The Men of Sex and the City
In the same way that different camps of teenage girls like to war over whether Jacob or Edward is the better fictional boyfriend/stalker, I think many women have differing tastes regarding the men of Sex and the City. Do you root for Carrie and the wealthy Mr. Big or perpetual “nice guy” Aiden Shaw? Was Samantha a better fit with philandering hotel mogul Richard Wright or ditsy male model Smith Jerrod? Was Trey MacDougal really Charlotte’s knight in shining armor or was it always the bald lawyer Harry Goldblatt? Did Skipper ever have a chance with Miranda? Does Steve Brady even have a future with her? Everyone will have an opinion on who was a better match for their favorite female lead, but unlike those leads the men of Sex and the City tend to lack in character dimension.
Maybe it can be attributed to their portrayal as conflict figures or Carrie Bradshaw being an unreliable narrator, but we only ever see a few select traits come out of each male character. Only a few of them (namely Mr. Big and Aiden Shaw) ever have defined arcs, and those arcs are informed by Carrie’s decisions. Still, what few traits the men of Sex and the City do have are well defined enough to make them appear distinct, if not stereotypical.
Mr. Big is an interesting character to examine. Refined, successful, and traditional to a fault, he is intended to be the archetypal “can’t quit him” boyfriend. This man has the world on a string, and before Carrie he lives a life of “toxic bachelorhood”. He drinks fine wine, dances to jazz, pays another guy to drive him around New York in a beautiful car, and avoids commitment like the plague. While with Carrie (the first time), he is completely oblivious to her feelings, needs, and the future of their relationship. She tries to turn his exclusionary lifestyle around and he rewards her by moving to France and marrying another girl he barely knew. That relationship was soon destroyed by an affair between the two, and it is only after a prolonged period of pondering over Carrie’s all-too-public writings that he comes to terms with what he did wrong. Redefined by the wants of idealistic girlfriends everywhere, this poster of everything a sane woman should avoid is changed by his lady, and concludes the series by pledging his love to her. It makes for good TV fiction, but it was also a bold-faced appeal to female viewers who think they can fix their terrible boyfriends. If anything, Mr. Big should serve as a warning: people who only think of their own interests will only make you neurotic if you try to love them.
When Carrie is in a relationship with good-natured furniture designer Aidan Shaw, the neuroticism that she is so well known for makes her extremely defensive. Perpetuating the ill-gotten belief that “nice guys finish last,” she engages in an affair with Mr. Big and essentially craps all over the one relationship she had where a man treated her with respect. Time passes, Aidan loses some weight, and Carrie urges him to take her back. They eventually move in together and when her building goes co-op, he goes so far as to buy the apartment and propose to her. In spite of initially accepting the proposal, Carrie soon feels suffocated and panicky. What happens next is nothing short of narrative indulgence on the writer’s part: because we can’t hate Carrie (she is the narrator and protagonist, after all), Aidan is painted as a villain for not fully trusting her after she had an ongoing affair with Mr. Big. It’s a little befuddling, but she again breaks his heart. Thankfully, all is well that ends well – Aidan goes on to marry someone not as crazy and have three sons. Some fans will always be upset that the “nice guy” never ended up with Carrie, but personally I think he dodged a bullet.
Carrie has also dated a number of losers over the course of the series. Jack Berger is likely her third most high-profile fling and it ended with him breaking up with her over a post-it note because he couldn’t handle her career success. Russian artist Aleksandr Petrovsky was another important relationship that ended poorly when Carrie finally realized that he was an abusive ass. She also dated a politician (who enjoyed golden showers), Matt Damon’s house sitter, a comic book dork who likes to get stoned at his parent’s house, an ADD jazz musician, and a mental patient.
Samantha has also had her share of run-ins with rough suitors. Like Carrie, she dates people to whom she is far too similar and far too different. Richard Wright is only her level as far as career and bedroom aspirations go, but as the two push for exclusivity she becomes suspicious. Upon learning of his cheating ways, she dumps him proclaiming “I love you, but I love me more.” Smith Jerrod, or Jerry Jerrod as he was originally known, is ultimately the best man for her character arc – he manages to break down many of her walls and supports her throughout her fight with breast cancer. He’s not the brightest, but his heart is in the right place and he’s faithful regardless of what shenanigans Sam gets into. The only other two relationships Sam really deals with during the course of the series are with the artist Maria Diega Reyes and James (the man with no last name). Maria’s and Sam’s relationship, though controversial, provides solid traction for Sam’s character, but is ended by Maria’s mistrust and, well, general craziness. James on the other hand just has a small package. While that may seem superficial, it should be noted that Sam cares about him enough to go to couples counseling – it’s just unfortunate that she can’t enjoy herself.
Charlotte’s relationship failing can mostly be attributed to her idealistic views of the dating world and prudish nature. When she meets Dr. Trey MacDougal (played by Kyle F***ing MacLachlan!) she immediately considers him her knight in shining armor and begins imagining a future with him. He’s handsome, rich, and intelligent, but only picture perfect. Their problems start and end behind closed doors and even when they move past Trey’s dysfunctions they cannot overcome Charlotte’s determination to become a homemaker and conceive. That same determination ultimately scares divorce lawyer Harry Goldenblatt away too, but not before she converts religions for him. It’s a sad time for her character, but she ultimately grows because of it. It isn’t until she really understands what she needs versus what she wants that her situation improves.
I’d describe Miranda’s relationship trajectory as “a man hater that eventually becomes man tolerant.” She spends so much time at the beginning of the series detailing everything that she hates about the opposite sex that when she finally meets a man who wants to treat her well – Skipper Johnston – she hates him out of principal and treats him like crap. This geeky web designer is often ridiculed by Miranda, who prefers to call him “Skippy,” and is only sought after by the fiery red-head when he isn’t interested in her. His rejection of her would galvanize her hatred of men, which only was cooled down after she first encountered the soft-spoken and good natured Steve Brady. Father of their son and eventual husband to Hobbes, Steve had his own problems to contend with (namely being unmotivated and threatened by how much money Miranda had), but continued to come back to Miranda. Their relationship is tumultuous to say the least, and also railroaded the one between Miranda and Dr. Robert Leeds. Leeds is essentially the perfect guy; he’s smart, funny, athletic, successful, and good with Brady (Miranda and Steve’s son). Unfortunately for him, he fell for someone who was still in love with someone else. How he even got to that point with her is somewhat mindboggling. I can’t stress this enough: I have no idea why anyone at any time would be attracted to Miranda Hobbes.
In general, there are four types of guys that each of the women of Sex and the City date: (1) the guy that terrible for them, (2) the guy that is exactly like them, (3) the guy that complements them well, and (4) the guy that is perfect. They never end up with the perfect guy or the person that represents their equal. In fact, the best relationships of the show seem to be the ones where the other person complements them. That being said, all the women have far too many run-ins with men that are terrible for them. If I had any advice to provide viewers of the female persuasion, it would be not to follow in the footsteps of any of these women. They aren’t role models – they’re fictional characters who make poor decisions for television drama.
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I’ll post Part 4 of 4 next week for your reading pleasure….
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About the Author:
Trent Seely is a 20-something guy from the Saint John area. He has a blog at PunctualDork.com.
**All photos above from Google Image Search