Sex And The City is 20 years old, which marks an anniversary for both the show and journalism about the show. Women’s media has, in my experience, something of a love-hate relationship with Sex And The City. Love-hate in a complicated way, though – not in the way people feel about Marmite, but in the way people feel about their mothers. She’s your favourite person in the world, except that she’s the world’s biggest nightmare. Similarly, Sex And The City is the best show in the world and a living nightmare.
We whine about Carrie’s unrealistic lifestyle and her apparent “unlikability” (I mean, sure, Walter White sells drugs and murders people, but he’s an “antihero”). We roll our eyes about Charlotte’s clanger-dropping (“Men don't want a woman who is too self-sufficient”) and Samantha’s ceaseless punning. We love Miranda, but sometimes Miranda – particularly Miranda eating cake out of the trash – reminds us too much of ourselves. But you knew all this already. There is more discussion of these four women than there is of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. At this stage in popular-culture discourse, I have no fucks left to give about whether you’re a Charlotte, a Miranda or a Carrie with a Samantha rising. Find me a woman who says “I’m actually more of a Amalita Amalfi” and I will make that woman my bridesmaid.
It was these hundreds of teeny roles that made the TV show feel – unlike the stationary sets of Friends or Will & Grace – like the New York of Sex And The City was the real New York
That’s the thing about Sex And The City. The four women were great, but the real fun was that the show was structured to make these brilliantly bizarre one-off characters – bad dates, dizzy socialites, frenemies, enemies, restaurant hostesses, magazine editors – truly memorable. It was these hundreds of teeny roles that made the TV show feel – unlike the stationary sets of Friends or Will & Grace – like the New York of Sex And The City was the real New York. A city filled with chance encounters, glamorous morons and terrible men.
So, for today, in honour of two decades of Sex And The City, let’s take a minute to appreciate the lesser-known, rarely spoken about icons of Sex And The City.
Amalita Amalfi (from The Power of Female Sex , Season 1 Episode 5)
“Most people would classify Amalita as Eurotrash. I thought she was fun.”
Correct, Carrie. Amalita WAS fun. One of the few characters from Candace Bushnell’s original book to make it into the show, Amalita greets Carrie at Balzac (one of the many fake, elite restaurants of the show) to scream about Carlo.
“His family has this gigantic ranch in Argentina. Very, very wealthy. He has a tiny little penis, but he knows exactly how to use it. Wave, darling! Wave. Ciao, ciao, ciao.”
Amalita is the Zsa Zsa Gabor of Sex And The City – dripping in diamonds, sex and utter conviction that touring around the world, dating millionaires, is a fine way to make a living.
The hostess at Balzac (same episode)
Apparently the most “powerful woman in New York City”, the hat-wearing, eye-rolling, clipboard-carrying hostess is eventually wooed by Samantha when she gives her a tampon. After that, the girls get seated in Balzac. People moan about Sex And The City being “unrealistic”, but this scene is taken straight from reality. When a tampon exchange occurs between two women, a bond is formed. Both women enter into a lifelong pact, trading small favours until they are both dead, whereupon their first-born daughters take up the favour mantle.
The lesbian art collectors (The Cheating Curve, season 2, episode 6)
Sick of men, Charlotte briefly moonlights as a lesbian in order to get closer to a gang of wealthy gay art collectors. It’s a little odd, looking back at the LGBTQ+ characters of SATC. While the likes of Stanford and Anthony seemed progressive in the queer-representation void of the 1990s, the show tended to rely on lazy stereotypes.
Having said that, these women are unbelievable. They’re funny, they’re rich and they talk to Charlotte about art, which is something almost no one in Charlotte’s life indulges her in.
“It's her painting for six months and then she's selling it back to me,” says one to her ex-girlfriend-cum-friend. “Excuse me, I'm the one with the big loft and all the empty white walls.”
You could glue every Nancy Meyers film together and not reach the level of aspirational, cosy wealth that are contained within these two lines of dialogue. Honestly, my entire life is just a work in progress until I can get to truthfully utter the sentence: “I’m the one with the big loft and all the empty white walls.”
Justin Theroux’s mother (Shortcomings, season 2, episode 15)
The Halley’s Comet of dating problems: falling in love with your boyfriend’s family. These free-wheeling, art-loving Jewish academics are constantly eating smoked salmon and referencing literature at one another (his siblings are LITERALLY called Franny and Zooey!).
“I'm telling you, this family is like… they’ve got charisma. Like Tom Cruise,” says Carrie, correctly. “They're the Tom Cruise of families.”
Jenny Brier (Hot Child in the City, season 3, episode 15)
In terms of pure comedy, you can’t get better than Hot Child In The City. Carrie gets stoned on a rooftop with Power Lad and utters a line more iconic than all of her “I couldn’t help but wonders…” put together: “Yes, Mrs Adams, I brought the marijuana into the house... And I'm taking it with me when I go!”
Also in this episode is a very young Kat Dennings, playing the bat-mitzvah brat Jenny Briar. Famous for her terrorising of Samantha (“What are you, 45?”) and her disturbing – and hopefully, mostly exaggerated – sexual history. “I’ve been giving blow jobs since I was 12.”
Lexi Featherston (Splat!, Season 6, episode 18)
Sex And The City was gleefully ham-fisted with its metaphors and never more so than with Lexi, the socialite who was “so bored she could die”... before promptly falling out the window and dying. Lexi, played by 3rd Rock From The Sun’s Kristen Johnston, was supposed to symbolise Carrie’s old party-girl New York starting to die out, ushering her into a new short-lived stint in Paris with The Russian. (Most people are all about Big; lots are into Aidan; precious few loved The Russian and I’m afraid I was one of them. If you’re into Berger, I’m sorry, but you need therapy.)
The French friends that never were (An American Girl In Paris, Part Deux - Season 6 episode 20)
“Sex And The City! I have the sex! She has the sex! We all have the sex.
We want to make a party for you.”
I am partially convinced that, if Carrie had gone to this mad French book party, she would have stayed in Paris for ever.