a much more ethnically diverse group of friends, which is what I found very teeth-cringing about this aspect of the show. Especially in NY — which is a huge melting pot of cultures! They seem to ignore that bit. So yeah, maybe I can relate sometimes, but to me I still felt out in the cold. Excellent show, great writing, but this is not the “majority” of girls our age.

  • Marsha Lowell

    I was having this conversation with a coworker of mine at
    Dish, and I couldn’t find the words to explain the success of these shows. I
    wish I would’ve read this post sooner because there’s no better way to put it than
    when you said, “Sex and the City is what we wish we were. Girls
    is what we are.” That statement sums up why both these shows are on my list of
    favorites! My DVR is full of a combination of the two. In fact, it’s lucky I have
    the Hopper DVR box that has the memory to accommodate the decade worth of
    seasons of Sex and the City. Everyone loves a show they can live vicariously
    through but, at the same time, it is nice to feel connected. The characters in
    Girl are people that I could see myself being friends with if I ran into them
    at a party. Contrarily, the women in Sex and the City and I would probably
    never meet since I wouldn’t be able to afford the nightclubs they frequent and,
    once again, that is the appeal.

  • Melissa

    I completely agree with the comparison, “Sex and the City” is what I wish my life was, “Girls” is what my life really was, and I think it’s kind of silly to say that you can’t relate because they’re all white, I went to college and I got my degree and did everything as I was told I should to succed and after graduation I had the exact same problems, I had to live with my parents, I had an infinite numbers of lousy jobs, I struggled to pay the rent, I couldn’t for the life of me spend friday nights in a bar sipping cosmos, I wish I could, so Girls speaks to me in a real way, that was my life in my 20′s, now in my early 30′s I still don’t have Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe/shoes budget and I probably never will, but I don’t need them to be latin (which I am) to relate to them… I can’t expect every show to have a venezuelan ex-patriate so I can relate to a character, I don’t need it, specially in this types of show where the lenguage is so universal, to me the struggle of being a woman in the 21st century is global enough!

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