The ‘90s has granted the world a coterie of iconic movies, music, and TV shows that continue to inspire a variety of media today, with titles such as Titanic (1997) continuing to be a mainstay for the romance genre – not to mention being responsible for launching Leonardo DiCaprio’s career, who quickly evolved from his image as a so-called ‘90s “hunk” to an award-winning genius actor unafraid of tackling unusual and dramatic roles – and Friends (1994-2004) introducing a cast of characters that viewers of any generation could fall in love with – partially thanks to the assistance of streaming services such as Netflix and HBO Max, the latter of which is home to the recent reunion special which in itself shows just how strong an impact the sitcom left nearly two decades after its last air date. And while there have been more and more recent articles that criticize the outdated aspects of such productions, including a lack of diversity in the casting and/or plot points that basically border on homophobia, body shaming, and toxic masculinity, which only started gaining traction in the mid 2010s and therefore explains the rapidly-increasing public awareness of problematic themes in older and widely-loved media as of late, there’s arguably another reason for the continued love and support given to those films and TV shows other than sheer nostalgia: that is, in the midst of numerous narrative aspects that evidently did not age well, there are still some moral messages and life lessons imbedded within their storylines that could still make sense in today’s context and could, therefore, make for undeniably sound advice the next time your friends call you for a sudden heart-to-heart, or simply for you yourself to repeat like a mantra whenever you feel lost in the intricacies of human life.
One of those unforgettable, ‘90s TV shows which is able to provide a timeless selection of love, relationship, and life advice in general is Sex and the City (1998-2004), specifically the 2008 movie which serves as a sequel to the series and acts as a viable entry point for those only vaguely aware of the narrative and is still in doubt whether to take up the main series that spanned a relatively-manageable six seasons of under 100 episodes (compare with Friends’ ten seasons and its 200-plus episodes; not to mention the ongoing Grey’s Anatomy (2005-?) with seventeen seasons and almost 400 episodes under its belt). And while jumping in at the very end of a fun and tumultuous saga, which is set to take off again with the airing of the 10-part reboot And Just Like That… in late 2021 courtesy of HBO Max (it appears that this particular streaming service has become the miracle worker for us nostalgic ’90s lovers because, as we would all agree, someone’s going to have to listen to us eventually), may seem like the last option for those not particularly keen on spoilers – a majority of us, I’m sure – I must confess that as someone who has never seen a single full episode of Sex and the City, I actually found myself enjoying the movie, becoming fully invested in the individual, interweaving storylines of the main characters, and knowing a little better on how to circumnavigate life – which is, and this is another confession, vastly different from that of the four career women, the series’ main characters, who, spoiler alert, are eventually able to mend their broken relationships in order to reach their own imperfect and, therefore, wholly perfect version of a happy ending – in two hours than if I had turned on a special on surviving the aftereffects of puberty on National Geographic (a feature which I would still gladly watch if said channel would be willing to give me credit for the idea). So, without further ado, here are the nine life lessons in Sex and the City: The Movie (2008) that still hold up today, recommended and analyzed after only a single watch-through despite no prior investment in the original series by yours truly:
(Warning: contains spoilers from both Sex and the City: The Movie (2008) and Sex and the City (main series, 1998-2004) due to plot continuity)
1. age is just a number
The four main characters in the movie are Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha, with the first two being born in 1966 then 1967 and 1958 respectively, meaning that by the timeline of the movie they are well in their 40s and have managed to maintain their friendship with one another for over a decade. Though Miranda and Charlotte are both married with kids, with Samantha now living in LA instead of New York with her boyfriend of five years and Carrie about to tie the knot with her own on-again, off-again boyfriend, “Mr. Big,” the gang is still able to find the time to get together, from going to bars and restaurants to shopping like old times – even if it’s less Chanel and Gucci outlets, and more frequently a supermarket in search of an appropriate Halloween costume to wear to their kid’s school party. This proves that you can just have as much fun at 40 as when you’re in your 30s and even 20s as long as you are in the company of those that aren’t afraid of being with you through thick and thin, have seen you at your best and worst, and loves and will continue to love you in spite and/or because of it all.
Speaking of loved ones, the movie also shows that there isn’t an age limit for being single and making new, meaningful friends to support you in life. This is shown by Samantha, who by the end of the movie celebrates her 50th birthday with the gang in New York after realizing she is no longer able to commit to her relationship and subsequently breaking up with her boyfriend in LA, and Carrie respectively, who decides to hire a personal assistant to help get her blog, work life – and, well, her life in general – back on track after being left at the altar by Mr. Big, with said assistant, Louise, proving to be a valuable companion and confidante to the former, especially when it comes to matters of love.
2. happiness is subjective
As mentioned previously, Miranda and Charlotte are married with kids, and by the end of the movie Carrie finally marries Mr. Big after forgiving him for leaving her at the altar earlier on while Samantha, at first determined to sustain her five-year relationship, becomes single again by choice to focus on herself – all in all each of them has chosen their own paths in life, and all find themselves happy and content with their decisions despite the various ups and downs it took to get them where they are.
3. loving yourself can be the most selfless thing you can do
Samantha doesn’t believe in soulmates and therefore often clashes with Charlotte, the hopeless romantic in the gang, due to their difference in beliefs. She has avoided long-term relationships for much of the series, but has evidently put aside her sexual escapades to be with Smith, an actor and model whom she manages and moves to LA for, with their relationship lasting a commendable five years after initial doubts on Samantha’s part. However, her commitment to Smith is put to the test after Samantha takes notice of her attractive neighbor, urging her to quell her sexual attraction with food and shopping so as not to cheat on Smith, who has stayed with her through chemotherapy after the latter is diagnosed with breast cancer in the show’s last season. Upon returning to New York for Charlotte’s baby shower, Carrie points out that Samantha has just compared her relationship to chemo during her explanation regarding her sudden weight gain, allowing Samantha to admit that despite the fact that she truly does love Smith, she misses “being in a relationship with herself,” which she has been in for the last 49 years. By the end of the movie, Samantha breaks up with Smith, who is also still in love with her but is very understanding of her situation, and moves back to New York to be closer with the gang and to pick up on where her celebrated single life has left off.
This shows maturity on Samantha’s part, for choosing to focus on yourself instead of others is just something you sometimes need to do. Taking care of your own needs is not selfish; in fact, by fulfilling your obligation to love yourself first and foremost, you can become a better, more caring and attentive person to those around you, improving both your relationship with yourself and that with your loved ones.
4. striving for a “Happily ever after” does not guarantee happiness
The beginning of the movie seemingly secures a happy ending for Carrie and Mr. Big, with the latter finally proposing after ten years of an on-again, off-again relationship as a better alternative to simply moving in together. Carrie, another romantic in the gang alongside Charlotte, becomes expectedly ecstatic, something which is initially shared by Mr. Big until the ensuing publicity of their upcoming matrimony, stemming from Carrie’s job post as an arguably influential writer for Vogue magazine, leads to him not going through with the ceremony at the last minute. A particularly heartbreaking montage leading up to that scene in which Carrie is told of Mr. Big’s absence at the wedding venue shows the latter repeatedly trying to call Carrie, who is too busy getting ready for the ceremony with the help of the rest of the gang, as a way of ensuring that “this was still about us.” Carrie, therefore, spends the rest of the movie trying to get over Mr. Big, but after learning that the latter is the one that brought Charlotte to the hospital after her water broke, reading the numerous emails sent by said man, one of which is meant to be the latter’s wedding vow written exactly as Carrie suggested he write it (a simple “I will love you”), and encountering Mr. Big at the apartment where they have agreed to live together, Carrie decides to forgive Mr. Big, for she too realizes that their romance feels fake ever since they began striving for a “perfect ending,” otherwise the “happily ever after” that is a grand, highly-publicized marriage complete with the intervention of those who needn’t be involved in something that only takes two to make happen. As such, the movie ends with Carrie and Mr. Big having a modest wedding at city hall, followed by a private lunch with no one else but those people closest to them and who loves – and will continue to love them – most.
5. your heart weighs a lot more than words on paper
While Carrie and Mr. Big’s relationship proves that the idealized, romantic notion of a “happy ending” may not be for everyone, Miranda and Steve’s relationship suggests that love can sometimes transcend logic in a decision that is a total 180 from Miranda’s Type A, skeptical personality. Busy with work to the point that she ceases to have sexual relations with her husband, Miranda understandably feels betrayed when Steve reveals that he has cheated on her, with Miranda immediately moving out of their house with their little boy, Brady, in tow. Steve tries to apologize to her on many occasions, even waiting outside the bar where Carrie and Mr. Big are holding their pre-wedding party to convince Miranda to forgive him. Despite Miranda’s insistence that their marriage is not going to work out, Steve proposes an ultimatum in which they each will go to the bridge if they think that their relationship is worth a second chance, and while Miranda even compiles a list of pros and cons to help her with the decision, she ultimately decides to go to their designated meeting place where Steve has already been waiting for the former. And while the narration of “Steve might have more cons than pros in his list” may refer to Miranda initially being unable to spot the said man anywhere on the bridge, it may also be reimagined to mean that: despite all the flaws and mistakes in their marriage so far, they are still undoubtedly in love with one another, and that fact alone provides hope that this second chance may just be a risk worth taking. As such, Miranda and Steve finally make up after attending couple’s counselling, the family of three getting back together again and seen smiling and laughing at Carrie and Mr. Big’s wedding lunch at the very end of the movie.
6. the present can say a lot more than history
As stated above, Carrie spends a majority of the movie trying to get over Mr. Big, which she gradually does through the help of the gang and Louise, who Carrie instructs to block any emails she may get from him as one of the first tasks in the said assistant’s job. However, after finding out that Mr. Big is the one to help Charlotte get to the hospital for the delivery of her baby and being told that the said man has tried to write to her countless times, Carrie manages to salvage the emails Mr. Big has sent her, the contents of which are all transcribed from a book the latter is seen reading during the beginning of the movie, “Love Letters of Great Men: Vol. 1,” except for the most recent one, which happens to be Mr. Big’s own love letter for Carrie that includes the wedding vow she suggested he write a day before their wedding. Carrie goes to call Mr. Big, only to stop as she remembers how their love story has stretched on to volumes 2 and 3, thereby overwhelming this romantic gesture of his in transcribing the entirety of the letters from the aforementioned book. She subsequently rushes to her and Mr. Big’s shared apartment to retrieve a pair of $525 shoes, which, if you watch the original series, you’ll understand to be quite the obsession for the character, where Mr. Big is seemingly waiting for her. In a moment of impulse, she runs to hug the man who’s holding her favorite, highly expensive pair of heels, followed by her forgiving Mr. Big as she realizes that striving for a traditional, idealistic “happy ending” has only served to render their relationship fake.
Now, being left at the altar and thereby deciding that a troubled, ten-year-long history overwhelms the present are good enough reasons for anyone to just move on with their lives instead of jumping back – both literally, as is the case for Carrie, and figuratively – into the arms of your ex. However, in line with Carrie’s own romantic disposition and her assertion that her and Mr. Big’s happy ending needn’t be blown up to fit an idealized standard, sometimes it is okay to believe in the present, act impulsive, and be true to your feelings. Of course, different people would have different takes on Carrie’s decision, including that their relationship may be considered as toxic considering how difficult it is for them to finally tie the knot, but seeing that the main problem lies in Mr. Big’s apparent fear of commitment – which he actually gets over early on in the movie as shown by how it is Mr. Big himself that brings up the idea of marriage when the two are merely discussing apartment options for moving in together – and his subsequent discomfort that their relationship is not just between them anymore, the lesson that “the present can say a lot more than history” as well as the previous of “your heart weighs a lot more than words on paper” become legitimate advices for those that struggle with challenges in their love life and/or life in general.
7. there is always room for second chances
There are many examples of this throughout the movie, most notably Miranda and Steve getting back together, Carrie and Mr. Big finally getting married despite the latter having left the former at the altar, and Miranda and Carrie making up after the former confesses that she is the one that made Mr. Big doubt about getting married, with her sarcastic question of “are you sure you want to get married?” since “marriage ruins everything” after her argument with Steve outside the pre-wedding party venue seemingly being the last straw for Mr. Big, who is already uncomfortable with all the public attention directed to his and Carrie’s relationship. This shows that if you truly love someone and know that that person also loves you back with all their heart, perhaps giving that person a second chance despite all their mistakes may lead to an unprecedented peak in happiness and mutual trust in your relationship.
8. “don’t stop being yourself just because you’re scared”
Charlotte starts off the movie with the most stable home life out of the gang, stating that while there are some tough times during the day, she can’t help but be happy to come home to her kind husband as well as their cute adopted daughter, Lily, with her contentment in her marriage and family staying consistent throughout the movie. Of course, there are bound to be some bumps in the road just as Charlotte has admitted, with the conception of a baby that doctors said is nearly impossible for her and her husband casting both happiness and doubts to the said romantic. While accompanying Carrie in shopping for a new writing desk, Charlotte admits that she is scared of getting a miscarriage in response to Carrie’s question on why she has stopped running despite it being a hobby of hers. Charlotte elaborates that because she is so happy at the moment, she is scared that something bad will happen like with Carrie being left at the altar and Miranda splitting with Steve despite them seemingly being on their way to achieving or already having achieved their happy endings respectively. After pointing out to Charlotte that running is a major part of her life, Carrie reassures the former with the above quote/lesson that she shouldn’t “stop being yourself just because you’re scared” as well as by reminding her of her incident during their trip to Mexico, in which Charlotte has diarrhea from eating nothing but pudding and subsequently poops in her pants, Carrie subsequently and amusedly stating that “I think you’re done [for the year when it comes to bad luck].” Charlotte, convinced, decides to take Carrie’s advice and while she is notably cautious during her first few runs, she eventually becomes brave enough to pick up her usual pace, her pregnancy passing by smoothly without any incidents despite her initial worries.
There are moments in life when we are afraid of taking risks because everything seems to be “too perfect”; for example, we may start acting a certain way to make new friends, only to find ourselves keeping up that act to maintain such friendships. Being something other than yourself just because you’re scared is not the way; it’s by truly embracing who you are that you’re able to be happy. Sadness and misfortune are both a part of life; you cannot predict when they will happen, but you needn’t put aside the things you love just because you’re afraid of such moments. It is not your obligation to keep being scared and cautious in case misfortune comes your way, but it is your choice to keep being yourself in spite of that possibility and thereby live out your life to the fullest.
9. home is comfort and it may be the adventure you’re looking for
While Samantha lives in LA with Smith for the majority of the movie, it is observed by several characters that she takes every chance she gets to visit New York and hang out with the gang, whether it is for a relatively simple, modest lunch or a grand occasion like a pre-wedding party. This shows that for Samantha, NYC will forever be home, for that is where she has spent a majority of her adult life as well as it being the home of her longtime friends, all of whom love her just as much as she loves them. Apart from being a place of comfort, NYC still manages to be a place of limitless adventure for Samantha as well as the rest of the gang, who frequently go to clubs, bars, boutiques, and parties together to have fun, and even when they are just hanging out in one of their houses, trying on clothes, and playing catwalk, the gang never fails to satiate their thirst for excitement and adventure, for family is where home is and home – if you let it – can be your most reliable source for many unforgettable adventures, whether it be in the past, present, or the near future.