As the iconic HBO original series Sex and the City turns 19 years old this week, I thought I’d look back on how television has shaped our millennial culture, the television shows that have inspired my life, and how we’re in a new golden age of television once again. Photo of me on a Carrie Bradshaw-inspired stoop in Victoria by my friend Rukaya Cesar.
I fucking love Sex and the City. I first discovered it when I was about 13 years old and felt a desire to go through as many cliched homosexual things that I could and SATC popped up. I got over that phase pretty quickly, but my undying love for the show I didn’t: SJP’s effortless glamour; the kind of open discussion that the girls had with each other; the introspective thoughts that Carrie Bradshaw shared with the world. Everything about that show was something I loved and have continued to love and rewatch in the years that have followed.
There are so many other television shows that I have loved as well that have helped to shape me as a person. It’s no big secret that Glee is the television show that shaped me most as a young teenager. Discovering the show when I was just 10 years old – several years younger than the characters on the show – the people that Ryan Murphy created acted as a survival guide for how to function as a theatre-obsessed, self-diagnosed dork of a child. The characters and their discoveries on the show helped me to come out of my shell and do a total U-turn on some of my characteristics, changing me for the better. In many ways, I have the show to thank for how it shaped me as a young teen and for always reminding me that there is more to life than this.
As much as I’ve grown to dislike it in years that have gone by, Friends is a show that I think most people can relate to as having been “transformative” for them, in one way or another. In a similar way to what I found with Glee, everyone who has seen the show has found themselves relating to a character. In this case, thinking they are a Monica, shortly followed by realising that they simply wish that they were a Monica, but are – disappointingly – a total Rachel. Each character on that show was incredibly unique in their own special way, but they were all also extremely normal, blundering through life like everyone who watches the show. And that’s why it’s so relatable for everybody: because they can see themselves in the characters.
And it’s becoming more and more apparent as time goes on that as millenials, we love nothing more than being told what to do by mirroring a TV character’s life story. Another one of my favourite shows of all time – Girls by Lena Dunham – bases its entire premise on the idea of being painfully relatable and, if it isn’t for whatever reason, being relatable enough for you to think “oh, I could totally see myself doing that”. And that’s why we love it! We have grown to love characters like Hanna from Girls, or Issa in Awkward Black Girl, or even Cassie in Skins because we are those characters deep down.
This desire has even spread into the insane revival business that Hollywood is currently booming with; they’re now sifting through shows that did this a decade or so ago and are rebooting them for the younger people of my generation to see again. An example is ABC’s revival of Will and Grace, the hit Debra Messing-led comedy series that also starred the likes of Megan Mullaly and Sean Hayes, which, in my honest opinion, is basically a more enjoyable version of Friends. ABC are also creating a rebooted American version of Misfits – the supernatural little sister of Skins – for even more young people to relate to.
But what does this say about us as millenials if we like to see this kind of stuff? Our parents had nothing like Girls when they were younger – and I say that with very little emphasis.
It’s in our culture to be spoon-fed information and that’s undeniable. We don’t even know a world without Google for Pete’s sake! The one thing we want to have as young people is security and to know that we’re doing things correctly so we can achieve some sort of success, be it emotional or financial – or whatever else you can succeed at. And that is exactly what these shows provide us with as people of our age: a snapshot of how life could work for you, so you know that you at least have some sort of a shot at this.
19 years ago, Sex and the City was one of the first shows to do this and HBO has been creating shows like it ever since. For people at the older end of the millenial spectrum, Sex and the City was their version of Girls and there will surely be another, more risque version of that show to come in the next five years for the final round of millenials younger than me. Generation Y feeds off of this golden age for relatable television and will do so for some time to come and I for one am totally here for it.
Now if you don’t mind me, I’m going to go and slip into my tutu, slide on my Manolo Blahnik’s, make myself a Cosmopolitan and pop in my Sex and the City DVDs. While the show might still not be entirely relatable right now, surely I can dream?