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    Posted on Nov 11, 2014

    The 10 Main Differences Between "Girls" And "Sex And The City"

    These two TV shows have been compared to a fault. The debate ends RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. Spoilers ahead!

    Ever since Girls premièred on April, 2012 (or even before its actual première), Lena Dunham's show has been repeatedly compared with one of HBO's most iconic names: Sex And The City. The initial comparisons were obvious and justified: both series are dramedies about the fortunes and misfortunes of a quartet of single women living in New York City. But time has passed and has shown us how different these two shows really are. For those who are still comparing them and betting on if Girls is going to take the crown of Sex And The City once it's over, here are 10 big differences that can help to see how disparate these two shows actually are.

    1. The Message

    Let's start with the basics: Sex And The City tells the story of four women in their MID-THIRTIES (and one proudly in her early forties) and Girls of four MID-TWENTIES. This fact makes the shows different since episode one because women (and men) don't have the same view of the world, questions and concerns when they're 25 than when they're 35. It's just not the same. PERIOD. Consequently, the message in Girls could easily be "we're lost in our lives in every possible way" while Sex And The City's could be summed up as "we control our life but still have some issues to deal with".


    The message in Sex And The City is delivered as a journey of highs and lows, questions and answers, success and frustration, but without giving up sharing the Manhattan, fancy way of life with your best friends. At the end, two of the four ladies get married (I'm not considering the movies for this analysis) and the other two enjoy stable relationships. One quits her job for the sake of her family (Charlotte) while the other three achieve noteworthy success in their careers. So, even though we shouldn't bear in mind the finale because Girls is still on air, we could state that Sex And The City displays an optimistic view of the world, something like "life can be a bumpy ride but it can also be a marvellous, bumpy ride".

    Vogue Magazine

    Meanwhile, Girls is a show conceived as a naturalistic, detailed observation of the behaviour of four young women who, after living the good college life (Soshana's still living it), have to face reality and they can't get enough of reality slaps, so to speak. The four girls are constantly on the verge of losing it (Hannah DOES lose it a couple of times), something that never happens on Sex And The City, even in the most intense moments like Carrie's affair with Mr. Big while dating Aidan or Charlotte's failed marriage (the cardboard baby, though). So maybe Girls is trying to show us that, in order to live the Sex And The City fabulous way of life, first you have to go through a very messed up phase, aka your twenties.

    2. The Cinematography

    Sex And The City keeps it safe. The episodes are always written in the same way: four characters, four stories, and then two or three scenes with the four characters exchanging experiences (and puns). And we can't forget about Carrie's voice-over who usually introduces the four stories and puts an end to the episode with a pseudo-philosophical question. This is the reason why the show is still enjoying such a great success in syndication: most of the episodes are auto-conclusive and you can enjoy them without having to watch the previous ones.


    On the other hand, Girls takes more risks. Its episodes don't have a predictable structure like Sex And The City's. Some of the episodes feature solely Hannah. Others features two of the girls, three or all of them. Girls is first about Hannah and then, if there's enough room, it can also deal with the issues of the others. This never happens on Sex And The City, where the four characters always have a conflict to deal with, regardless Carrie's concerns.

    ANOTHER BIG DIFFERENCE: Girls has time for its male characters. A lot of time, actually. Adam has arguably more screen time than Soshana an Jessa together, despite the two latter being part of the "girls". Ray, Elijah and Charlie had also enjoyed some valuable screen time. That only happened in Sex And The City once: when Stanford went on a date with a creepy, doll lover. (Yep, that's the only time Sex And The City gave its male characters an independent plot).

    3. The Friendship


    I personally think this is the biggest different between the two shows. Throughout the six seasons of Sex And The City a lot of things happen: broken hearts, laughs, tears, brunches, affairs, weddings, miscarriages, divorces, etc. But one thing remains untouchable and sacred no matter what: the friendship, the bond shared by Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha. Carrie and Miranda had only two big arguments (this and this)in 94 episodes; Carrie and Charlotte, one; Samantha and Charlotte, another one; and Miranda and Charlotte, ANOTHER one. These four confrontations last, at most, one episode, meaning the characters are able to put their friendship first from one episode to another.

    Even though the last image we have from Sex And The City is Carrie being fabulous walking down the streets of New York City (and You've Got The Love playing in the background), the most important frame of the last episode is the four friends stepping out of a cafeteria, chatting and laughing, exactly what they had been doing since the pilot. And that's what Sex And The City is about: how to handle your issues with the incomparable help of your friends.

    Meanwhile in Girls the concept of friendship is displayed in a more ambiguous, unstable way. First of all: are the four characters friends? We could say Hannah is friends with the other three, but what about the other three among themselves? Is Marnie really a friend of Jessa? Jessa and Soshana are related, sure, but do they see themselves as friends? Anyway, let's just admit for a moment that the four girls are indeed friends. How strong is that friendship? Not much judging by the episode on the beach were the four brutally air their dirty laundry, revealing how dangerous is the lack of communication in any kind of relation.

    Girls likes to show the true nature of its characters in the most realistic, pessimistic way possible and friendship is no exception to this tendency. In Girls, friendship is a vague and changeable concept, one day is the most precious thing in the world, the next day everybody wants to get rid of their awful friends for good. Okay, let's be honest: most of the time we can't avoid the feeling that the four characters hate each other and they stick together simply because they can't find better friends (a very common state of mind when you're in your twenties).

    4. The Humour

    The interesting part of dramedies is that they can play both the drama card and the fun card, making it more interesting. Sex And The City, despite having dramatic and tearful moments, likes to play the fun card several times throughout an episode. Don't worry: if Carrie is having a hard time trying to chose between Mr Big and Aidan, Samantha is dating a guy with "the funkiest tasting spunk". THAT'S how you craft a dramedy. Not every episode features drama, but every episodes features comedy, that's for sure. Sex And The City humour could be defined as a mix of puns, awkwardness, surprises, cultural references and WTF-is-wrong-with-this-dude moments. Grosso modo, Sex And The City tends to be more explicit than implicit, causing more laughs than smiles.


    The humour in Girls is harder to define. The show has gifted us with some truly hilarious moments like Hannah's rape jokes in the middle of a job interview, Marnie's music videos or Hanna's blonde alter-ego (see image). The thing is that they are episodes where the humour is absolutely absent or very fleeting which prompts me to wonder if Girls is a dramedy or just a drama with occasional funny scenes. Either way, we could say that Girls humour also consists of awkwardness, surprises, cultural references and WTF-is-wrong-with-this-dude moments but in a more painful-to-watch, cringe-worthy, realistic way than Sex And The City, leaving the viewer to question if that scene was funny or not.

    In other words, Sex And The City humour was more consensual: almost everybody thinks THIS scene is funny and THIS other scene isn't. In Girls, each viewer decides what's funny and what isn't, hence there are people who see the show as a comedy, as a dramedy or, as I said, as a drama with occasional funny scenes.

    5. The Main Character


    Here is where the two shows come closer: They both have a writer protagonist who struggles to have a stable relationship and whose behaviour most of the times could be deemed as egocentric, unbearable and childish. So what gives? What's the difference? Well, one big difference is that Carrie, despite all her flaws, manages to be admired by the fans of the series while Hannah has to endure incessant criticism for every choice she makes, ergo, no one aspires to be like Hannah.

    Carrie is introduced as a witty fashionista who writes a sex column and attends every party in the city while Hannah is just a newly graduate who tries to find a job and a meaningful life. Both Carrie and Hannah fall in love with complicated men and both of them try their best to make the relationship work. So, yes, there are some similarities here but these two ladies have a very different way of dealing with problems, with friends and with life.

    6. The Other Three


    IN BRIEF: Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha enjoy practically the same screen time and the three have funny and dramatic scenes, equal parts. Initially, they're introduced in a very stereotypical way: the sarcastic, the prude and the goddess of sex. Throughout the series, they personality is developed enough to blur some of that stereotype and create a more complex characterisation. None of them overshadows the other two. There's a clear balance in the scripts to keep them equally relevant.

    On the contrary, Girls lacks of this balance. Totally lacks of it, I'd say. It's obvious that Marnie is the second "most important girl", so to speak, because she enjoys more screen time and interesting plots. Meanwhile, Soshana and Jessa pop out when the show allows them to. Adam, and even Ray, seem to have higher priority when it comes to screen time and plots. Respecting stereotypes, Soshana might be the most stereotypical. Marnie and Jessa can't be so easily labelled, as well as Hannah.

    7. The Sex


    THE SEX, OF COURSE! Sex And The City is about sex, who knew? Okay, let's be serious. Back in the day, Sex And The City raised eyebrows for basically depicting women having sex as men do. The characters have different sexual parents, they experience the joy (and the horror) of sex unapologetically and then, they have brunch to discuss it. Along the way, they find love but that's for the next point. Sex is evidently one of the main pillars of the show and it was thanks to it why it became so popular. Sex And The City uses bed scenes for mostly comedic purposes and to shock viewers in the good sense of the word.

    Some years after, Girls raised eyebrows too because of its depiction of sex but for other reasons. Girls prefers to show us sex as raw, awkward and hard-to-watch as possible, but it's not an essential part of the show, despite being the centre of tons of articles about it. Girls sometimes uses bed scenes for comedic purposes but it also uses them to humiliate the characters that engage in them (remember Marnie and Elijah?).

    8. The Love

    This is an easy one: Sex And The City loves its ROMANTIC moments. Yes, in capital letters. Romantic dates, romantic lunches, romantic dinners, romantics walks, romantic proposals, romantic weddings, etc.. Sex And The City has PLENTY of them and isn't ashamed of it. Just think about the finale: Mr Big flying all the way to Paris just to try to convince the love of his life she's choosing the wrong man. It can't get more romantic than that, am I right?


    Girls, as usual, opts for a more ambiguous way. There are "Love Conquers All" moments, "Love Sucks" moments, "Love Is Not For Me" moments, "WTF Is Love?" moments and "I Need To Be Loved ASAP" moments, to give some examples. In its core Girls is quite a romantic series because Adam and Hannah are still together despite all the obstacles they had to overcome throughout the three seasons. Anyway, Girls is still really far from reaching the romantic level of Sex And The City, not because it isn't able to, but because it just doesn't want to.

    9. New York City

    New York City is so important in Sex And The City that is part of the name of the show itself (and THE CITY). The four characters, especially Carrie, make constant references to New York City and Manhattan, its places, its people and its way of life. Moreover, Carrie spends a couple of episodes of season 5 "dating" the city. So, yes, NYC is THAT important for this show (there's even an episode called I Heart NY). Besides this, the shows features a lot of outdoor scenes which are obviously shot in the distinct streets of NYC.


    Girls changes Manhattan for Brooklyn and, even so, NYC doesn't play a significant role in the series. Maybe Lena Dunham didn't want to copy the Sex And The City NYC worship and she chose to make ocasional references to the city without having to mention it in every episode. Still, Girls tries to shows us a different NYC way of life than the one we saw on Sex And The City. Girls prefers underground parties where no one drinks Cosmpolitans and no one wears Prada.

    BREAKING NEWS: Leisure time is NOT the same when you are in your twenties and practically broke than when you are in your thirties with a well-paid job.

    10. The Feedback

    This one is interesting. How are these shows perceived by the audience? They both sure have an army of haters desperately wanting these women to shut their mouths. Both shows are used to controversy and they're OK with it. Both shows are subject to feminist debates: How is the modern woman like? How does she behave? Does she care about getting married and having kids? What's the role of sex in a woman's life? How women interact with other women? Are these shows even feminist? These are some of the questions these shows have triggered and tried to answer.


    Girls is a millennial product and has a lot to thank to social networking, blogs, Reddit, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Buzzfeed and practically every media outlet (remember James Franco's piece?). It's arguably the most talked-about show on TV right now. Every episode is meticulously analysed and interpreted (plus, all the controversies surrounding Lena Dunham, who's also meticulously analysed in everything she does). Any other TV show would pay thousands to enjoy the same feedback as Girls does, although some of that feedback is harsh, ruthless criticism.

    Sex And The City didn't enjoy social media when it first aired but we could say it's enjoying it now in some way (just search Sex And The City in Buzzfeed and try to count all the articles, lists and countdowns). Sex And The City is still a money-maker: two movies (the second, simply atrocious), merchandising, cult following and a tour bus, to name a few. But for me, one of the most remarkable achievements of Sex And The City is how easily still manages to attract new audience and new generations. Let's see how Girls is doing in a decade.

    Since its finale, Sex And The City has been labelled as legendary, influential, iconic and one of the best TV shows ever. Girls hasn't finished yet so it would be unfair to predict a result, but, for now, it hasn't been able to equal Sex And The City ratings.

    Would have Girls existed without Sex And The City in the first place? Is Girls meant to be the legitimate heir to Sex And The City? Or will they remain as completely different shows that have nothing to do with each other? Does Sex And The City need an heir? Will there be a TV show trying to be Girls heir ten years after its finale? Is this an endless spiral of heirs and comparisons? Let me know what you think!

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