Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pass the (Microwave) Popcorn: The Carrie Diaries

A few years ago, my then tween daughter begged to watch Sex and the City with me. At first, like any conscientious mother, I resisted. I mean sex and cosmopolitans and sex and Manolas and sex. (Did I mention sex?) Oh my!

Soon, she grew up a little (and wore me down a little), so I let her watch the basic cable version of the show, which was by then in syndication on E! and Style Network. This was the kinder, gentler Sex and the City. No nudity, less profanity, more euphemisms, more commercial breaks.

We had to laugh at some of the rules for bleeping out foul language. For example, they could say "ass" but not "hole," so if Carrie or one of her BFFs was putting down a particularly jerky guy, they would call him an "ass-BLEEP!" Shouldn't it have been the other way around?

If the adult content was a bit much for my daughter at times, I was right there beside her. Explaining, demystifying, assuring her that some of it was a little far-fetched. Let's not kid ourselves, though. Teens today know more (way more!) than we did about ... well, about pretty much everything. I'd rather have my daughter learn about the details of sex through an entertaining show than through some shaky handheld video on YouTube. I know a lot of moms wouldn't agree — and that is absolutely their prerogative — but this is how I saw it.

At one point, my daughter asked me, "Mom, which are you? Carrie, Samantha, Miranda or Charlotte?" I didn't know what to say. She had already decided for me, apparently, and informed me that I was half-Carrie because I'm a writer and half-Miranda because I'm a workaholic. So, I was spared the slut and the romantic. Okay, I guess I can live with that.

At any rate, we were both fans, and it gave us something to do together. I also hoped it might make my daughter appreciate my hometown a bit more. Sex and the City is as much about the city as the sex.

And so is the new prequel series, The Carrie Diaries.

Set in the mid-80s, the new show follows the adventures of a starry-eyed young Carrie Bradshaw, a small-town high school student who is just beginning her love affair with the big apple. Recovering from her mother's death, Carrie takes an internship at a law firm in Manhattan. She immediately (as in on her very first lunch break) meets some fabulous urban types — editors, artists, fashion designers — and the rest is, as they say, history.

It took a little while to accept that this was the same Carrie even in the hands of a young pro. AnnaSophia Robb is no newcomer, having acted half her life. In fact, a younger daughter and I knew her well as the very first American Girl in the very first American Girl movie. (How I miss those days sometimes!) More starring roles followed, including Bridge to Terabithia, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Because of Winn Dixie. She's very good as Carrie, it's just that it's hard to think of anyone other than Sarah Jessica Parker.

Then there's the issue of the backstory. We have seen all six seasons of Sex and the City (many times, too many times — just ask my husband), and I don't remember ever hearing that Carrie's mother was dead. Or that she had a sister. Or a father. Or any old friends either. Hmmmmm ...

Then again, part of the magic of New York is that it is a place where people reinvent themselves. So can we really blame Ms. Bradshaw for leaving the past behind?

The 80s references in the new show are fun, as is the fashion. (I keep telling my daughter "Yes, we really dressed like that!") The teen angst is familiar from countless other shows my daughter's already addicted to. I let her watch them on her own; I just can't quite get my arms around The Lying Game

But, I think I'll stick with The Carrie Diaries. For a while anyway. Being "on the groundfloor" of a new show? Nice.

Having a reason to share something with my daughter for an hour every week? Priceless.

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