I’ll admit that I like Sex and the City. Like most people my age, I would watch every week to see the adventures of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte as they tried to find love in the modern world. There were even moments when I was cheering along with the show for fighting back against the societal push towards marriage and family as signs of accomplishment. I especially loves the 6th Season episode “A Woman’s Right To Shoes” when Carrie realizes that there are no gift giving occasions for single women like there are for family women (i.e. wedding showers, baby showers, wedding anniversaries).
Carrie: So then… If I don’t get married or have a baby, what? I get Bupkiss? Think about it, after graduation there is not one event that is just about you
Charlotte: We get Birthdays
Carrie: No, no, no, we all get birthdays!
But for every “you go girl” moment along the way, the series ultimately gave us what it considered a happy ending, everyone was paired off with their soulmates and living the life of the perky togethers. We were left to believe the commitment-phobic Mr. Big had suddenly ready to settle down with Carrie. That the ultimate romantic, Charlotte, had her hubby, her dog, and was about to adopt a baby. Career woman Miranda ultimately learned that real happiness is bathing your sick mother-in-law (because all women really live to serve). Even sexually aggressive Samantha had found her one twue wove.
The message was clear – it’s okay to be single, as long as it’s a temporary conditions.
I know it sounds like I’m bashing SATC, but I’m not. They are just the symptom of a larger problem of a total lack of single female role models in pop culture.
Look over a list of the biggest TV shows of the last few years. They all feature the idea that getting married/falling in love is the highlight of a woman’s life. Shows like Friends and How I Met You Mother are based on the idea that all people in their 20’s and 30’s worry about is romance. Even shows like CSI and The X-Files can’t help but have their leads give into their sexual chemistry and have relationships.
It wasn’t always this way. Back in the 1970’s a little show called The Mary Tyler Moore show swept the Emmy awards and topped the ratings by focusing on the life of single career woman, Mary Richards. Watching that show in reruns is amazing, because it seems so much more cutting edge than what is made today. Mary dates, she may even sleep with the guys (although nothing is ever shown, they do allude to the fact that Mary is on the pill), but she isn’t going to settle for something less than perfect. In fact, most episodes of the show focus on her working life in a newsroom. For Mary, doing the work she loves and having fun with her friends is more important than trolling for “Mr. Right”.
When The Mary Tyler Moore Show came to an end it wasn’t with a wedding, or a proposal, or with a guy confessing her enduing love to Mary. That’s the way our modern shows end. Nope, Mary was as single at the end of the series as she was at the beginning. But she had made her friends, carved out her own life, and you knew that she was going to be fine.
Oprah says that The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a huge influence on her life and her decision to get into broadcasting. Many women saw Mar as a role model for their own lives that could be happy with or without a man.
But that was then, and now that type of role model is gone. Instead, the entertainment industry keeps giving me characters like Bridget Jones and Carrie Bradshaw. Maybe that’s why so many single women are so stressed out. We feel like our lives are on hold until we have someone to share it with, because that is what society tells us.
The Sex and the City movie comes out this Summer. Maybe it will do something to redeem the story by showing that these strong women are able to thrive without a man. Although the spoilers leaking out about weddings and baby showers don’t leave me much hope. At least I have my Mary Tyler Moore DVD’s to keep me going.