Who is TV's greatest Carrie?
Homeland's Carrie Mathison (L) versus Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw.
For those who think there is no comparison I would like to retort with a quiver of my bottom lip and an emphatic, voice-cracking you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Because Homeland’s Carrie Mathison, and Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw have more in common than just a first name. Both are self-destructive; both have blurred the boundaries between their personal and professional lives too many times to count and both have harboured an almost compulsive love for men who, because of their own baggage, are just not that into them. And so the question must be asked because we couldn’t help but wonder - who is the best Carrie on TV?
Category One: Professionalism at Work
Carrie Bradshaw was passionate about her column in the New York Star, often skipping out early on dates with the girls to meet a deadline. Was this really a sacrifice for work though? Apart from Samantha, who else was really bringing it at brunch? Bradshaw wasn’t afraid to take her work home with her, either – in both senses of the phrase. In fact that’s where she wrote all of her columns, sometimes at the expense of her love life, (we’ll get to that cave of wonders later). Bradshaw even scored a book deal out of her columns – so, to quote the African American limo driver who dropped her home after her launch party ‘Guurlfriend, gimme high five!’ Actually she didn’t say that at all but as one of the three people of colour in the entire series I feel like she might as well have. So Bradshaw was dedicated – we get this. Although there was that one time she got drunk at Vogue. And she did call in sick when she thought she might get fired. And she did briefly give it all up in exchange for Petrovsky in Paris but as Miranda screamed to her at the time she was ‘living in a fantasy’ and quickly recovered. Overall, a solid effort. 8/10
Carrie Mathison, where do we begin? If crying at work was a KPI, she’d be head of the CIA by now. But Mathison also suffers from bipolar disorder and if this wildly talented officer can’t - or won’t – take proper care of herself then people are just going to have to deal. So what, if, overcome with sleep deprivation and her own unique brand of nostril-flaring desperation, she made the moves on her mentor, Saul? So WHAT. In case you hadn’t sleuthed this out, Mathison is a wunderkind. And if her boundaries are a little, shall we say, elastic, that’s too bad. Consider this: if she hadn’t disobeyed orders and gone upstairs to search around that apartment in Beirut like an epileptic squirrel feverishly gathering nuts for an imaginary snow storm she never would’ve found Brody’s suicide tape, reopened the case and thus earned a second chance on the job. Mathison dresses professionally too, with most of her sartorial choices resembling a Portman’s catalogue, circa 2001. Holla conservative pant suits! Finally, and perhaps most compellingly, she makes fantastic use of post-it notes, (and coloured pens, and cork boards) and nothing says ‘I’m ferociously dedicated to administrative tasks’ quite like an entire map of them. For all of this, Mathison scores an 8 /10
Category Two: Love Life
Carrie Bradshaw had a powerful connection to post-it notes too, having been dumped on one of them. But her colourful, at times, dramatic love life served dual purposes.
1. It provided her with material, and therefore an income.
2. It distracted her from her real neurosis. Don’t pretend you’re shocked, Bradshaw played out an almost textbook diagnosis of Love Addiction. Allow me to quote now from the self-help bestseller, Women Who Love Too Much
‘By being drawn to people with problems that need fixing, or by being emeshed in situations that are chaotic, uncertain, and emotionally painful you avoid focusing responsibility to yourself’.
Which totally explains her attraction to Jack Berger, Alexander Petrovsky and the irrepressible Mr Big, (with whom she had that affair while he was married to Natasha - a woman who bears more than a passing resemblance to Brody's wife Jessica if ya ask me) It also explains at least some of the motivation behind her friendship with Miranda. I mean, come on! Drawing someone that negative and critical into your friendship circle says a lot about a girl’s self esteem.
According to the book, ‘If female, you are not attracted to men who are kind, stable or interested in you.’ Remember episode 14, of Season 4, when Carrie was asked by her gay ’boyfriend’, Oliver, to describe her then fiancé, Aidan? The man she would not marry? Her first words, after ‘very tall’ were ‘incredibly kind’.
Yes, I’m repeating those words in order to haunt you with them. I think I’ve made my point. But just in case - Incredibly kind. Score: 5/10
Carrie Mathison’s love life also serves dual purposes. 1. Her - dare we say mutual? Oh, hang it, I’m going with mutual– attraction to terrorist Nicholas Brody gives her the edge in the interrogation room. And by that I mean the bedroom. Oh, I’m joking! No I’m not really.
2. It distracts her from her own neurosis. No, I’m not suddenly classifying a mental illness as a neurosis because Mathison is also a textbook Love Addict. Read that quote about being attracted to people with problems from the book again – this time in a shaky voice with a quivering chin. That won’t make it any less or more valid, but it will help you to emotionally connect next episode. Also, there are few things more ‘chaotic’, ‘uncertain’ or ‘emotionally painful’ than being in love with a Marine turned prisoner of war turned al-Qaeda terrorist turned double agent, who is married with kids and may or may not turn rogue and kill everyone – as vice president of the United States. On top of all of this let us not forget the most soul-destroying fact of all: Brody is a full blown ginger.
Category three: Connection to Reality
Remember when Berger, terrifically insecure man that he was, made fun of Bradshaw’s hat? And she spat back that it was ‘fabulous’? Well yeah it was fabulous. Everything she wore was fab-u-lous. Bradshaw’s clothes punctuated her life in a way that may be described without hyperbole as breathtaking. But guys, there is no earthly way she could afford any of them. As a writer I feel I can say with some authority that while the job provides a comfortable living, it’s not at a Gina Rinehart level. It’s true that Bradshaw did score a book deal and put in time at Vogue. But ‘four dollars fifty a word at Vogue’ while almost nonsensically high is not some secret code for ‘I’m in a best friends gang with Marc Jacobs, Sonia Rykiel and Christian Louboutin’. That said, they really seemed to love her at Prada. Score: 6/10
Carrie Mathison suffers from bipolar disorder, which is something that’s largely out of her control, (I said largely - she doesn’t always take her meds, or take care of herself as she should). But I’m discounting that in the tally for this category. What I will not discount however, are her impulse control issues, of which she has legion. What sort of CIA agent tells a terror suspect during an interrogation she wishes he’d leave his wife and kids for her? Then again, looking at the hot mess the head of the CIA General Petraeus just made for himself, maybe it’s a cultural thing over there?
And that’s not all! Remember when Mathison ran away to a cabin in the woods for a festival of physical intimacy with Brody - a man she believed to be dangerous? Say what you will about Bradshaw, at least she had the nous to reject the cabin in the woods and everything it represented, (ie, Aidan’s core value system – shame about that). Bradshaw knew better though, describing a squirrel as just a rat in a better suit. And when it comes to terror suspects, Mathison would be wise to heed that.
Category Four: Ability to conceal real life pregnancy
Bradshaw had the advantage here. Her fashion sense was consistently eccentric so if she wore an Amish-style pinafore to the Hamptons or a shapeless, billowing camisole about town or a bizarre baby doll smock to Atlantic City, everyone could just go ‘oh yeah, I get it – edgy!’ and not worry about the bump underneath. But Mathison is a different creature because when she’s not in those pant suits she’s roving about in boot-leg jeans and daggy t-shirts. The solution, at least thus far, has been to pop a bag in front of her, or have her lean forward, (which incidentally made her line ‘cease and f—ing desist’ all that more powerful). So Bradshaw gets 8/10 for her effort while for Mathison it’s a flat 6.
Total marks: Bradshaw 27/40 vs. Mathison: 25/40.
And the winner is – Carrie Bradshaw! Surprised? Angry? Hurt? What do you think?