There are a lot of awful men in Sex and the City. There was Greg, the 27-year-old Charlotte met in the Hamptons who gave her crabs; Harvey, a wealthy conquest of Samantha’s who had a literal servant; and let’s not forget Ethan, who could only have sex with Miranda with porn blaring in the background. (There was Aidan too, who I personally think was the ultimate fake, but that’s another story—don’t @ me.) But all 107 men Carrie and the girls dated and slept with pale in comparison to the biggest creep of them all: Julian Fisher. You remember Julian: He was briefly Carrie’s editor at Vogue in season four’s “A Vogue Idea” after her first editor, Enid, was made to appear like a critical ice queen for having high standards and deigning to tell Carrie her article was too self-involved, meandering, and not up to the magazine’s ideals. Carrie whined, and poof—a menschy male editor appeared.
From the start, we understand Julian won’t be tough on “Cookie”—his inexplicable pet name for Carrie. He’s the fun one who drinks during the day, plays retro jazz in the office, and tells Carrie she belongs at Vogue—but not before taking credit for her being there. The episode famously culminates in a sexualized cat-and-mouse scene that’s played for laughs: Once Carrie hits “save” on the final draft of her story, late at night in Julian’s office, he rewards her with a trip to her personal Mecca: the Vogue accessories closet. Inside, while Carrie covets a pair of mythical Manolo Blahnik Mary Janes, Julian pulls down his pants and stands with his hands on hips—wearing nothing but a pair of black Versace underwear.
When Carrie notices, she bellows, “What are you doing?!” To which Julian says, “Just showing you these briefs!” He goes on to snap the band of his Versace’s while Carrie hides and pratfalls over her own feet, blushing behind a rack of handbags. He doesn’t touch her, or force anything on her, and after a few awkward moments, Julian eventually puts his pants back on, leading the viewer to possibly conclude that he’s just a quirky guy. A real kook. This was just a page from a cringe-y, old-man-flirts-with-younger-woman playbook—nothing more. Or so I thought in 2001, when this episode aired.
Watching the episode this time around, I had a hard time shaking the vision of Carrie getting so drunk before noon that Julian actually has to hold her up, rag-doll style, while she walks out of the office.
But now, framed against the backdrop of #MeToo and the constant conversations we’re having about powerful men abusing their influence, I see Julian wasn’t just a kook—this was textbook sexual harassment. So much so that he certainly would have earned himself a spot on the “shitty media men” list if such a thing existed in the early aughts.
And let me tell you, watching the episode again, which I did a few days ago, was horrific. From their first scene together, Julian appears to start using grooming tactics on a clearly vulnerable Carrie. He gently touches her chin, he grandly compliments her work and her “vision,” and he plies her with dry martinis in the morning—office door visibly shut—after she’s feeling rejected by Enid. Sure, you could say he was just trying to be nice and the show was tapping into a glossy media stereotype, but this time around I had a hard time shaking the vision of Carrie getting so drunk before noon that Julian actually has to hold her up, rag-doll style, while she walks out of the office.
After that, he takes her to dinner at a Japanese restaurant, and while, at first glance, it seemed like they had a meaningful conversation, I see now that Julian deftly extracted sensitive, personal information from Carrie and ultimately used it against her.