The economics of Sex and the City

I was cruising the dials this morning, and settled for the easy familiarity of Sex and the City reruns.

But here’s the thing: Carrie is a columnist for an alternative weekly, yet she can afford spacious digs (for New York, that is) on the Upper West Side? Even ten years ago, she’d be lucky to get $500 a week. Yet she has enough of a credit line to buy Manolo Blahniks?

Yeah, let’s agree that the show is a fairy tale and the economic realities aren’t supposed to get in the way, but come on! No dumpster diving? No haunting of thrift stores? No clothing swaps? Eating out and going to clubs every single week? Miranda’s a partner in a law firm, she can afford it. So can Samantha, who’s a high-powered publicist. Charlotte is old WASP money from Connecticut, and probably has a trust fund, and a credit card “for emergencies” from her father.

But Carrie? Author Candace Bushnell, author of the original “Sex and the City” book, has a new series of young adult books in which she writes about the S&TC characters as teenagers, tries to paper over Carrie’s single mother and disappearing father by retroactively making her a Brown graduate. How the hell does she pay her student loans? Or is she supposed to be a brainiac on a full scholarship? Not buying it. (Ever met an Ivy League grad who didn’t work it into the conversation?) And come on, have you ever heard Carrie express the slightest bit of interest in anything deep?

It’s a little disconcerting when they try to insert a serious story line about finances, because it’s just not plausible. Not the part about Carrie getting turned down for a loan to buy her “going co-op” apartment (she’s lucky the loan officer didn’t burst out laughing), but the fact that she’s survived for 15 years on $500 a week without doing any other freelance work! (Or having a blog.)

I know a lot of freelance writers, and they are machines. They grind it out, all the while soliciting for new assignments. They don’t have a lot of leisure time. It is a very hard life except at the very highest levels.

So the followup to the “Carrie Buys An Apartment” story line is that she takes her “very first freelance assignment” – at Vogue. Apparently writing a sex column for a weekly is enough to open that particular door. And remember, Vogue is a monthly. They don’t pay until the article appears (assuming they don’t cut it at the last minute and offer you a kill fee instead), so you won’t get paid until months later. So Carrie’s only freelance gig isn’t really great for cash flow.

Then there was the final-season story line where she quit her column and moved to Paris with Mikhail Baryshnikov, basically cutting her financial lifeline. A 37-year-old New York writer quit her only job, but what do we see within minutes of her setting foot on the ground of the City of Light? Carrie’s going shopping! And not at the chic, cheap boutiques favored by the Paris working girl. Non! Carrie’s whipping out the credit card at Dior!

Are you fucking kidding me?

And then there’s that Versace Couture ruffled number she wore in Paris, waiting for that self-centered, passive-aggressive prick Aleksandr Petrovsky to come home. I mean, really?

Carrie’s taste in men is a whole other story. Let’s just wrap up by saying that I would have been happy just to have Carrie’s apartment. Notice she didn’t care about it at all? She didn’t paint, or decorate, or accessorize. Hell, she didn’t even cook. How the hell do you afford to eat out or order in every night on $500 a week?

The thing is, it used to be easy to ignore all these internal inconsistencies, because ultimately, it’s a story about girlfriends, and most women have them. Most women relate to the archetypes – we all have a little bit of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte in us.

But with people scraping just to get by, the easy glam of the show wears a bit thinner than usual. The only way I’ll watch the third movie is if it shows Big penniless from bad investments, and he and Carrie are trying to find a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn. Because there’s nowhere else for this fairy tale to go.

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