Advertisement

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Television

‘Alive Girl’ TV: The Carrie Diaries

by Stephanie Van Schilt , March 13, 20141 Comment

The Carrie Diaries

 

Get ready to feel old: it’s been ten years since the final episode of Sex and the City aired. I’m not talking about the first episode back in 1998, but the final episode – the one before the two questionable movies were released.

SATC still incites mixed feelings for many. Personally, I love it; it helped open up discussions around female sexuality in the popular conscience and provided wonderfully layered depictions of female friendship. As Emily Nussbaum argued, thirty-something Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) was HBO’s answer to the anti-heroine, paving the way for the joys and frustrations that come with viewing the likes of Girls’ Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham).

Carrie as anti-heroine was one of the reasons SATC was great. Meanwhile, today’s teen version of Carrie Bradshaw – played with doe-eyed curiosity by AnnaSophia Robb – in The Carrie Diaries is a wonderful antidote to our current anti-hero/heroine obsessed pop culture.

It’s 1984 and Carrie Bradshaw is a high school junior in Castlebury, Connecticut surrounded by her three best friends Mouse (Ellen Wong), Maggie (Katie Findlay) and Walt (Brendan Dooling). Following the recent death of her mother, Carrie lives with her overwhelmed single father (Matt Letscher) and rebellious younger sister Dorrit (Stefania Owen). Carrie starts an internship at a law firm in NYC, but in a move indicative of her wide-eyed enthusiasm and lust for life, soon leaves it for an internship with the flamboyant Larissa Loughlin (Freeman Agyeman) at Interview Magazine. As Carrie begins to fall for Manhattan, she simultaneously falls for the new boy at school Sebastian Kydd (charming Austin Butler). Carrie’s creative proclivities are demonstrated through her passion for writing in her titular diary and her flair for fashion.

Initially marketed as a prequel to the original show, The Carrie Diaries may be haunted by the ghosts of the formidable Sarah Jessica Parker and company, but this extension of the SATC franchise strives to serve up a different menu of stories, varied cast of characters and a much sweeter flavour.

Given how markedly it digresses from the original series, The Carrie Diaries has been criticised for its failings as an origin story. For SATC fans, there is the thrill of discovering different little Easter Eggs along the way (from virginity loss in a rec room to eating oranges in bed). But the best way to enjoy this show is to shirk continuity, succumb to its lack of fidelity and take the series for what it is: a separate teen TV show.

After all, The Carrie Diaries is produced by network The CW. Unlike HBO – now the altar at which we worship (and expect) ‘quality’ television – The CW is the network responsible for glitzy teen dramas Gossip Girl and the reboot of 90210 as well as wholesome programs 7th Heaven and Life Unexpected.

The tension between the past SATC mythos and this newer retrospective version creates a fissure where the gap between teen TV and adult television is awkwardly felt. This is a point of contention that The Carrie Diaries is figuring out as it goes along (and hopefully will continue to, if it gets picked up for a third season). Likewise, the viewer must learn to suppress their preoccupations with this distinction in order to enjoy the spirit of friendship between the characters and the adorable accessibility of sixteen-year-old Carrie.

Fundamentally, the anti-heroine basis of SJP’s Carrie is overthrown for a sweet and sentimental show based around values and niceties. Personal style, friendship and romance are still key to The Carrie Diaries; this isn’t an overly sentimental 80s nostalgia trip. There are definitely some timely references for an older audience, but The CW makes sure the show is accessible to modern teens with conservative 80s clothing choices (for instance, the cast aren’t given a Pat Benatar makeover – with the exception of OTT Larissa) and strong storylines (particularly Walt’s coming out).

The Carrie Diaries is one of the most genuinely heartfelt television shows around and I would prescribe both available seasons to anyone who is feeling ‘Dead Girl TV’ fatigue. Because while it’s not a ‘great’ show, it’s a feel-good show about Carrie Bradshaw: a kind, intelligent young woman with her whole life ahead of her, who is very much alive.

Stephanie Van Schilt is Deputy Editor at The Lifted Brow and a freelance writer. She tweets @steph_adele.

ACO logo




loitering-cover-cmyk-570

Sam van Zweden

The Writer at the Centre of the Essay: Charles D’Ambrosio’s Loitering

Loitering is Charles D’Ambrosio’s quietly brave collection of experimental essays. It doesn’t announce itself noisily, but associations slide sideways through the essays in unexpected ways. This collection is lyric in both senses – freely associative and loose, it borrows from the world, trying meaning on for size, producing metaphors and connections wherever it sees fit. Read more »

discworld

Elizabeth Flux

Footnote to a life: How Terry Pratchett kept me from going postal

If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, then teenage me would have been the steamroller to Terry Pratchett’s somewhat plagiarised tarmac. In the ten years since I first picked up The Fifth Elephant, my work has been littered with Pratchettisms to varying degrees. Read more »

Patricia-Highsmith2

James Tierney

The Necessary Paradoxes of Patricia Highsmith

A highly regarded author of complex psychological thrillers, including The Talented Mr Ripley and Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith’s fiction comes freighted with a heady mix of cross-purposes and intimate alienations. Read more »

Rebecca Shaw

TERF War: Transphobia in the LGBTQI community

I started to realise that I was ‘not like other girls’ about the time I hit puberty. From that point on I underwent an extensive and daunting process to emerge from my closeted cocoon into the beautiful lesbian butterfly I am today. An important part of that development was realising – mostly via the Internet (or very occasionally through people I met in real life) – that there were people like me all over the world. Read more »

9807778273_afe6ec792d_z

Rebecca Shaw

Breaking the Celluloid Ceiling

We are still at a point where far less than half the movies we see have a clear female protagonist, even though women are half of the population. If women as an ENTITY are not properly represented, their stories not told, what chance then do women of colour have? Read more »

article-2301242-18FA52E4000005DC-314_470x763

Rebecca Shaw

An Inconvenient Truth: Social stigma and menstruation

If you have heard of menstruation, you would know that it is an essential process in a little tiny thing called the EXISTENCE AND CONTINUATION OF HUMAN LIFE, and it is something that most (not all) women experience for about five days every month for a large part of their lives. It is a topic (besides shopping, lol) that women think about frequently. Read more »

flock_roof

Anwen Crawford

Don’t be Sheepish: Why Ewe Should See Shaun the Sheep Movie

Shaun the Sheep Movie is the latest feature-length production from Aardman Animations (the folk who brought us Chicken Run), and it is a delight. Borrow a young relative for cover if you must, but believe me, you are not too cool for a kid’s movie when it’s this much fun. Read more »

9331818982_322b389ff2_z

Annabel Brady-Brown

The blue pill or the red pill? In defence of highbrow film

Cinema is a powerful medium. Going to the movies, be it a Lav Diaz epic or a Michael Bay blockbuster, is an act of submission. You hand over $15 and the whole mash of your brain/senses/heart/dreams for ninety minutes. Read more »

girlwalkshomealoneatnight

Anwen Crawford

Bad Cities

A Most Violent Year has an atmosphere of all-pervading dread, like a film noir, as if the polluted air of New York itself was causing people to act against their better intentions. Even more haunting and more noir is A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, a memorably audacious debut feature from American-Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour. Read more »

empire-tv-review-fox

Anwen Crawford

Rise of an Empire

Watching Empire, I wondered why there haven’t been more television shows about record labels, the music industry being the cesspit of venality that it is. Forget TV dramas about police departments and hospital wards – a show about a record label comes with all that conflict, plus outfits, plus songs. Read more »

video-undefined-22D54AFA00000578-784_636x358

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Insufferable assholes and grown up Girls

Yes, our girls are growing, learning, discovering. But all they’re really discovering is how toxic and unheroic they are, and how to use that to their advantage. They’re not going to grow out of their asshole tendencies, because they are actually assholes. Read more »

agent-carter-7683

Danielle Binks

Agent Carter and the future of the female superhero

Agent Carter has been described ‘a Triumph for Women, Marvel and TV,’ and heralded as an important new chapter in comics culture. If this supposedly groundbreaking new show fails, does it spell doom for the future of female-led superhero franchises? Read more »

jakobson0052

Katie Williams

Storytelling vs. interactivity: What makes a highbrow game?

What makes a game ‘highbrow’? We don’t have solid criteria for deciding conclusively which games are masterpieces, and which are just dumb, explosive fun. Read more »

ss_f6a450fbf737eb04c58b973f72e8817bb2b50285.600x338

Katie Williams

Brain Candy: Are game jams diluting the potential of video games?

In a world where YouTube gameplay videos narrated by hollering amateurs hold as much clout – if not more – than professional game critics, I worry that developers may be swayed to choose an easier, unimaginative, and more vacuous path to success. Read more »

cher_horowitz_closet-010_2

Katie Williams

Fashion Forward: How hidden algorithms are dressing up technology

Though we increasingly rely on technology to simplify our lives, we still want to believe that behind the scenes is a happy, human face, rather than an impassive machine that does the dirty work for us. Read more »

16475519129_bb489cf4ce_o

Jane Howard

Creative Space: The secret power of community theatres

Theatre is inextricably tied to space, and the best theatre spaces become more than buildings. They become communities of like-minded people: of artists and of audience members, intermingling their ideas and their lives. Read more »

Tessa Waters stars in Womanz

Jane Howard

Fringe Feminism: Women, comedy and performance art

Taken together, the work of these female comics and performers loudly proclaims that their ideas about gender, femininity, performance and comedy are not diametrically opposed. It is because of their performance backgrounds that their shows are hilarious, not in spite of them. Read more »

Before Us_3

Jane Howard

Stuart Bowden’s Unfamiliar, Universal Worlds

It’s hard to classify the work of Stuart Bowden. His one-person storytelling theatre works are at once hilarious and melancholy. They exist in a particular space of fringe theatre: intricately crafted stories built for small rooms & small audiences, they lift and rise that audience, gathering us all up in the magic of stories & the closeness they can breed. Read more »