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If the Shoe Fits, Wear It

Sex and the City finds its moral footing
by Maura R. O'Connor

America's sweetheart is no longer sweet. The first time we saw Samantha fully naked, witnessed Miranda using the vibrator permanently kept in her nightstand drawer, or empathized with Carrie—even while she was sleeping with two men—I'm sure we issued a collective murmur of shock. After six seasons and eighty-six episodes of martinis, shoes, graphic sex, and meandering commentaries on life as a woman at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Sex and the City is coming to an end this February, and I wonder if anyone is shocked anymore. Has anyone, besides the producers, noticed that the show consistently brings in eleven million American viewers? Why hasn't anyone protested that Sex and the City won the American Women in Radio and Television's Gracie Allen Award four years running? I personally can't help wondering if it was the scene in season four—when Samantha drops to her knees and gives her boss oral sex in a glass-enclosed office—that qualified them that year for an award that “encourages the positive and realistic portrayal of women in entertainment.” It is a little frightening to think that these things go by unnoticed, or at least fail to ring any alarm bells. But then I was contacted by a mysterious staff member who sent me a previously undisclosed script. To be aired as one of the final eight episodes on cable this February, the screenplay clearly demonstrates that not only does the show proudly bear the standard of postmodern ethics in our popular culture today, but also it has managed to accurately mirror the attitudes of that very same culture. In other words, if one wishes to examine the moral fiber of postmodern America, one need not go further than Sex and the City.

V.O.=Voice Over



Carrie strides down the street in full fashion regalia. The sun is shining. She looks confident and happy. She comes to a stop at a crosswalk with a group of people. A bedraggled homeless woman appears from behind.

HOMELESS WOMAN: Excuse me ma'am, could you spare some change?

CARRIE: I'm sorry! (Halfheartedly sorts through her Fendi baguette.) I don't have any!

The homeless woman pushes forward across the crosswalk, and Carrie watches her intently for a moment. She frowns, looks in her purse again, and pulls out a one-dollar bill.

CARRIE: Excuse me! Excuse me! (Running clumsily in her stilettos.) Here. (Breathlessly) Have this.

CARRIE (V.O.): Some days are a mystery. Overcome by the need to help this woman, I had risked a broken ankle, or worse yet a broken heel, to give away a dollar bill. What had driven me to do such an uncharacteristically charitable act? As I caught a cab, I puzzled over this question: Where had this new conscience come from? Was it the conservative Oscar de la Renta pantsuit I just bought? That commercial about sponsoring a child in Asia? All of a sudden it hit me.

FLASHBACK - Images of Carrie and unknown man having sex.

CARRIE (V.O.) (CONT'D): I had been out two nights ago when a social worker approached me. He was good-looking and the night resulted in a bout of fantastically wild sex. . . . Now how the hell does that work?



The four friends—Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte—are sitting at their regular table eating brunch.

CLOSE ON—tiny portions of food.

CARRIE (V.O.): Having divulged this information to my three best friends, I realized that the topic of my Sexually Transmitted Conscience might be inappropriate fare for our weekly brunch . . .

MIRANDA: That is so disgusting, Carrie.

SAMANTHA: Who gives a rat's ass darling where you got it from, just get rid of it!

CARRIE: How?! I'm sorry but it's a little too late for a “morality-after pill”!

CHARLOTTE: Oh keep it Carrie! You can come to my weekly chapter meeting of the Park Avenue Women's Society for the Betterment of the Homeless! It's really exclusive . . .

CARRIE: Look, I just need to think about what this means . . .

MIRANDA: I can tell you what it means: I had a conscience once before, and I never got the good cases or the good-looking men! If I'd kept it up I would never have made partner. (Laughs) Or had sex with my eyes open, ever!

SAMANTHA: What are you talking about? You can get laid and have a conscience! Why just the other night the handsomest homeless man I've ever seen asked me for some change, and I said, “Honey, what are you going to do for me?” Let's just say it was quite a stimulating night . . . and it only cost a pocketful of change!



Carrie is lying on her bed, laptop computer open.

CARRIE (V.O.): I stayed home that night, troubled by the day's events. What was a conscience? Was it just something that you “got”? What happened to my freedom of choice? Obviously my three friends still had a choice in the matter! Like a pair of silk panties, they casually slipped their consciences on and off depending on their mood and circumstances. I knew that what I had experienced was a sense of obligation and that somehow this “sense” might alter my life irrevocably. I couldn't help but wonder. . .

CLOSE ON the computer screen, the words appear as she speaks.

CARRIE (V.O.) (CONT'D): Is a conscience the new fashion accessory? And if so, how much does it cost?



CARRIE (V.O.): The next morning, when I woke up, my conscience was plaguing me. It was time to answer the question: Was this a fashion statement that needed to be made? I decided to ask for some advice, so I made plans to meet with Charlotte.

CHARLOTTE: I understand your fears about becoming a conscientious person, Carrie. But don't worry too much; when it gets hard, you just take some time out to indulge yourself. It works for me all the time!

CARRIE: Hmmm . . . the only thing is that indulging myself feels strangely, well, I don't know . . . wrong.

CHARLOTTE: Lesson number one, Carrie: Compassion is just one part of ourselves that needs to be fulfilled. But no one can be one hundred percent compassionate! You've got to ask yourself: What would happen to the part that cares about our happiness?

CARRIE: But the reason you help homeless people is because you care about them. Right?

CHARLOTTE: I don't really think that's the issue. (Whispers) By the way: the women in my charity are such a good resource for available men . . .

CARRIE (V.O.): I grappled with what Charlotte was saying for a moment: Was the Park Avenue Women's Society for the Betterment of the Homeless secretly a dating service for its participants?

CARRIE: So you go to your charity group to meet men?!

CHARLOTTE: (Exasperated) Carrie, you don't have to be so serious. Enlighten up! Lesson number two: The end result is what is important—if it makes you feel good, then that's what the right thing to do is.



CARRIE (V.O.): How had I failed to notice it before? Charlotte was acting more like a charlatan. That night I turned to Miranda for help.

MIRANDA: Welcome to the real world, Carrie. A conscience is a fantasy—and one that you can't even get off on! (Laughing) It just proves how completely hypocritical the whole morality question is. I mean, really, the thing most of these “caring” people care about most is their own image!

CARRIE: But what do I do? It's all well and good for Charlotte to strike gold in the bedroom via the soup kitchen—but I don't want to live my life as a hypocrite!

MIRANDA: What you need to do is annihilate this thing immediately. It's called logic. In New York City, the kind of time and commitment it takes to have a conscience just doesn't exist. And Carrie, you can't wear those stilettos in a convent or the damned Himalayas.

CARRIE: Jesus.

MIRANDA: Forget it, babe. Jesus probably worried about his image too—and he wore sandals.



Carrie is sitting on her floor surrounded by piles of clothes and shoes. She appears distraught.

CARRIE (V.O.): It had been three days since my conscience had begun ailing me, and my worst fears were now confirmed. The STC had spread to the inner sanctum of my wardrobe! What did a “good” person wear? I saw the lifeless carcasses of my cocktail dresses and mini-skirts before me . . .

Doorbell rings and Carrie gets up. She opens the door.

CARRIE: Samantha! Thank God. I can't even dress myself anymore!

SAMANTHA: Oh shut up, Carrie. You can't linger in this indecisive hellhole any longer: no clothes, no sex, no fun! You're becoming a didactic bore, and your sex column has gone down the drain!

Carrie begins to cry.

SAMANTHA: If you want to be happy, you've got to realize that sex is your only path to salvation. In your case, though, I can prescribe only one type: Sex as a Charitable Act.

CARRIE: (Eyes widen) What does that mean?

SAMANTHA: SCA is the only way to appease your conscience and therefore cure your STC. If your motivation is to give sex you will be gratifying the former, but the latter will also be fulfilled inadvertently. Basically, you've got to start giving it away, babe.

CARRIE: Would that really work?

SAMANTHA: You think you're the first one to be plagued with a Sexually Transmitted Conscience? Darling, I was getting laid by social workers when your only fashion accessory was a pair of braces.

CARRIE (V.O.): Samantha taught me a lesson I would never forget. I had an epiphany that evening when she suggested that I pay a visit to the local V.A. hospital. Coming home from my first night of humanitarian aid, I felt so fortunate that my blessing to the world was something I was good at to boot!



Carrie is seen walking down a sunny street.

CARRIE (V.O.): The next day I awoke with a completely new outlook on life. A conscience was a bargain indeed—it cost nothing! Thinking of my three friends and their pearls of wisdom in retrospect, I had come to realize the true nature of humanity's moral instincts. Like a shoe, morality seems to be individually sized to fit perfectly, allowing us to trek the expanses of our human experience in comfort and style. Since contracting my conscience, I had discovered the open-toed mule of narcissism through Charlotte, the practical pump of logic through Miranda, and the liberating stiletto of compassion through Samantha. In the end I knew without a doubt that it wouldn't matter what each of us was doing, as long as we all looked good in our shoes doing it.

FADE OUT as Carrie continues to walk down street.



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This article is from
Our Morality Issue


February–April 2004