Thursday, November 19

carrie bradshaw and me

I'm not sure how I found myself glued to the Sex and the City prequel, The Carrie Diaries. I have never watched a full season of Sex and the City, despite enjoying the show every now and then and I had kinda hoped high school-centered narratives didn't relate to my post-school life anymore. But while I was stressed during an exam season I was unexpectedly drawn to yet another upper middle-class, pretty people television series. However, in the midst of my binge, I learned some unexpected life lessons.

Part of The Carrie Diaries takes place in the early 1980s in New York City, characterised at the time by its towering crime rates and rapidly changing understandings of personal identity. The other part of the show's narrative is set in small town Connecticut, where Carrie Bradshaw attends high school. After Carrie's mother dies, her father and the school agree that every Friday Carrie will take the day off in order to carry out an internship at a big Manhattan law firm in exchange for school credit.

But Carrie's own desires deviate from anything that the legal world could fulfil. When cleaning out her mother's clothes and other belongings, Carrie acquires several of her unused journals. Transcribing her thoughts every day, she begins to find her voice and a passion for writing, Manhattan and doing whatever she can to work at Interview magazine, which was founded by Andy Warhol and John Wilcock over a decade earlier in 1969.

On the whole, the largely white, middle class heterocentric focus of the show (there is only one gay side story and token Chinese and African American characters) makes it feel fairly non-challenging and inseparable from similar teen shows that have come before it. But somehow, in the show's two seasons (it was cancelled before a third was made), I found a pocket of advice that struck eerily close to home.

In episode nine of the first season, Carrie’s father, a hot shot turned small town lawyer, feels betrayed when he finds out that Carrie has given up her law firm internship for an internship at Interview. He refuses to let her return and it feels like the matter is closed. But in a twisted circumstance Carrie’s dad finds himself spieling to Larissa, Carrie's boss at Interview, after a game of squash. In my fifth year of studying law, while pursuing writing whenever I am not studying or attending class, this scene felt familiar.

The following conversation takes place:

Larissa remarks that Carrie, "was the best intern I ever had."
"She had a good internship at a law firm. She wants to be a lawyer, which I am sure you didn't know, you didn't bother to find out," Carrie's dad brashly replies.
"That's rich. Carrie Bradshaw -- a lawyer?"
"Damn straight."
"You have no idea who your daughter is, or what she wants."
"I know she was a good kid before she came to Manhattan. One who had real goals -- not pipe dreams."
"Just because they aren't your dreams doesn't mean they aren't not real, not attainable."
"I know my daughter better than some party girl who values clothing and clubbing. My job isn't to let her go wild, it's to keep her safe."
"No. Your job is to let her become the person she wants to be."
"I want her to grow up right."
"It's not a matter of right and wrong, it's a matter of who and what she wants to be. She's a hell of a writer, did you know that? [...] She's got a voice, let her use it."

Like Carrie, it is one of my dreams to do interviews, write and work my way up to being an editor. I know a lot of people who have similarly creative ambitions. But I also think a lot of people, me included, have partly internalised Carrie's dad's viewpoint on pursuing something creative as a career. Safety, stability and feeling repelled by the prospects of working impossibly hard to just make ends meet filter my answer every time I am asked what I would love to do after university. I have been scolded repeatedly for not being able to answer that question straight up. But after watching this scene in The Carrie Diaries I am reminded again that every one I admire who is pursuing a creative career has harnessed the associated risks and flourished.

Not all of us can have a person like Larissa vouching for us every time a person scoffs at our career choices. But we can use dialogue like the conversation between Larissa and Carrie Bradshaw's dad to give us confidence. Surprisingly The Carrie Diaries, which is probably geared towards a mainstream teenage audience, directly spoke to me. Nestled in the rom/com's many cliches was a brief conversation that I actually needed to hear.


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