Candace Bushnell Discusses 20 Years Of 'Sex And The City' To mark the 20th anniversary of the hit show Sex and the City, NPR's Mary Louise Kelly speaks with the woman who inspired it all, Candace Bushnell. Bushnell wrote a column under the same name for the New York Observer in the mid-90s.
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Candace Bushnell Discusses 20 Years Of 'Sex And The City'

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Candace Bushnell Discusses 20 Years Of 'Sex And The City'

Candace Bushnell Discusses 20 Years Of 'Sex And The City'

Candace Bushnell Discusses 20 Years Of 'Sex And The City'

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To mark the 20th anniversary of the hit show Sex and the City, NPR's Mary Louise Kelly speaks with the woman who inspired it all, Candace Bushnell. Bushnell wrote a column under the same name for the New York Observer in the mid-90s.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOUGLAS CUOMO'S "SEX AND THE CITY THEME")

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

For me and maybe many of you out there, this music takes me straight to New York City in the late-'90's and a foursome of Manolo-wearing, cosmopolitan-swilling friends. That foursome would be Samantha, Miranda, Charlotte and Carrie, the women of "Sex And The City." This week marks 20 years since the show debuted on HBO, 20 years since we met the main character, Carrie Bradshaw, who writes a column about love and dating which she narrates throughout the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SEX AND THE CITY")

SARAH JESSICA PARKER: (As Carrie Bradshaw) Welcome to the age of un-innocence. No one has breakfast at Tiffany's, and no one has affairs to remember. Instead, we have breakfast at 7 a.m. and affairs we try to forget as quickly as possible.

KELLY: Carrie's character and her column are based on a real writer, Candace Bushnell. And Candace Bushnell joins me now. Welcome.

CANDACE BUSHNELL: Thrilled to be here.

KELLY: Let me sum up a little bit of how this came to be. You in the '90s were in New York, and you started writing a column called "Sex And The City." This was for the New York Observer. You eventually turned those columns into a book, which became a show. Was that something you ever anticipated when you set out and you were covering the love and dating scene in New York City in the '90s?

BUSHNELL: No. I mean, you have to understand. For me, "Sex And The City" was, you know, the best and the most popular iteration of work that I'd already been doing. I had many, many girlfriends. You know, we felt empowered by the fact that we had control over, you know - somewhat of our careers that we could live without men. But we felt disempowered by the fact that we were in our 30s and that we were no longer considered - how should I say - eligible, you know, prospects.

KELLY: Let me - we asked listeners to weigh in and send us voice memos about some of the things that they connected with in the show. And I want to play you a couple of these. One thing that resonates with so many people apparently is the theme of female friendship. Let me play you this. This is Alexis Miller. She says she started watching "Sex And The City" in high school.

ALEXIS MILLER: To this day, I still think that some of the fights that Carrie and Miranda had over the years were some of the most realistic portrayals of female friendship that I've seen on TV.

KELLY: Realistic portrayal of female friendship - was that one of the things y'all were going for?

BUSHNELL: Absolutely. One of the phenomenons of "Sex And The City" was this intense forming of family-type bonds with one's female friends. In New York City, in my life, there was really a feeling that without your girlfriends, you could not survive. And that's certainly something that the show portrayed beautifully.

KELLY: To what extent did those friendships on the show reflect friendships you had in New York around this time?

BUSHNELL: Well, yeah, my friends and I always joked that we would never be friends with Charlotte.

KELLY: The very sweet - she's super sweet, goody two shoes, yep.

BUSHNELL: She's the Darren Star creation.

KELLY: Darren Star - the producer of the show you're talking about.

BUSHNELL: Right. But Charlotte was always the one that didn't fit in. And we are always like, huh? I mean, Charlotte would have gotten eaten up and chewed up and spit out for lunch.

KELLY: (Laughter) Well, let me move you to how you think about this now and how the show kind of registers now. Another listener we heard from pointed out that the show was not as inclusive as it might have been. This is Wren Murray. She's 20, and she says she's got some conflicting feelings about "Sex And The City."

WREN MURRAY: It definitely taught me so much about being a woman and being a sexual being. But it definitely did not teach me about my own identity as a brown, bisexual female.

KELLY: She's pointing out the show's been criticized for having very few characters of color, for not representing LGBTQ community in a very positive light. I mean, looking back, do those strike you as flaws? Or was it the way those characters would have seen the world at the time?

BUSHNELL: I mean, the world of "Sex And The City" that I was writing about in the city - it was diverse. I think as the show went on, you know, there was more awareness and more of an attempt to address that.

KELLY: I wanted to follow up on when you were talking about being single after 35. Is part of what the show did, part of the legacy of it saying to women it's OK to be single after 35, to be out making your way in the world and not have a man at your side?

BUSHNELL: Absolutely, absolutely, And you know, for me, the point of writing "Sex And The City" was trying to get at this idea of, can we have other goals than just finding a man? You know, there are criticisms of the show of course. But, you know, largely it made women feel like, I'm OK, and I'm not alone.

KELLY: Well, Candace Bushnell, thank you. This has been fun.

BUSHNELL: Thank you.

KELLY: Candace Bushnell - she wrote the "Sex And The City" column which inspired the book which inspired the TV show which debuted 20 years ago this week.

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