Sex and the City S1E10: The Baby Shower

by thethreepennyguignol

Sex and the City has a pretty binary view of the way that women live their lives.

Like all sitcoms, really, SATC has to view things in black and white: women are single, or settled down, us against them from both sides. You are a mother or a party girl. Banging it out, or practically a virgin. Etc. Etc.

And in this episodes, we’ve got some big ones: women who are or aren’t mothers, and people who are having sex or are not. The Baby Shower, revolves around an old friends of the Gal Pals (not like that, unfortunately) who has given up her previous wild lifestyle to settle down and have a baby, leading the Quartet De Single-ishDom to reflect on their own relationships to motherhood and babies.

And this is a kind of inevitable episode, in the scheme of this show; the conversation about the career woman versus the mother was all over popular culture at the time this episode came out, and Sex and the City, being the foremost purveyor of Women’s Issues as Translated Through Men, had to take that on. Now, I haven’t watched a huge amount of Lena Dunham’s spiritual SATC sequel Girls, but it’s interesting to me that the first ever episode of that show hits a lot of the same beats as this one – pregnancy, late periods, the prospect of motherhood, even fifteen years later. When it comes to the metropolitan woman, the questions about motherhood versus independence are still much where they have always been. Can women have it all is still, pop culturally, where most of this conversation starts and ends – motherhood, friendship, career. Pick two. Two and a half, if you’re lucky, but one of your friends who’s going to have to get bisected probably won’t be so happy about it.

Anyway. This episode hits a lot of the same markers that other episodes this season have done – a blunt, black-and-white view of the issue at hand, which usually climaxes with the one-episode character in question admitting that things aren’t as perfect as they seem and wanting to flip to the other side. Laney, the pregnant ex-party-girl in question, spends most of its runtime discussing how she’s moved on, improved, gotten her life together, and then turns up at Samantha’s (this is apropos of nothing, but the wardrobe for Kim Cattrall this episode is hysterical; fully tits out at a baby shower, black leather over a bondagewear string underneath and somehow making it make sense) loft party to try and reclaim her party days.

There’s something odd about the way this plays out, to be honest, and one that underlines how much of SATC relies on an us-versus-them, not-like-the-other-girls attitude between our leading four and the other women in their lives. Much like so many other major plots in this season unfold, the show indulgently comes down on the side of Carrie and company, making it clear that their (at least current) rejection of certain feminine norms renders them worthier, and usually finishes up with the other side, the side adhering to those norms, admitting that they wish they had it as good as our leads.

I get it – there was a genuine subversion, at the time that this came out, in representing women making non-traditional choices and actually being valorized for them. But looking back, it feels like the show is just trying to draw more lines in the sand; either you are this, or that. You are with us, or against us. Even Charlotte, who ostensibly pursues the more traditional lifestyle, is the butt of the joke for those desires compared to the rest of the girls, and it just feels a little…divisive.

Uplifting women who make non-traditional choices does not mean that we have to put down women who don’t, have to depict them as desperate to go back to what they had before. But more importantly, it is not us versus them – women can have it all, and that means aspects of their lives can fit into a more traditional mold while others are totally out-there. A baby episode draws out some of the worst aspects of Sex and the City, pulling back into a strangely combative set-up between women that needlessly serves to back up the dichotomy of us and them. When the real bitches know that we’re all in all of it together.

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(header image via TV Fanatic)