How Sex and the City Recast the World in a Pink Light
By Ariana Bacle
By the time the award-winning series concluded, it was a full-fledged international phenomenon — and executive producer Michael Patrick King, who wrote and directed multiple episodes, was there through it all. Here, he shares what he feels were the major reasons for the series’ success.
It took sex out of the shadows.
“Sex” wasn’t always a word you could just toss around. “Before Sex and the City, whenever the word ‘sex’ was written in advertisements, it was always black and oily, and now whenever you see the word ‘sexy,’ it’s usually pink,” King says. “And that’s us. We took the shame out of it and we made it fun. I’m very happy to have put a light — a very flattering and fun pink light — on a situation that society deemed as dark and shameful.”
Risks made them real.
If you’re a living, breathing woman, there’s a good chance you’ve probably wondered if you’re a Carrie, a Samantha, a Miranda, or a Charlotte. King credits their relatability to the stellar actresses playing the parts, and the writers that weren’t afraid to take risks. “We broke a lot of rules,” he says. “The series started as four single women, but in Season 3, I was like, ‘If Charlotte really existed in the world, she would be married.’ So we just broke the brand and had her get married. By being able to let the characters grow, they became more and more real.”
Leave off the labels.
Before peak TV made genre-bending shows with complex characters commonplace, there were either sitcoms or dramas — until Sex and the City came along. “In drama, people could be more complex, but in comedy, you were either a good person or a bad person,” King says, adding that HBO allowed Sex and the City to work outside those restraints. “The idea that we were on a venue that had wide-open vistas in terms of character is why we could have Carrie, who was the hero that people loved, have an affair with a married man. She was able to be dimensional and that’s only, only because we were on HBO.”
It’s why we all drink pink.
Cosmos are now synonymous with Sex and the City, but there was a time when most people had no idea what the pink vodka drinks were. King remembers attending a premiere party for the show three years in and watching guests guzzle cosmos, not realizing they were full of alcohol. “They thought they were drinking lemonade or something because they taste so mild,” he recalls. “But people were s**t-faced.”
It was never just about the guys.
Even though Carrie ended up with Big, King was adamant that the finale wouldn’t just be about her romantic, fairytale ending. That’s why Carrie ends her final monologue by claiming, “The most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.” “The moral was never, ‘find a man to love you so you’ll be whole,’” King explains. “It’s, ‘love yourself and your girlfriends, and maybe somebody will come along and enjoy the party.’”
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