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20 years later, 'Sex and the City' has aged badly (except for one key episode)

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/6/2018 Kelly Lawler

Editor's note: The opinions in this article are the author's, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker posing for the camera: "Sex and the City" Is 20-Years-Old © Provided by Wochit Entertainment "Sex and the City" Is 20-Years-Old I'm not listening to Carrie Bradshaw's advice anymore. 

When I first started watching HBO's Sex and the City, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this week, I was enchanted by the charmed New York lives of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis). I ate up their romantic and sexual exploits and I listened to Carrie's voiceover with reverence. But two decades after it premiered, I'm not so sure I believe everything the ladies who brunch had to say.  

Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis posing for a photo: Four fashionable New York City friends came into our lives 20 years ago on HBO's "Sex and the City," which premiered June 6, 1998. So what have Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kristin Davis been doing since they first graced our screens 20 years ago? 20 years later, 'Sex and the City' has aged badly (except for one key episode) Rewatching the series a few years ago, I had to stop partway through because the show's sensibility became so irksome I couldn't enjoy it anymore. Part of the problem was just the passage of time. The cultural zeitgeist has changed, and Sex has some episodes that now seem homophobic or racist, just like you'd find, for instance, with other 1990s shows like Friends.

'Sex and the City' TV Series SEX AND THE CITY, (Season 3), Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, 1998-2004 © HBO/Everett/Rex 'Sex and the City' TV Series SEX AND THE CITY, (Season 3), Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, 1998-2004 The series has aged badly all around: Divorced from the relentless hype, many of the episodes just aren't as good as we remember. Carrie's narration sounds clichéd, Samantha's dialogue feels unnatural and Charlotte is just plain tiresome. The show has simply lost its luster. 

What's more interesting now is what still resonates, not what doesn't. Because while much of the series could make you cringe, Sex occasionally hits on some universal truths that haven't changed. I will never shut up about one 2003 episode, "A Woman's Right to Shoes." After years of scrutiny, it's the one episode that has aged the best, a microcosm of all that we loved about the show that manages to skirt its pitfalls.

Sex and the City cast © Associated Press Sex and the City cast If your memory of Sex isn't encyclopedic, I'll remind you that, at this point in Carrie Bradshaw's life (and the show's sixth season), she's single. She attends a baby shower for a friend, Kyra (Tatum O'Neal) where she's asked to remove her shoes at the door of the apartment. 

13 things you probably didn't know about Sex and the City - Provided by The Wrap

a group of people posing for the camera: Are you a Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, or Samantha?That's a question that women -- and some men -- have been asking each other for years. In her new book, titled "Sex and the City and Us," author Jennifer Keishin Armstrong details the origins of what would become a Bible on how to live as a thirtysomething single woman in New York City. Armstrong's behind-the-scenes account is based on several interviews with those involved with the popular HBO series, including Sarah Jessica Parker, along with a multitude of research materials.Here are 13 little-known-facts from Armstrong's book about the show that helped define a generation of women. ‘Sex and the City': 13 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About HBO Series as It Turns 20 (Photos)

By the end of the night, someone has stolen Carrie's Manolo Blahniks, a catastrophe that surprisingly doesn't embarrass the party's host. When Carrie returns, hoping the shoes have turned up, Kyra awkwardly offers to pay to replace them. But when she discovers the Manolos cost $485, her generosity fades. She thinks the shoes are a waste and refuses to subsidize what she sees as Carrie's extravagant lifestyle. 

Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Noth in a still from Sex And The City 2. © Warner Br/Everett/Rex Features Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Noth in a still from Sex And The City 2. But as Carrie later points out, she's the one who's been subsidizing Kyra's lifestyle, and her other married friends', through bridal showers, bachelorette parties, weddings, baby showers, kids' birthdays and other celebrations.

The episode argues that single people stop getting gifts after they graduate, and yet are still tied to the wedding and baby industrial complexes through their friends, one more way in which society punishes people for being alone. But in this instance, singledom triumphs. By the end of the episode, Carrie "registers" at Manolo Blahnik, and Kyra buys her the shoes that she lost. 

The cast of "Sex and the City" arrive at the 7th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards 11 March 2001 in Los Angeles. From left are: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall. © Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images The cast of "Sex and the City" arrive at the 7th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards 11 March 2001 in Los Angeles. From left are: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall. It's not the flashiest or the most beloved episode, but I can't tell you how many times single friends have referenced it as we've marched to showers and weddings throughout our 20s. It's something I'm acutely aware of, even planning my own wedding, and I know my friends are, too. We really try to avoid becoming financial burdens going through one life stage or another. 

'Sex and the City' - Kristin Davis and Kim Cattrall
1990s © C.HBO/Everett/REX Features 'Sex and the City' - Kristin Davis and Kim Cattrall 1990s To me, "A Woman's Right to Shoes" is what Sex was really about. Sure, eventually Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha found partners, permanent or temporary, but inevitably the show was strongest when it focused on single women navigating a world built for couples. Its most radical aspect wasn't the sex and the nudity, but its insistence that women needn't pair off with a man right away to find happiness in life. It showed a group of single women constantly pushing back on a society that didn't know what to do with them. This was radical in the late '90s, and still was a decade later, when I watched on DVD. It resonates even more in 2018, when women are increasingly waiting until they're older to get married, or not marrying at all. 

© VINCE BUCCI / AFP A lot has changed since the series debuted. Nixon is running for governor of New York. Cattrall has publicly feuded with Parker. Hopes and dreams of a third feature film have fizzled. (They should have stopped at one, anyway.) But single women are still making their own way in the world, and they don't have to pair up to get by. If there's one assertion from Sex and the City that lives on, I hope it's that. 

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