NYC Girls Then & Now: Carrie vs Hannah

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in SEX AND THE CITY (Image Credit: HBO) / Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath in GIRLS (Image Credit: HBO)

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in SEX AND THE CITY (Image Credit: HBO) / Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath in GIRLS (Image Credit: HBO)

If you’re a warm-blooded American female, you’ve heard the relentless comparisons between Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw and Hannah Horvath of Girls.  They’re both writers living in NYC, one fourth of a quirky girl-clique, and an indirect “voice of their generation”.  As someone who has unhealthy obsessions with both shows, I can say that the relation between Carrie and Hannah goes a little deeper than that.

We truly connect with and are inspired by these women…i.e. we want Carrie’s outrageous shoe-habit and Hannah’s 48-hour romance with a gorgeous doctor.  There’s a crazy magnetic pull between these HBO character and their viewers. We just can’t seem to let go of them, even between seasons of Girls and long after the series finale of Sex and the City.   These women play a more important role in the average female audience member’s mind than most other television characters, and with good reason.

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in SEX AND THE CITY (Image Credit: HBO) / Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath in GIRLS (Image Credit: HBO)

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in SEX AND THE CITY (Image Credit: HBO) / Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath in GIRLS (Image Credit: HBO)

The Clothes

Carrie and Hannah just don’t follow trendsGirls costume designer Jenn Rogien told Glamour: “I take any SATC comparison as a huge compliment.  The ladies of SATC blazed a trail that makes [the fashion on] shows like Girls possible”.  Manolos weren’t even a thing before they appeared between Carrie’s feet and 5th Avenue, while Hannah’s printed “shorteralls” show us that not all risky fashion comes with a huge price tag.  Neither girl would show up to a party in the same outfit as another guest, simply because no one else has the guts to wear what they do.

The Men

If you don’t have a Mr. Big, you have an Adam.  And if you have neither, you’re lying.  The Carries out there have constantly fallen back on their Big, and the Hannahs have longed for their Adam until his feelings were reciprocated.  Considering Big is a mogul with an A-List status and Adam is a former alcoholic who hates wearing a shirt, it’s difficult to see how they relate. It’s not so much the men themselves, but more so how they affect Carrie and Hannah’s lives.  The infinite and unconditional attraction each couple has for one another is intense and enticing, something that we can all relate to.

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw and Chris Noth as Mr. Big in SEX AND THE CITY (Image Credit: HBO) / Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath and Adam Driver as Adam Sackler in GIRLS (Image Credit: HBO)

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw and Chris Noth as Mr. Big in SEX AND THE CITY (Image Credit: HBO) / Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath and Adam Driver as Adam Sackler in GIRLS (Image Credit: HBO)

The Awkwardness

If you’re going to indulge in Hannah and Carrie’s lives, be prepared for the best of times….but mostly, the worst of times.  While the characters are fictional, the uncomfortable situations they face are beyond realistic.  It doesn’t matter how old or young, rich or poor, either girl is: they both find themselves in the most of awkward encounters that teach an unsuspecting audience a valuable lesson.  Remember when Carrie accidentally let one go in front of Big, or when Hannah had to draw on her eyebrows post-beauty blunder?  Both women teach us what to do – or more importantly, what not to do – in the most inelegant of situations.  It also helps to know that yes, your favorite TV character has faceplanted in the middle of a high-end clothing store, too.

The Struggle

The difference between Carrie’s and Hannah’s income is obvious, and oftentimes crosses our minds without giving either enough credit (no pun intended). Carrie supports her designer lifestyle with a columnist’s salary, while Hannah’s novelist dreams have been reduced to a crappy e-book deal.

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in SEX AND THE CITY (Image Credit: HBO) / Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath in GIRLS (Image Credit: HBO)

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in SEX AND THE CITY (Image Credit: HBO) / Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath in GIRLS (Image Credit: HBO)

It’s hard to distinguish which is realistic and which is exaggerated for the sake of television.  At one point, Carrie was on the verge of homelessness after a reality check with her checking account (summary: “I’ve spent $40,000 on shoes?!?!”), and Hannah begins to realize that her biggest passion doesn’t provide an apartment or a Gristedes trip.  Both women capture how difficult it is to hold a creative job in a major city, and show the pain that comes with realizing your biggest dream oftentimes isn’t big enough.  The take-away from such a depressing angle?  Take risks, but don’t assume your rent-controlled apartment and e-book deal is enough to fall back on.

So, no, Carrie is not just an older Hannah, and Hannah is not just a realistic 20-something Carrie.  One is not better than the other.  These women are fictional characters, but they teach us more about our careers, our relationships and our friendships than any overpriced self-help book possibly can.  Men have Bruce Wayne and Donald Draper.  We have Carrie Bradshaw and Hannah Horvath.

And thank God for that.

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