Sarah Jessica Parker — America’s sweetheart, New York City’s mascot, relatable queen of cold-hearted romantic comedies, human vessel of Sex and the City’s omniscient tulle-loving narrator, mother of three, and guiding light to all — is an excellent Instagram artist.
She hates filters, and loves piles of outdated technology (malfunctioning BlackBerrys, Reagan-era radio alarm clocks, and mangled piles of power strips being her favorite subjects). As often as she chronicles the activities of her kids, she chronicles detritus in the street (things she put there herself and things she takes home). In 2016, she marked every holiday with homemade promotions for her new HBO dramedy Divorce — a pumpkin with “divorce” carved into it, sugar cookies with “divorce” written on them in frosting.
Where most celebrities present glossy, idyllic portraits of life as a rich and famous person, SJP shows you her skinned knees, dirty dishes, and piles of her kids’ hair after she trims it at home. There’s a certain amount of glamour — arrays of designer shoes and blurry shots from the wings of a Justin Bieber concert — but it’s cataloged with the eye of an amateur who considers any moment of her life no more worth chronicling than any other.
Go to a Broadway show? Most celebs would post a shot posing with the stars backstage. Parker posts a Playbill amid a pile of breadcrumbs from dinner with her daughters afterwards, and captions it giving thanks for her express train subway ride home.
Ring in the New Year with fabulous, famous friends and family? Whatever. How about a deflated balloon?
After a long day, why not take a selfie while detangling a mass of curly hair on the Metro North?
Parker’s Instagram is weird and often gross, and occasionally lovely. She remains charmed by New York City and its residents, which is probably much easier to do as a person with unlimited syndication money and a townhouse in the West Village, but nonetheless is a comfort to behold.
SJP appears blissfully unaware of the conventions of Instagram — she doesn’t know how to do the artful brunch photo or the posed-not-posed group shot with an irreverent cool girl caption. She doesn’t look for lame, obvious poetry in the things she photographs, rarely taking the time to pick a good angle or make sure the pic isn’t blurry. I don’t even have any idea what this piece of ceramic ware is:
For someone whose most famous role — the source of her place in a generation’s pop canon — is the epitome of aspirational living and neurotic disdain for the hum-drum, Parker’s Instagram is jarringly accessible.
We set a lot of store by “authenticity” in our celebrities, a weird thing to expect from people whose lives we are not a part of. I’m not trying to fool you here: what Parker posts is not any more an authentic curation of her life than what Kim Kardashian or the White House photographer posts. We all lie with the moments we choose to make public. What I love is that the moments she chooses are so unrelated to each other — posed, unflattering, happy, grim. Her conscious choices are not ones I understand, even as someone who spends most of her day online and has become deeply familiar with the rituals of celebrity. Lining them up doesn’t unlock a plan or purpose, though there surely is one of some kind. I wouldn’t ever imply that a person’s self-presentation is random.
The only hint I have is her new show on HBO. While still very white and emphatically upper middle class, it’s an inversion of her old persona as well, setting up the experience of a 40-something woman in an unhappy marriage as decidedly formative and rending. On Divorce, being a striver means being unafraid to look for peace of mind even after the time in your life when society deems it “okay” for you to still be hunting for it. It is clearly aimed at the same women she charmed and helped liberate (though not without many offensive missteps) 15 years ago.
I don’t know who Sarah Jessica Parker’s Instagram is aimed at. Maybe it’s just for her! And me, because I love it. In any case, it’s nice to spend some moments of my winter in the warm digital companionship of a woman whose mind no Instagram stalker can grasp.