On ABCNews.com, reporter Sheila Marikar had to resort to an alias to describe a teenager obsessed with the show. "Lisa" from Long Island became a huge fan of "Sex and the City" when she was 14. She quickly lost her virginity and soon "graduated" to ordering cosmopolitans at bars she snuck into and "cheating on her boyfriend with up to seven other guys -- in one week."
"Lisa" told ABC, "When you're that age you try to emulate people on TV. Carrie smoked, so I smoked, Samantha looked at hooking up with random people as not a big deal, so that's what I did, too," she admitted. "It wasn't 'Sex and the City's' fault. I love the show, but I think it made it a little easier to justify my behavior."
But this is good, something to celebrate, true liberation, right? It's never the show's fault. People make their own decisions, and if they make irresponsible decisions, they have to live with the consequences. But television means never having to say you're sorry or responsible. Hollywood can certainly argue that it didn't make the naughty people act on their naughty impulses. It merely told them it would be glamorous and liberating to do so.
Newsweek's Baird agreed that the loosening of sexual mores is undeniable, but insisted HBO never told twentysomethings what to do. "It revealed what they were already doing -- and emboldened them to do more." But this show didn't embolden men to do more. When it comes to sexual adventures, it's an easy if overgeneralizing joke on men that they don't need much more encouragement than a "yes." Whatever emboldening HBO did was aimed at women, who were always the natural audience.
The show never boldly declared to women that love was bunk or romance was for suckers. It had enough focus on finding a lifelong love to keep an edge of sweetness, but in the end a skeptic can still suspect that this was just a marketing ploy to soften the edges of its sexual aggression.
Just as for men, HBO suggested that every woman needs a good, long period (perhaps several decades long) of persistent experimentation in vivacious variety until they're old and tired and unattractive enough to settle down. Marriage becomes a sort of wistful retirement, a Leisure World for playboys and playgirls. But Hollywood never really retires from self-indulgence.