It had been nine years since HBO aired the finale episode of Sex And The City when Emily Nussbaum wrote in The New Yorker about the failings of Carrie Bradshaw.
It was 2013, and retrospective analysis of the fictional nineties and noughties icon who was once considered transformative and fiercely feminist proved she was, often, the total opposite.
In the absence of Big’s love and approval Nussbaum observed Carrie “spun out, becoming anxious, obsessive, and, despite her charm, wildly self-centered—in her own words, ‘the frightening woman whose fear ate her sanity.’
“During six seasons, Carrie changed… She got more honest and more responsible; she became a saner girlfriend. But she also became scarred, prissier, strikingly gun-shy—and, finally, she panicked at the question of what it would mean to be an older single woman.”
This was, of course, written in the shadows of Sex And The City‘s second “mildly-to-completely terrible movie” (Vulture‘s words, not mine) set in Abu Dhabi. Memories of the nude tutu-wearing Carrie of season one had faded into oblivion. The new Carrie – the one who cheated on Aiden, who was totally inept at handling her finances because she kept buying Manolo Blahniks, and who was casually racist towards Middle Eastern women – was the only Carrie we could remember.
And that Carrie was, well, a total monster of privileged delusion; a woman who initiated conversations just to share her own stories, expected her friend Charlotte to loan her $30,000 and was angry when she refused, and showed up to Natasha's first post-marriage date demanding they be friends after she single-handedly destroyed the woman's marriage.
To relate to Carrie Bradshaw in the final SATC movie was akin to relating to a martian. The rough edges of the woman we fell in love with were now submerged beneath a dizzying pool of wealth and designer shoes. The enchanting grittiness had washed away, and we were left with a woman whose chief life dilemma was receiving a slick plasma TV for her anniversary instead of a black diamond ring.
In trying to spur forward the extremely lucrative story that made Sarah Jessica Parker a superstar, the character she portrayed became uglier, greedier, egomaniacal.
In 2007, it was the actress - not the character - who Maxim crowned 'Most Unsexy Woman Alive'.
It was perhaps the first time the line between fiction and reality became blurred in public consciousness, and the beginning of our inability to separate Sarah Jessica Parker from Carrie Bradshaw. The needy and irrational character we saw on screen was conflated with the actor who portrayed her. The more irksome we found Carrie, the more this bled into and tainted the reputation of Sarah Jessica.
This was something the actress likely didn't see coming; the ghost of Carrie benefitted Sarah Jessica in her everyday life, and she actively facilitated this. Shortly after the final TV season of SATC wrapped, the actress signed a US$38 million contract with GAP - a clothing brand struggling with a rather daggy reputation - to reinvigorate them as something cool and trendy. GAP wanted to be seen as ahead of the zeitgeist, and it was the attachment of fashion icon Carrie to their brand, more than it ever was the actress Sarah Jessica, that made the partnership work so well.
You could say the same thing with the mother-of-three's perfume and shoe lines. It's unlikely anyone really bought into the actress when picking up a $29.99 bottle of 'Lovely' at Priceline. The allure here has always been the character - the glitzy and glittery woman we saw on our screens for so many years. We wanted to smell like Carrie more than we did Sarah Jessica and the actress knew that; she made tens of millions of dollars from selling us Carrie long after SATC ended.
The problem is that our collective opinion of Carrie changed, slowly but resolutely. In 2004 Carrie Bradshaw was listed at number 11 on Bravo's 100 Greatest TV Characters list. By 2010, she had been listed on ABC's 10 worst characters in the last 20 years, where she was described as a "snippy, self-righteous Manhattan snob."
By the 52-year-old's own admission to Indie Wire, sometimes you "spend more time as that other person than being myself." For her, that other person was Carrie. For us, it was and is confusing; we are yet to detach the two women from each other, to see them as separate entities.
Perhaps it's the same reason so many fondly recall Jennifer Aniston from Friends more than they do Courteney Cox; despite being intelligent enough to know that one's character does not provide any insight into their personality, we clutch to the idea that Rachel and Jennifer are sweet and messy while Monica and Courteney are cold and controlling.
As the years passed, the actress increasingly tried to separate herself from the character she brought to life; in 2015 she told E! "there’s not a lot about Carrie that is actually similar to my life... there are certain kinds of pillars that are fundamentally different"; in 2016 she described the character as "childish".
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Coupled with this is the rather unfair judgement that Sarah Jessica is a woman who is not transparent with her fans - something that is seen as unforgivable in this share everything, withhold nothing era.
When probed by Vogue in 2010 about how many people work for her and maintain her home - her children have been photographed with their "nanny" before - the New Yorker didn't exactly respond with an answer, telling the publication: “We painted our patio furniture ourselves... I make my children's food myself. We put together their high chairs ourselves; we do a lot ourselves! We do our own grocery shopping, we go to the market ourselves, you know? I do my laundry.”
This was followed by a 2014 interview in Huffington Post where Sarah Jessica said she caught the subway "every single day to and from work, every single day."
Just this month the actress described herself as a "big old-fashioned secretary" on the Girlboss podcast to host Sophia Amoruso. "All I do is organise people’s lives and get them here and there."
But because how Sarah Jessica says she lives in the confines of her home and how Carrie Bradshaw lived in her Manhattan apartment are such polar opposites, we struggle to marry the two. Comments of incredulation are left on articles where the actress redefines herself as the every-woman, the normal mum. And so, despite her best intentions to seem relatable, Sarah Jessica is instead considered dishonest and untrustworthy.
Now that she is embroiled in a rather bitter "feud" with her grieving former co-star Kim Cattrall, the public is wary of all facets of Sarah Jessica Parker through, really, very little fault of her own.
My Mom asked me today “When will that @sarahjessicaparker, that hypocrite, leave you alone?” Your continuous reaching out is a painful reminder of how cruel you really were then and now. Let me make this VERY clear. (If I haven’t already) You are not my family. You are not my friend. So I’m writing to tell you one last time to stop exploiting our tragedy in order to restore your ‘nice girl’ persona. Copy and paste link https://nypost.com/2017/10/07/inside-the-mean-girls-culture-that-destroyed-sex-and-the-city/
The concept of a "mean girls culture" with Sarah Jessica at the helm has only ever been spouted by one person.
“[I] don’t like it that people are characterising this as a catfight. There’s only one person fighting here,” comedian and television personality Andy Cohen said on his radio show Radio Andy overnight.
“Sarah’s only said the nicest things about her... I don’t get it: It’s a catfight of one from where I see it.”
While we may never know the machinations of the show that changed what it means to be a sexual woman, to the outsiders, the only crimes the actress is guilty of is sending her old work colleague condolences for the loss of her brother, and being disappointed a third movie will never see the light of day.
The prospect of a "gotcha" moment - the idea that this woman really isn't who she says she is after all - is so titillating it has blown up into one of the biggest celebrity stories of the year.
But here's the thing: Sarah Jessica Parker never promised to be Kim Cattrall's best friend. She doesn't owe Kim Cattrall a trip to the movies, or a cosmopolitan, because she's not Carrie Bradshaw, and Kim isn't Samantha.
They are just two women, who worked together once upon a time and don't anymore.
Really, that's all there is to it.