The impact of the TV show Sex and the City on the audience

Clemence Dumoulin

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Sex and the city succeeded by winning the heart of millions of women throughout the world. In fact, for many women, Sex and the city was not just a TV show but a loyal partner who exposed the same stories single woman experience. The American show, created by Darren Star, aired on HBO from 1998 to 2004; marked a shift in the TV discourse. It represented a new way to be a women in the 90s with different thematic as consumer culture, relationships, sexuality, empowerment…For the first time, a TV show had such an impact on the population therefore, rapidly became a culture product. At one point, the press claimed that the main character Carrie Bradshaw “did as much to shift the culture around certain women s issues as real life female”.

In fact, Sex and the City changed a huge amount for women by highlighting normally controversial topics, previously shunned, and by probing many sensitive areas such as female sexuality, female empowerment, themes that weren’t usually explicitly expressed in TV programs. The particularity of the show is based on the fact that, for the first time on the small screen, women speak very crudely of their sex life, the show openly presents issues of women’s sexual emancipation. The programme plays with controversial conceptions of gender issues in an effort to rope in and rally attention around the key ideas of female empowerment. HBO’s ‘show is therefore a humoristic taboo-breaking programme aimed at women and of course, it became rapidly the object of much debate, controversy and extensive media coverage.

The characters were ranked as real icons and sources of inspiration, particularly in fashion where they launched new trends. In fact, a study by the company J.Walter Thompson reported that it would have made haute couture “popular”. Most of the female viewers saw Sex and The City as a holy Bible, therefore imitated the characters. The series promoted certain lifestyles, which made the viewers familiar with products and habits before unknown, such as Manolo shoes and Cosmopolitan cocktails. Thus, the Manolo Blahnik shoes became phenomenally successful, “Manolo Blahnik’s success skyrocketed as a result of Sex and the City” added Paula Correri, editor at Tobe Report. Women’s attitudes were changing, leading to the increase in sales of sex toys and underwear. The life-style overconsumption and open and sincere discourse on feminine identity, gave the series a loyal audience, who mirrored many of the protagonists’ habits, to the great satisfaction of the advertisers.

Thus, the TV show became an extraordinary cultural reference by contributing “to current cultural discourses related to fashion trends, discussions on sex, sexuality and relationships as well as debates on modern femininity, feminism and the single woman” .

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Clemence Dumoulin