What ‘Sex and the City’ taught me about love, life, and politics

Actress Cynthia Nixon attends the premiere of

Actress Cynthia Nixon attends the premiere of "Sex and the City" at Radio City Music Hall on Tuesday, May 27, 2008, in New York. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)

“Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon is running for governor of New York. Despite her years of political activism, the actress is an unlikely candidate to run against two-term incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Nixon’s bid provided me with a great reason to rewatch the show that capitulated her to new levels of fame and that amassed huge legions of fans (myself included).

While I expected to be entertained with crazy dating antics, high fashion, and crude sex jokes, I realized that the series is also full of sage advice, some of which is relevant to our current political climate. In many ways, I saw strong parallels between the four women and American voters today.

Each of the women was looking for something special — a soulmate. Today, America is also looking for a soul mate.

We are looking for someone who is smart, stable, morally courageous, kind, and respectful to those who are different. You know, the type of person you can take home to your parents, boast to your friends about, and who genuinely makes you feel good about yourself.

While American voters are not searching for a soulmate per se, their search for the perfect elected official has a lot of parallels to romantic searches where the end result is being swept away.

Since the last presidential election, the country has been popping the question to almost anyone who is halfway decent and seemingly capable. From cries for a third term for Barack Obama, to seeking star power in Beyoncé and now Oprah, America is desperate for a knight in shining armor. To be sure, America does need a powerful figure to stand up to Trumpism. That’s why I don’t blame people for thinking that a celebrity with gravitas, with a commanding presence, with millions of followers could be that person. However, this is the wrong approach to finding “the one.”

As any good millennial, I learned about dating from television. I grew up on the story of Ross and Rachel on “Friends”; I followed Tracee Ellis Ross’ dating woes on “Girlfriends”; I closely monitored the hookups on “Grey’s Anatomy”; and now, I’m amazed at how closely my life resembles that of Yvonne Orji’s character Molly on Insecure.” But none of these shows compares to the countless dating experiences that “Sex and the City” offered.

For six seasons (and at least one good movie), Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda taught us all the essentials of dating — whether they were single, in a relationship, or breaking up. However, not all of the show’s love lessons are easily applicable to real life.

For instance, I would not suggest that you take a class like the one Carrie taught at the Learning Annex on how to find out how to find a guy, nor would I advise you to try speed dating and lie about your career like Miranda did. However, the most significant lessons from the series were about being independent, owning your sexuality, and finding oneself, all while looking amazing.

The premiere of season four, “The Agony and the “Ex”-tasy”, is all about finding a soulmate, yet the women are all alone. Charlotte separates from her husband and we watch a distraught Carrie ruminate about her life after no one shows up for her 35th birthday party. Miranda convinces a sullen Carrie to leave her apartment and celebrate the remaining hour of her birthday with the girls who had assembled at their favorite diner.

With the women squared around the table, Carrie admits that, for the first time, she feels alone without any special man in her life.

This moment of truth creates a deafening pause as she declares to her friends how unhappy she is despite having a seemingly glamorous lifestyle .

Charlotte is first to break the silence and delivers the best line of the episode: “Maybe we could be each other’s soulmates. Then we could let men just be these great, nice guys to have fun with.”

As the women then go on to discuss growing older, Charlotte’s advice in many ways becomes the overarching theme of the series, where romantic partners become a type of accessory — like the latest pair of Manolo Blahniks. And, instead of searching for “the one,” their most fulfilling relationships are the friendships they have with each other.

We, the many, don’t need a politician to be ‘the one’

What if America took a lesson from the women of “Sex and the City” and abandoned the idea of finding “the one”? What if instead of searching for the one who will complete us, we found fulfillment in each other? What if instead of scouring for a leader who will define a generation, we looked at the next president as a mere accessory to the political organizing that we dedicate ourselves to what will ultimately transform our governing institutions and culture?

There are many reasons why we should stop viewing politicians as our soulmates or as “the one.”

First, there is no perfect candidate. Political leaders will do and say things to impress you as people do on first dates, but we also know that many of those promises turn out to false or fall short. We waste a lot time searching for ideologically pure candidates that could be better spent engaging in more substantive politics.

Second, politicians are not monogamous given that they must appeal and satisfy different constituencies. In the same way, we should not look to settle down with one politician. We should consider playing the field and finding a range of politicians who can fulfill our short-term needs.

In short, I’m saying that we should “hook up” with up with our politicians but not marry them. Lastly, searching for the perfect leader absolves us of our own responsibility to participate in the political system. Our political strife cannot be blamed on one president or one political party, and it will take more than one president or one political party to solve our problems.

We have a collective responsibility to work toward the society we all want to live in, and we should look inward for political change. This could mean working in government, sitting on a local community board, volunteering in a campaign, attending a government meeting, or even running for office.

The bold feminist message from “Sex and the City” is that women can take control of their own lives and find their own happiness. We should adhere to this message. We cannot look to others to make us happy or to solve our problems. Accountability to ourselves is the only guarantee for political satisfaction.

Now that Cynthia Nixon is entering politics and Kim Cattrall has explicitly stated that she is no longer friends with Sarah Jessica Parker, it is all but certain that we will never get a new “Sex and the City” movie. Fortunately, we still have still have six glorious seasons of this remarkable series to teach us about love, life, and politics.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.