‘Sex and the City’: How Similar Is the Show to Candace Bushnell’s Real-Life Storylines?

Sex and the City is one of the most popular HBO shows of all time, a series that broke ground for many difficult conversations relating to women and the female experience. With the news that the show will be returning as a limited series, many fans are looking back to the original series, catching up with all their favorite characters — and even looking to the woman who created the storylines that the TV series was based on.

Candace Bushnell, the real-life Carrie Bradshaw, is a journalist and author whose column directly inspired Sex and City, and is heavily involved in the creation of the franchise. In recent years, Bushnell has talked about how similar her original column is to the TV series, and whether the spirit of her work still shines through today. 

Left to right, actresses Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis pose for a portrait in an undated photo on the set of the HBO series "Sex and the City" | HBO/Getty Images
L to R: Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis pose for a portrait in an undated photo on the set of the HBO series “Sex and the City” | HBO/Getty Images

Candace Bushnell got her start in journalism

Bushnell was born in Connecticut in 1958. When she was only 19 years old, Bushnell moved to New York City in order to pursue a career in journalism.

She worked as a freelancer for several publications, and in 1993, she landed a gig with The New York Observer. Bushnell began writing a column called “Sex and the City,” a humorous collection of essays based on her own experience with dating and relationships in the big city.

The column became a hit, and in 1997, her writing was published in a book called Sex and the City.

Very quickly, Bushnell’s book was optioned by showrunners in Hollywood, and in 1998, the HBO series Sex and the City debuted. Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, the HBO series maintained many of the same elements of Bushnell’s original column. 

Candace Bushnell has been heavily involved in the ‘Sex and the City’ series

While many creators have problems with their work being adapted for a different medium, Bushnell has not had that issue. The writer has been involved in every incarnation of Sex and the City, from the long-running HBO series to films that were released in 2008 and in 2010.

Even these days, with the recent announcement of the Sex and the City reboot, Bushnell is as invested in the franchise as ever before, even reassuring fans who are nervous about a continuation of the beloved series. Still, Bushnell has been open about the fact that the series (and the movies) haven’t exactly been extremely faithful to her original column.

In 2017, Bushnell opened up to The Guardian about how the storylines had to change as showrunners adapted them for television. 

Candace Bushnell admitted that ‘Sex and the City’ embellished her storylines a lot

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In Bushnell’s 2017 interview with The Guardian, the author revealed that the show differed from her column in a few important ways.

“I think, in real life, Carrie and Big wouldn’t have ended up together. But at that point the TV show had become so big. Viewers got so invested in the storyline of Carrie and Big that it became a bit like Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett,” Bushnell said. “When people are making a TV show, it’s show business, not show art, so at that point it was for the audience and we weren’t thinking about what the impact would be 10 years later.”

Bushnell went on to describe parallels between her own experiences, as related in her original column, as compared to the misadventures of Carrie Bradshaw onscreen, stating that, “there’s a lot there that wasn’t the same as real life, but certainly plucked from it and embellished.”