Top 10 Differences Between Sex and the City Books & TV Show
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher
If you go back and read the original source material, you'll be surprised by the differences between the “Sex and the City” books and TV show. For this list, we'll be looking at the biggest ways the show diverged from the material it was adapting. Our countdown includes being alone is more celebrated, Carrie's friends are completely different, the characters address class, and more!
If you go back and read the original source material, you might be in for a surprise. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Differences Between Sex and the City Books & TV Show.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the biggest ways the show diverged from the material it was adapting.
#10: It's an Essay Collection
Perhaps the most important thing to know about “Sex and the City” the book is that it’s not a novel, but rather an essay collection. The book’s author, Candace Bushnell, wrote a column for The New York Observer in the ‘90s and the publication is an anthology of her work from that column. This story will sound a little familiar to any fans of the show, because of course Carrie Bradshaw is also a columnist. Bushnell has stated that Carrie is more of an alter ego than a representation of herself, which lets her be a little more candid with the events that take place in her columns, though much of it is taken directly from her real life.
#9: Being Alone Is More Celebrated
The oft-stated moral of “Sex and the City” the TV show is to work on your relationship with yourself; in fact Carrie’s final monologue of the series focuses on exactly that. But the show’s characters don’t exactly practice what they preach, and by the end, all four women are comfortably partnered up. The book is much more cynical about relationships, with Bushnell at one point stating, "Relationships in New York are about detachment”. The characters on the page are much less interested in settling down and truly embrace the single life in a more genuine way.
#8: The Interviews Are More Important
Candace Bushnell’s real-life columns occasionally featured real interviews with people on the topics of sex, relationships and life in New York, which is likely what inspired the segments of the show where various characters break the fourth wall and speak directly into the camera. But if you’ve seen “Sex and the City,” you may have noticed that those “man on the street” style interviews quickly disappeared after featuring heavily in the first season. This is likely because the show shifted to focus more specifically on the lives of Carrie and her three besties rather than a wider cast of characters.
#7: Maturity Is Celebrated More in the Book
One of the ways that HBO’s “Sex and the City” felt revolutionary is that it focused on women over the age of 30 who were unmarried and childless, at least when the series began. Aging is a big part of the characters’ journeys on the show, but it is often looked at with a certain amount of anxiety. While there are plenty of episodes that celebrate aging and maturity, the book is even more confident and explicit about it, making aging seem like something to aspire to and something that one welcomed with grace rather than fear.
#6: Carrie’s Friends Are Completely Different
This one may come as something of a shock, but in the book, Carrie has a large circle of friends and acquaintances but does not have particularly close relationships with three female friends like she does on the show. And in fact, the Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha that we came to know and love on TV are practically unrecognizable on the page. Samantha is a film producer rather than working in PR, Miranda is a cable executive who loves doing cocaine and Charlotte is British and basically addicted to sex. Bet you weren’t expecting that one!
#5: The Book Is Darker
The tone of the show straddles the line between comedy and drama, but there’s a heavy dose of lightheartedness that makes its way into every episode, no matter what more serious plot points might be taking place. The series tends to be fun and frothy, focusing heavily on fashion with plenty of shopping and shoe buying montages. But the book is decidedly darker, and the characters live in a much more real version of New York and address issues outside of themselves and their relationships. The world of the books is not a place for romantic comedy high jinks or happy endings.
#4: Carrie Gets a Glimpse at a Happy Suburban Ending
On the TV show, Carrie is perpetually chasing after the elusive Mr. Big, who seems as though he’s always reluctant to settle down. We barely get to see them be in a relationship at all, because as soon as they’re happy conflict settles in. In the book, there is a portion where Carrie goes to Mr. Big’s house in Westchester and she gets a taste of what suburban life with him would actually look like. The event makes her question whether settling down with him is really what she wants. We do get a taste of this in the second “Sex and the City” movie, where Carrie and Big suffer from the boredom of being married and childless.
#3: The Characters Address Class
One of the major criticisms of “Sex and the City” the television show is the lack of intersectionality, and a dominant whiteness. But interestingly enough, the book is much more self aware about the characters’ financial situations. In the book, when Carrie received a mink coat as a gift from Mr. Big, it makes her recall a time not long before when she was living in near poverty struggling to support herself. The basis in reality is that Bushnell herself was in fact evicted for failing to pay rent on one of her apartments. While the show does briefly try to address issues of class, it’s a brief look and the book delves deeper.
#2: Carrie Is Less Likable
One of the major differences between the book and the show is that on the small screen, all four of our leading ladies are meant to be sympathetic characters. Even if they occasionally misstep, at the end of the day we’re supposed to love and relate to them. In the book however, Bushnell doesn’t shy away from making Carrie and the rest of her crew totally despicable. While on TV, we’re supposed to believe she always has good intentions, that’s not the case on paper. Some may argue that Carrie isn’t exactly likable in the series either, and we can’t fully disagree.
#1: There's Less Physical Intimacy
Considering the fact that nearly every episode of “Sex and the City” features a memorable lovemaking scene, you might be surprised to hear that despite being in the title, sex doesn’t actually feature very heavily in the book. When it does, it’s hardly ever a positive thing, which we guess is a theme that runs through the show as well. But while the intercourse scenes in the series range from funny to sultry to romantic, like the rest of its content the book gives a much darker take on the sex lives of single people, often being used as a way to simply avoid being alone.