“Did you know I read that if you don’t have sex for a year, you can actually become re-virginized?” – Charlotte, Sex and the City
One cold January morning I stood in my high school hallway looking around at the faces of my friends and frenemies, surveying my surroundings, and suddenly I realized, I’m all alone. Oddly enough, it’s that kind of a moment—not the first drag of a cigarette, or the first time you really leave home, or the first time you are sexually intimate—that you start to lose your innocence.
Despite being an addicting show with a captivating lead actress, The Carrie Diaries has its flaws. The Sex and the City Carrie Bradshaw resonated with so many of us because, as independent-woman/confident-single-lady as she was, she was also still figuring it out. Sadly, several episodes of The Carrie Diaries barely scrape a pass on the Bechdel Test. In The Carrie Diaries world, it seems like no one is truly capable of talking about anything other than S-E-X.
For me and lots of girls I know, sex didn’t occupy much of our brain-space until at least well into the college years. So why is it so hard to find TV-teens just hanging out, being friends, having fun, and experiencing frustration and jealousy over things not-sex-related? The media is forcing girls to confront their own virginity, a subject that shouldn’t be so end-all-be-all, and certainly shouldn’t come from the TV or movies we watch.
This month, Rookie magazine’s theme is “Age of Innocence”, which as Tavi (we’re on a first name basis) describes in her Editor’s letter, is about losing your innocence and then figuring out how to find it again. She begs the question, “How do you go back to that place of innocence when you’re growing up? Not in an infantilizing way, but in a way where you can return to a state of wonder?” But prequel Carrie Bradshaw et al. are spending their teen years telling their boyfriends they love them, that they’re ‘ready’ to have sex, and that they are really happy. So much so, in fact, that it becomes a mantra that they’re trying to convince the audience of. “I am so very happy”.
Flat-chested 14-year-old, Dorrit Bradshaw tries to “get it over with”, but her older/perfect record store employee of a boyfriend wants them both to wait so it will be “perfect” (a theme and a word that is echoed again and again with Carrie and Sebastian). But Dorrit’s boyfriend only waits about one day to fill his bedroom with candles and rose petals, which Dorrit bursts into tears upon seeing. The whole scene is awkwardly adult, and almost funny to watch. The icing on the cake being when they cut from the in-bed makeout to the morning after, where we see a sleeping Dorrit, wearing a t-shirt, cuddling with her boy. If the subject matter is too adult for the CW audience, then why is it even happening? It is embarrassing to watch such a young girl allude to losing her virginity. I think it would be totally fine if it seemed like the episode was aimed at making us feel uncomfortable, in order to shed light on this innocence, but the tone is consistently dead serious.
I wish we could go back to the Josh Schwartz pre-Gossip Girl days, when The O.C.’s Seth and Summer’s first time was bad, awkward, and totally realistic. I miss hearing Seth call himself “a fish flopping around on dry land”. Or when the totally-in-love and intensely dramatic couple, Ryan and Marissa, waited three seasons to get it on.
In Sex and the City, Carrie tells Charlotte that she lost her virginity on a ping pong table, “half a joint, three thrusts, finito,” she says matter-of-factly. Somehow I can’t imagine the CW having their leading lady lose her precious virginity in this way. But why not? Admittedly, the show is about how Carrie Bradshaw went from an average suburban teen to the independent and empowering sexy lady that she is all-grown-up. Carrie-Diaries-Bradshaw wants to wait to have sex until it can be perfect, but SATC-Carrie was flippant toward the whole matter. The mostly likely story here being that one is a teen show, the other adult. Maybe Fox was more open than the CW is, and that’s part of the reason why The O.C. got a dose of reality.
Of course Carrie couldn’t have always been that way, everybody starts somewhere; but I can’t help but think that even Carrie Bradshaw would have had a bit more to think about at seventeen than boys, dating, and going all the way. We do get moments of it, like when she breaks up with Sebastian Kydd because she gets so caught up with her writing career and life in New York City.
Moments, glimpses of reality, that’s all they will give us. But in-between those moments, I just want to turn off The Carrie Diaries and run to Netflix to watch My So-Called Life. I don’t mean to advocate TV teen abstinence, but maybe I am. I just want complex characters, and complex characters have bigger fish to fry than which fish they will let flop around on their bed. So far, The Carrie Diaries hasn’t been renewed for a second season, wow– good call CW.