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




marilyn-ulysses

Reading Marilyn reading Ulysses: when celebrities are photographed with books

In 1955, photographer Eve Arnold snapped a now-iconic image of American actress Marilyn Monroe, in her bathers on a Long Island playground, reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. In the sixty years since, the photo has prompted continual suspicion in those who see literature and celebrity as mutually exclusive – was she really reading it? Read more »

capote-dog

The Outsiders: The early stories of Truman Capote

The recent publication of The Early Stories of Truman Capote – a collection of newly-discovered short stories from the archives of the New York Public Library – reveals the preoccupations of the adolescent Capote, drawn to drifters, exiles, and others living on society’s fringes. Read more »

CAROL

You Could Burn a House Down: Todd Haynes’s Carol

For many years, lesbians in fiction were punished for their social transgressions, condemned to a life of solitude, insanity, feigned heterosexuality and/or suicide. Radically, Carol portrays a lesbian love that doesn’t destroy or diminish its subjects, but enables them to transform, to grow and to be free. Read more »

21EMMYJP6-master675

Killings Columnists Pick Their Best of 2015

As 2015 concludes, we also farewell our fabulous 2015 Killings columnists. They’ve entertained and delighted us all year with fortnightly columns on culture, politics and society, and now they offer us a wrap up of their highlights for 2015 across their respective fields. Read more »

18-gilmore-girls.w1200.h630

Tim McGuire

Progressive to a Point: Homophobia and Gilmore Girls

You can’t watch a TV show over and over again without picking up on a couple of its flaws, much as you might prefer not to see them. In the case of Gilmore Girls, the hamartia I didn’t want to find was a troubling and weirdly homophobic one, layered over with pithy dialogue, pop culture nods, and the small town charm that made the show’s seven seasons such a success. Read more »

ROSEANNE - On set in New York - 10/16/93 
Sara Gilbert (Darlene) on the ABC Television Network comedy "Roseanne". "Roseanne" is the story of a working class family struggling with life's essential problems.
(AMERICAN BROADCASTING COMPANIES, INC.)
SARA GILBERT

Rebecca Shaw

Out of the Imaginary Closet: Fictional characters who should have been gay

When you are part of a group that isn’t portrayed in the same way (or only negatively, or not at all) you become desperate for that glimmer of recognition. Here are several characters that I loved as a young person, who became stand-ins for the openly lesbian characters I wanted to see so much. Read more »

SPEAR_0014_Edward_Mulvihill copy 2

Lauren Carroll Harris

Eyes Open Dreaming: Spear and the potential for an Australian art cinema

Commercial success has long been prized as Australian cinema’s salve, and the values of that commerce-based vision of success have deeply permeated the national conversation. Spear sets this conversation aside entirely, raising in its stead the possibility of an art cinema in Australia. Read more »

CAROL

You Could Burn a House Down: Todd Haynes’s Carol

For many years, lesbians in fiction were punished for their social transgressions, condemned to a life of solitude, insanity, feigned heterosexuality and/or suicide. Radically, Carol portrays a lesbian love that doesn’t destroy or diminish its subjects, but enables them to transform, to grow and to be free. Read more »

Bowie - The Image  1

The Art of Immortality: David Bowie and The Image

With the news this week of David Bowie’s death at the age of 69 from a long battle with cancer, watching The Image is an oddly reassuring experience: the shared, mass hope that it can’t be true, that he’s not really gone, is played out in this grainy, almost haunted relic now almost 50 years old. Read more »

21EMMYJP6-master675

Killings Columnists Pick Their Best of 2015

As 2015 concludes, we also farewell our fabulous 2015 Killings columnists. They’ve entertained and delighted us all year with fortnightly columns on culture, politics and society, and now they offer us a wrap up of their highlights for 2015 across their respective fields. Read more »

18-gilmore-girls.w1200.h630

Tim McGuire

Progressive to a Point: Homophobia and Gilmore Girls

You can’t watch a TV show over and over again without picking up on a couple of its flaws, much as you might prefer not to see them. In the case of Gilmore Girls, the hamartia I didn’t want to find was a troubling and weirdly homophobic one, layered over with pithy dialogue, pop culture nods, and the small town charm that made the show’s seven seasons such a success. Read more »

PLM

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Family Matters: Please Like Me and the Aussie TV family

In a recent episode of Josh Thomas’s Please Like Me, the bouncy titles run over three little scenarios: Josh cooks dinner for his mate Tom and his boyfriend Arnold; his Mum cooks for her new housemate Hannah; and his Dad cooks for his wife, Mae. The three of them stir, sip wine and dance daggily around their kitchens in a neat metaphor for this season’s fantastic, cohesive new trajectory. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

Sydney - January 20, 2016: This Is How We Die perfomed during the 2016 Sydney Festival (photo by Jamie Williams/Sydney Festival)

Impossible Futures: Tomorrow’s Parties and This is How We Die

These two shows ask: how hard do we need to listen? In each, minutiae can be discarded, at least in slivers of time. Tomorrow’s Parties and This is How We Die each allow your brain to detach for a moment: to spin off into the different worlds they create, before returning once again, as best you can, to the work at hand. Read more »

Tom Conroy and Colin Friels in Mortido. Photo credit: Shane Reid

Jane Howard

A Shining Nightmare: Mortido‘s Sydney

Sydney is a city of shine and reflective surfaces. The glint of the harbour follows through to city high-rises clad in polished glass, bouncing off the wide windows of the mansions hugging the undulating land before it gives way to the impossibly deep and wide water. But this beauty that can betray the darkness of the city and its people. Read more »

_85072354_hamlet3-pa

Angela Meyer

Outrageous Fortune: Seeing Hamlet as a Cumberbitch

Jazz swells, hushing the audience, and the solid black gate of the theatre curtain opens. It reveals the lounging figure of Hamlet, playing a record, sniffing his father’s old jumper. But what I see first is not Hamlet: it is Benedict Cumberbatch. Read more »