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YouTuber and film critic Lindsay Ellis breaks down the significance of one of TFD's favorite fictional characters to talk about: Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw!

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Hello, I'm Lindsay Ellis.

I'm a YouTuber, film critic, and author, and for the month of January, I'm taking over Chelsea's Tuesday show on The Financial Diet. Each week we're tackling a different topic surrounding money and pop culture, so, of course, we've got to talk about Sex and the City.

Premiering on HBO in 1998, Sex and the City, based on Candace Bushnell's collection of essays by the same name, tells the story of four single women approaching middle age as they navigate single life, sex, and their respective power careers in the concrete jungle that is New York City. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - It's like the riddle of the Sphinx. Why are there so many great unmarried women and no great unmarried men? [END PLAYBACK] And for HBO, it proved to be a juggernaut of a show that, along with The Sopranos, lent prestige to the premium subscription network's original programming. So women across America were now asking themselves, am I a Carrie or a Samantha?

And they were ditching their bottles of Zima for cosmopolitans. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - Yes, I'd like a cheeseburger, please, large fries, and a cosmopolitan. [END PLAYBACK] But considering the world of Sex and the City is 20 years old now, it almost feels kind of like it takes place in this quaint New York City that doesn't even exist anymore. So why do we still talk about it? On some level, part of the appeal of the show is this sort of aspirational aspect. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - Hello, lover. [END PLAYBACK] As a writer with a newspaper column about sex and dating, Carrie Bradshaw gets paid to effectively just talk about herself, and she spends her money on signifiers of female upward mobility-- shoes, drinking, experiences-- and unless it's the focus of the episode, Carrie's budget rarely comes up as a huge concern, which is interesting when you consider that the national average median income for a writer right now hovers around $34,000.

And it's about $66,000 for the city of New York, and that might sound like a lot more until you factor in that whole cost of living thing. But Carrie's influence extended well beyond the universe of the show, because the appeal of the character is based on the viewer's desire to share her experiences, and oftentimes the brand recognition of the products that Carrie consumed throughout the show would skyrocket. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - It's not a bag. It's a Birkin. [END PLAYBACK] In that way, Carrie Bradshaw was basically a prototype of what we now call influencer marketing-- that is to say, a social media marketing strategy that uses endorsements and product placement from influencers, a.k.a.

People with large social media followings deemed experts in their niche, to move product. While visual media has a long history of compelling or not so compelling product placement-- [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - It's like people only do things because they get paid, and that's just really sad. [END PLAYBACK] --it was a few short years before Sex and the City's debut that we saw the beginning of what was known as trend influenced marketing, coined by marketing guru Michael Blatter in 1994. At the start of the decade, Blatter himself led a project with Camel Cigarettes, wherein packs of Camel were not actively marketed to people, but instead distributed to bartenders and art galleries across New York City, people whom Blatter referred to as cultural leaders, fashionistas, musicians, artists, and actors all making living via nightlife.

It's not that you own X product, but that X product becomes a character that lives and breathes with the culture it's being marketed to. It's not just that Carrie wears Louis Vuittons and Manolo Blahniks, and then name drops them. They are an essential prop in her world and a huge component of the narrative that she, both within the show and meta textually, is projecting into the world. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - Sometimes it's hard to walk in a single woman's shoes.

That's why we need really special ones now and then to make the walk a little more fun. [END PLAYBACK] And boy, was this a narrative that tapped into the pre-housing collapse, pre 9/11 pop culture id. As Sex and the City's star rose, it took along all of Carrie and company's accoutrements with it. From Manolo Blahnik shoes to $100 vibrators, it seemed like the best publicity for your brand was to have it on this show. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - $92? - Please.

Think about the money we spend on shoes. [END PLAYBACK] All of which is to say nothing of the many cottage industries that sprung up over the next several years, from Sex and the City based self-help books to products created by the cast members themselves, and enough Sex and the City based tours to pack the home goods store where Charlotte and Bunny MacDougal fought over a bed. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - My dear child you cannot not have a dust ruffle. It's unsightly. [END PLAYBACK] For one example of Sex and the City's influencer influence, in season three, over a heartfelt discussion of their love lives, Carrie and Miranda are seen chowing away on cupcakes in front of a bakery, but not just any bakery, Magnolia Bakery. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - Two. - No, six. - No, 12. - Baker's dozen. I told you that I'm crazy for these cupcakes, cousin. [END PLAYBACK] Once a small Greenwich Village outfit that sold homey baked goods, the mere seconds it spent on the screen were enough to blow this bakery up into an overnight cupcake sensation.

It was sort of the proto raindrop cake, wherein everybody had to have a bite. To quote Magnolia's chief baking officer, "the Magnolia Bakery cupcake is that affordable experience that Miranda and Carrie had." To the point where Magnolia Bakery is now a worldwide business with 10 locations in the United States and more internationally. And it also debatably started that whole mid 2000s cupcake craze and was unceremoniously dubbed by the television show Broad City-- [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - The last place every tourist goes. - The airport? - No, not-- not literally the last place.

Magnolia Bakery. [END PLAYBACK] Which speaks to a phenomenon that some other brands or designers featured on Sex and the City were less than happy with, a sort of brand devaluation that happens when every woman in middle class America wants a pair of Manolo. While other brands from Skyy vodka to Swarovski crystals were clamoring to get into Carrie and company's hands vis a vis free exposure, Christian Louis Vuitton himself had his reservations about giving away what he considered luxury art for free. "You're dying to have this thing or that thing. That's an important feeling that everybody should be able to have, regardless of how famous you are.

So it's actually an act of charity that I'm doing by not giving away the shoes for free." But there's a flip side to this. The end of Sex and the City also meant the end of many of the Sex and the City restaurants. In a 2004 episode of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw refers to Pastis as the only restaurant that seemed to exist in New York City.

By 2014, the restaurant was closed, the windows papered over, the front door locked. And it ended up having a five year hiatus, only reopening this year. This was the fate of several restaurants featured on the show-- Luna Park, Asia de Cuba, the original SUSHISAMBA.

This is all to say that, while influencer marketing is an easy way to attract and engage customers, there does remain cause for concern that relying on it too heavily in a saturated market is an easy way for a bubble to form and then collapse. It's been 16 years since Sex and the City stopped airing. And while it may be resting in the greener pastures of syndication, its influence still has managed to beguile influencers.

For instance, there are still Instagram accounts devoted to its fashion, whether painstakingly cataloging it or recreating it. Modern influencer marketing has effectively taken what Sex and the City did and streamlined it, sanitized it, and found a way to refine it down to fine data points. What a mention of Manolo Blahnik from Carrie Bradshaw's mouth did for the designer-- [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - Manolo Blahnik Mary Janes. [END PLAYBACK] Brands like Dior have now taken that school of thought and translated it to social media.

That saddlebag everyone was effortlessly sporting on the Gram in 2018-- turns out most of those people were sniped by Dior and paid to push the product. And fun fact, the original version of that was featured on Sex and the City. The main difference between Carrie Bradshaw and a traditional influencer is that sometimes we might see something of a consequence for Carrie's lavish lifestyle, such as when she talks about how she's in debt up to her eyeballs because of all those shoes. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - I spent $40,000 on shoes, and I have no place to live. [END PLAYBACK] But while there are the occasional nods to the real world, Carrie's life and lifestyle feels more like a constructed Instagram photo than an honest portrait of what someone in Carrie's position would really be like.

Even 20 years ago, it's hard to imagine a writer-- even an extremely high end writer-- being able to afford both that extremely nice apartment and spend as freely as she does. The thrust of influencer marketing is that the consumer wants to share the experiences of the influencer, and for Carrie her experiences were a huge part of the appeal of the show. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - This is delicious. - Why did we ever stop drinking these? - Because everyone else started. [END PLAYBACK] And so we still hold on to Sex and the City. It is syndicated in over 200 countries, and barring fights between cast members, there is always rumors and arguably even demand for a third movie, which-- [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - We're out of time.

We're going to get bumped from first class. - I can't be in menopause and in coach. [END PLAYBACK] You know, no thanks. But I still do enjoy the cupcakes. OK, not the cupcakes, the flour-less chocolate cake, which was never featured on the show.

Anyway, thanks again for watching. You can see the rest of this series linked in the description below. And you can watch more of my stuff on my own YouTube channel, which is just my name, and also you can see me on It's Lit!

On PBS Digital Studios.