Thursday, 17 June 2010

Carrie Bradshaw: a Rant

Another character post today, largely triggered off by this post by Saumya, about Sex and the City. While it's a great post, it got me thinking about Sex and the City in general.

I'm not a big fan of the movies, but I like the show. I like the shoes, I like laughing at and half-admiring the lifestyle portrayed, and I like Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte (i.e. the heroine Carrie's best friends). In fact, when I watch an episode of Sex and the City, I always check the episode description first - and I find myself looking for phrases like 'Meanwhile, Samantha...' or 'Charlotte realizes that...' or 'But Miranda thinks...' or generally any combination of those names and some sort of similar phrase involving them.

Fact? If an episode seems to revolve almost entirely around Carrie alone, I skip it.

Why? Carrie Bradshaw sucks.

This is the Main Character. The Heroine of the Tale. The Narrator whose voice we have to listen to right through the episode. The Writer of Rhetorical Questions about Men. We're supposed to love her (and I'm sure many SATC fans do). Most of the show's characters are flawed in some way, but their flaws come across with such honesty, humour and sympathy that you can't help liking them anyway. Carrie, on the other hand...

I find that 90% of the time I can't stand her and 10% of the time I feel a little bit sorry for her. That's about it. As a character, she so utterly does not work for me that I often want to beat her on the head with a broomstick.

For one thing, she's unimaginably selfish. I've lost count of the number of times one of the other women has had a genuine crisis (Miranda finding out she's pregnant, Charlotte being unable to get pregnant, Samantha and breast cancer), and Carrie, most of those times, can't do anything but whine about her boy problems. Seriously. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, Carrie is whining to her friends about the most insignificant little details and completely overlooking their (bigger) problems. Occasionally, they'll call her on it (usually it's Miranda), at which point she'll say 'oh. Saw-ree' and then go straight back to whining.

This just makes me think, she's a crap friend and I wouldn't want to know her, let alone be her friend. And the thing about characters (the protagonists, anyway) is that for them to work, you have to either want to be them, or want to be their friend. Otherwise, why would you care to watch or read about them?

(Yes, antagonists are an exception. Plenty of books have made successes out of antagonist-Main Characters. But this isn't one of those situations. Protagonists can be as flawed as anything, but should still be likable. Carrie just... isn't.)

Then there's the way she treats men, notably Aiden. Aiden, for those of you who don't know it, is a flawed, lovely, wonderful guy and one of Carrie's Great Loves. He wasn't perfect, but he loved her and forgave her and he was just nice. But she treats him horribly and eventually 'chooses' Big, who, by the way, I've never understood the attraction of. 

That just made me think you're an idiot. And not a very nice person.

I really should apologize for the rant, but I think it's got such a significant point at the heart of it. Basically, that I like Sex and the City. But I'll never buy the DVDs. I'll never love it. And that makes such an enormous difference. 

And the reason I'll never love it is Carrie Bradshaw. Were she a small bit part, I could overlook her. But how can you overlook someone who is constantly whining and in your face? 

Main characters should not suck.


  1. Can't say anything about Sex and the city, I've only watched pieces of a couple eps...

    But one can only agree, in character-driven entertainment-oriented fiction the main character needs to be likable.
    : j Or else there has to be a gimmick. Having humorous bad things happen to character, for instance.

  2. oooh yes, it's always nice to see a character you hate have ridiculously absurd bad things happen to them!

  3. Oh I agree! Miranda is my favourite. I love how she's so up front.

    This is something I'm currently worrying about with my main character. I'm worried I've made her too antagonistic in the beginning of the novel...

  4. I don't think an antagonistic protagonist is necessarily a bad thing - and it can really work if she changes and softens over the course of the book, it's a proper character arc that people will love to read! :)

    From what I've read of yours (on your page for the book), it sounds like that arc is kind of the point? So I wouldn't worry!

    I love Miranda too, though I really have such a soft spot for Charlotte - she's so hilariously prudish and sweet!

  5. Yes, there is a point and a very good one. I've never been into SATC, but a group of us have had this same conversation about True Blood and the Southern Vampire (Sookie Stackhouse) series. None of us really like Sookie, the MC, in the books or the show. We find her annoying and for those of us who have read the books, we don't understand many of the decisions she makes later on. When I watch the show, I want to hit her on the head.

    But we all love reading the books and watching the show - for (nearly) all the other characters. The storylines for Sookie are good in the books and it's fun to meet all these different characters and creatures. And the actors and new storylines in the show make those characters even better. And that's why we watch and continue buying the books.

    So, to your point...maybe we really don't need to love the MC? Or, at least, maybe we'll put up with her if the story and the rest of the characters make it worth it? Of course, it's definitely better reading when we do love her, as well as the rest of the characters. it necessary? I don't know...

  6. Yes, yes, yes! I've never been able to bear Carrie and her stupid whiny life. The Big/Aiden thing was the last straw.

  7. Oh and sorry for the double comment but I've just read what Kristie said and it perfectly sums up my relationship with Grey's Anatomy. I love it despite deeply loathing Meredith and it's precisely because the supporting cast and characters are so much more interesting than she is. I can't love SATC because despite liking the other characters more than Carrie, there's still something within me that despises them all a little bit for being so shallow and irritating.

  8. Kristie, that's a really good point! It's gotten me thinking!

    And Alex, I know what you mean about Grey's Anatomy. With Sex and the City, I find that I can't love it because of Carrie (in spite of all the things I like about it).

    With Grey's Anatomy, I used to dislike Meredith but I loved Cristina and many of the others, so I loved it (and now Meredith's gotten better, so I like her too).

    So maybe the question is how much of the Main Character we see? For instance, there is so much of Grey's Anatomy and (I think, but I've only read a bit of it so I'm not sure) the Sookie Stackhouse books that doesn't involve Meredith/Sookie at all. But with Sex and the City, Carrie is so there all the time, so intrusive and in your face constantly, that it's difficult to look past her.

    I guess I think that if a bad main character is intrusive, it ruins the book/show/story, but if a bad main character can be easily ignored or looked past, the book/show/story can work on its own merits.

  9. Love this post! How refreshing not to read a blog post where someone isn't gushing about how absolutely fabulous Sex and the City is.
    I've never watched a single episode of the show and often feel I should be chucked out of the female species merely for admitting to it. The concept just never appealed, possibly because I'm the same age as SJP and I'd always preferred to go out and live my life rather than watch some vacuous bird living hers.
    Oh, sound a bit aggressive there, don't mean to be!
    PS I've tagged you on my blog today!

  10. When the main character sucks, it sinks the whole thing.
    I've only seen about one minute of the show - just long enough to catch Kim Cattrall naked.

  11. I've only watched a couple episodes- and only because I write Chick Lit/Women's Fiction and I kept hearing it referenced as the kind of thing women want...

    I wasn't a fan overall- I guess I just can't relate to women who spend as much on a pair of shoes as a lot of people do on their mortgage payments but I have to agree that Miranda was my favorite character by far.

    I agree whiny friends are the worst- when you've got a major crisis going on (say, if you've just been hit by something like a parent's cancer diagnosis)the last thing you want to hear is "but I don't have anyone to go to me with the concert tonight!" and believe me, I have.

    I guess that's what makes real friends so precious...and it's good to know I'm not alone in the way I reacted to Carrie, thank you!

  12. Hey Sanju,

    Come visit my blog, as I have a blogging award for you!

  13. Interesting point!!! I suppose the same goes for Bella Swan, no? My pet peeve at the moment: repentant, Eeyore-like vampires. And I feel like a traitor saying it because I'm a fan of vampire books, movies, shows, etc. But I'm gettin' sick of the sterotype...

    I wonder how this topic meshes with the idea of a flawed MC?

  14. Wow, excellent say about why Carrie Bradshaw sucks big time and looks like I am not the only blogger who dislikes her very very much. Carrie is no heroine at all. She is selfish, whiny, materialistic and horrid (she also two-times on Aidan and Mr. Big. She doesn't make a nice friend either. She is also a homewrecker who destroyed Natasha's happiness by snatching away Mr. Big. If Carrie is a real person in this world, you'd don't want her as a friend and keep your male friends away from her.