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Crazy in Love

Why HBO's "Sex and the City" will be remembered, more than anything, as an urban fantasy.

11:00 PM, Feb 10, 2004 • By RACHEL DICARLO
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THERE ARE PLENTY OF GOOD THINGS to say about "Sex and the City," the HBO comedy now in its last two episodes. It can be funny. It can be fun to watch. And there is the occasional great one liner, especially from the cynical Miranda, played by Cynthia Nixon: "Don't talk to me about relationships--I'm dating a video recording device," she says of her evenings spent alone with Tivo.

The best thing about the show by far, however, is its portrayal of female friendship. The girls' loyalty to one another is intense, warm, and endearing.

One of the most moving moments this season came when Samantha, the sexpot played by Kim Catrall, told Carrie, Sarah Jessica Parker's earnest newspaper columnist, that she had breast cancer. During the scene, Catrall combined Samantha's trademark toughness with subtle, delicate fear, as Carrie's eyes widened with shock and fear. The rest of the episode juxtaposed Miranda's wedding with Samantha's delivery of the news to the other two girls. "Samantha is my family, my insides," Carrie explains to her boyfriend in the next episode.

The show's problem, then--besides its too frequent use of bathroom humor and its horrible voiceover puns ("When it comes to men, even when we try to keep it light, how do we always wind up in the dark?")--is that its central premise has never been tethered to reality.

Someone once deconstructed Carrie's Upper East Side apartment and designer wardrobe and concluded that she would have to earn at least four times that of a weekly columnist for an alternative newspaper--her fictional job--to pay for all of it. And in all likelihood, a PR executive like Samantha or a law firm partner like Miranda wouldn't have hours of free time every week to catch up on each other's love lives at lunch.

AS THE SHOW'S FINALE APPROACHES, there's still plenty of sex, but there are a lot more hearts and flowers. Clearly the show's writers and producers are trying to tackle problems more important than the girls' sexual fulfillment. Although Samantha's cancer and Charlotte's fertility troubles have made this season darker than the rest, the girls have been pairing off fast.

For example, WASPy Charlotte, played by Kristen Davis, converted to Judaism after finding an unlikely match in her divorce lawyer Harry Goldenblatt, played by Evan Handler. As for Miranda, she finally reconciled with Steve, her child's bartender father, and they married in a no-frills ceremony in a public park. The normally voracious Samantha, a woman who in one episode feared that she'd slept with all the men in Manhattan, is about as monogamous as she can get with her 20-something actor/model boyfriend. And the perpetually single Carrie, who flees from any man who displays any emotion toward her, has accepted an offer from her older, artist boyfriend, Aleksandr Petrovsky, to move to Paris.

BUT DOES REAL LIFE often work out this way for hardened women who party and sleep around until they're 40? Do wealthy, debonair men come out of nowhere to whisk an aging party girl away to Paris? Would a working class boyfriend you dumped because he wasn't good enough take you back (dumping his own loyal, good-looking girlfriend in the process) when you decide you've made a mistake? Can women really be this promiscuous with relatively few costs and still wind up happily settled down in the end? Do the happy endings validate the lifestyle?

I doubt it.

Carrie and company have had to deal with commitment-phobes, lazy ovaries, younger women, and mama's boys, but I suspect that, based on their behavior, abortion, disease, and bitterness about lost opportunities should have also cropped up along the way.

It's true that the girls have experienced bitterness throughout the series. But this mostly only occurs after they've been dumped. Miranda, for instance, refers to her ex-boyfriend as "that ass---- I dated a couple of years ago." Carrie's voiceover explains: "Miranda used to call Eric the love of her life until he left her for another woman."

The big problem with the way the girls operated, I think, is that they confused gender equality with sexual appetite, and acted as though competing with men in raunchiness was part of their emancipation.

THE FUNNY THING IS that recent episodes seem to acknowledge these problems. "After a certain age in New York, there's nowhere to go but down," Carrie tells her friends after seeing the once stunningly-beautiful editor of Vogue, played by Candice Bergen, walk into a funeral with a man she referred to several nights before as "a hobbit."

Years from now, when people remember "Sex and the City," they'll think that it was fun, but shallow, smart, but not very realistic. Unlike Carrie Bradshaw, we can't have it all.

Rachel DiCarlo is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.