“I love you, but I love me more.”
I remember the first time I watched Sex and the City and immediately thought to myself, “Wow, Samantha Jones is a f**king icon.” The wonderful, invincible Samantha reminded me more of my mother than any other female figure I had seen on TV — she embodied sexual liberation and unapologetic individuality. While her girlfriends, along with most televised symbols of femininity, were entangled in some never-ending cycle of male validation, yearning for the ultimate nuclear family, Samantha was busy pleasing herself. Be it through work, sex, or any other sector of her life, she was a go-getter. She was unstoppable.
As a film and media major, I have spent years learning about the portrayal of female sexuality on screen; writing about postfeminist sensibility and the neoliberal moment has become a second job for me. Postfeminist sensibility, the ideal that feminism has already been achieved, meant that women had reached a level of equality on-screen due to evolving real-world conditions, presenting an utter lack of attention to the world’s current systems and institutions of oppression. The neoliberal moment, the era that birthed the iconic Sex and the City franchise, is defined by its favouritism of free-market capitalism that presents a privileged journey of self-discovery for our heroine, Carrie Bradshaw. Carrie, of course, brought along her three best girlfriends, each one an embodiment of distinct feminist personas.
Charlotte embodied the neoliberal fantasy above all other characters. Her goal was simple: find a man and make him fall in love. Her aura was similar to that of the Spice Girls, focusing on girl power and femininity in order to gain male attention. Miranda was the exact opposite — she preached about the corruption of patriarchy, taking on the role of the feminist killjoy. While we had seen both Miranda and Charlotte in feminist movements, Samantha was special. She didn’t exist for her job or for a man; she existed for herself. She was the sex-positive badass that television had been missing all along. She dismantled gendered power relations, showing women that sex was not only meant to be pleasurable for their partner but also for themselves.
“I will not be judged by you or society. I will wear whatever I want and blow whomever I want as long as I can breathe and kneel.”
Samantha’s sex life never came to a stop in the franchise. Despite her age, Samantha exuded self-confidence and independence in every way possible. By taking control of her own pleasure, she tackled sexual satisfaction without guilt or shame. Her unabashed attitude towards sex was a powerful message to women that they should never be judged for pursuing their desires and pleasures. In so doing, she challenged the double standards of sexuality, confronting the idea that promiscuity should be deemed acceptable in men but criticized in women. Her character defied this notion by openly embracing casual sex, multiple partners and non-traditional relationships. Essentially, her refusal to conform to these double standards promoted a more equitable view of sexuality where women should have the same agency and sexual autonomy as men. All of this being said, we can’t look over the fact that she also promoted healthy sexuality. While she was associated with casual sex and strings of short-term relationships, she also highlighted the importance of open communication about sexual health and safety, a vital aspect of responsible sexuality.
Samantha’s style was also an unforgettable part of her character. From power suits to outstanding dresses, nothing could hold her down. Her bright-coloured skirts in the workplace turned into skin-tight dresses with plunging necklines at night set new standards for women, never limited by age or societal restrictions.
“A guy gets angry in a meeting, he’s a pistol. A woman? She’s emotional.”
Samantha’s character cannot only be recognized for her sexuality. Her career was a manifesto for every woman with ambition. As a successful public relations executive and entrepreneur, Samantha’s career was a testament to her determination, business acumen, and unwavering self-assuredness. Her ambition in the professional sphere mirrored her personal life; she approached her career with the same fearlessness that she applied to her sexuality. Throughout the show, fans learned that Samantha did not come from money, and yet we watched as she lived her lavish lifestyle. With her upbringing in the back of her mind, she set out to be her own boss.
Samantha will always be one of my favourite pop culture icons. Her unapologetic approach to life tore down the conventional norms and expectations that we all grew up watching women attempt to overcome. Personally, I will always be thankful that I grew up in Samantha’s era. In my own little family with just me and my Samantha-esque mother, I learned that women can pave not only their own career paths but also their own ideas of sexuality and pleasure. After all, the wise Samantha Jones once said, “Yes, I am harsh. I’m also demanding, stubborn, self-sufficient, and always right.”