Premiering in 2012, Warner Bros and HBO’s Girls was heralded as the best new show of the year - a fresh, uncompromising and very funny look at life as a 21st century woman. It immediately drew comparisons with Sex and the City, a show that also spoke frankly about being a woman in the late 20th century, with some regarding the two shows as pre- and post-recession versions of the same story. Some have called these comparisons unfair, but it’s actually their differences that make them similar. For instance:
SexBoth shows feature entirely different views on sex. Sex and the City’s characters never really find themselves having bad sex. The show would play “bad sex” for laughs, a healthy reaction to actual bad sex, but not indicative of the confusion and embarrassment of a bad sexual experience. Girls, on the other hand, presents us with Hannah Horvath’s parade of uncomfortable sexual encounters. Sex and the City glamourised sex - it was fun, naughty. Girls prefers to show it as it often truly is - ungainly and confused - and with male and female bodies that are far from the Hollywood ideal.
AspirationsBoth main characters are writers. Carrie’s writing is a way for her to have the last laugh. When she begins dating a politician, he asks her to indulge his urination fetish. She refuses and he dumps her. Carrie then tells all in her column, exposing his behaviour and, presumably, destroying his political career at the same time. Hannah, comparatively, writes things like, “The worst stuff that you say sounds better than the best stuff that some other people say”, and makes veiled and obscure references about her having HPV in her Facebook statuses.
OutlookCarrie was a driven, self-assured woman. She exuded confidence and could defuse unpleasant situations with a perfectly-timed one-liner. Hannah is depressed, uncomfortable with her body and always seems to be hoping someone else is in on the joke that is her life. She casts around, praying someone will come to her rescue, cracking unfunny or downright strange jokes, desperate for any levity.
FriendshipSex and the City’s biggest focal point is Carrie’s relationship with her unfailingly supportive circle of friends, meeting with them to deconstruct their various issues over cocktails. Hannah frequently eschews her friends to hang out with her terrible boyfriend, knowing that makes her a bad friend. Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda are all glamourous, independent women in their own right. Hannah’s friends are as varied as they are unsure of themselves. Some are fickle, others drug addled bohemians; yet another is a naive maths major (and a big SatC fan, in one of the more overt ways Girls tries to distance itself from its network cousin). They are the antithesis of Carrie’s brood but, despite their bickering and unsavoury behaviour, are resolute in their friendship.
RelatabilityThe biggest difference between these shows is also their biggest similarity - they are about women of different generations and that extends to their fan bases too. Carrie’s girls are in their 30’s. Hannah’s rabble are in their 20’s and Girls’s popularity indicates an entirely new generation of women have found their Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha. They can relate to Hannah’s problems, friends and bad decisions. They can relate to her extremely unsatisfying, embarrassing sex life. And that’s the precise effect Sex and the City had on its fans - they were able to see themselves in these four feminine paragons and it brought them into that world in a way other shows could not.
Those are just a few thoughts on how alike Sex and the City and Girls really are when you start to boil it right down. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Are you a Hannah or a Carrie? Sound off in the comments below! Sex and the City Seasons 1 - 6 and Girls Season 1 and 2 are available now on DVD from Warner Bros.Home Entertainment.