There is a huge spoiler in the first episode of And Just Like That, the Sex and the City reboot (that, nearly two years into this pandemic, was getting close to all I was living for).
I won’t reveal it here – but if you’ve seen it, you know it, and understand that with this development, the show has announced itself as something that’s about much more than just brunch and designer shoes.
I hope it lives up to that.
I have always been the exact Sex and the City target audience – the same age as Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), the character who wrote a newspaper column about sex but had trouble navigating her own relationships. Back in the day, it was common in friend groups to identify with one of the four main characters. In my circles, I was always the Carrie (minus the fashion sense).
Her experiences seemed to mirror mine. While people I knew in high school and university were getting married and having babies, my friends and I were dealing with many of the Big Life Issues that Carrie and her friends were navigating in their 30s: Whether to marry and procreate, who to do that with, how to juggle that with a career.
Carrie and Co. looked a lot better doing it, and their dates were wealthier, weirder and far more plentiful than anything my friends or I experienced. And the women’s finances seemed to be in much better order than mine – rather unrealistically. I mean, what kind of salary does someone earn writing a sex column for a weekly newspaper? Or working at a commercial art gallery?
But okay, the fantasy was part of the point – and the draw. Which seemed just fine in the 1990s, and even into the 2000s.
Because the show was not really about sex or the city. They were important elements, sure (the post-9/11 episode was a standout). But the show at its core was about friendship.
Four smart women were at the centre of the action. They were not the girlfriends or wives or co-workers or best friends of the characters that mattered – the men. They were the best friends. They were running the show. And they were talking about the same things my friends and I were – even if they were doing it in higher heels and splashier restaurants. It was a revelation. (I do not include the films in this praise; I still can’t talk about the movies – both so awful they made me embarrassed to be a fan of the franchise.)
The world has been through a lot since Sex and the City first aired (like when, in the pilot, Samantha described Mr. Big – played by Chris Noth – as “the next Donald Trump,” and meant it as a compliment).
So have these women, now in their mid-50s. They are dealing with new Big Life Issues. Sometimes they have trouble remembering stuff. Or drink too much Chablis. And there are some very big decisions to make, like whether to stick with the early-pandemic-era grey or go back to the salon for a dye job.
I was hoping for more middle-aged straight talk from And Just Like That: What happens to our bodies, our sex lives, our place in the corporate world – and our relationships. It seemed a little odd that all the coupled-off Sex and the City smug marrieds are still smug marrieds as the sequel kicks off (even if the smugness comes with a side of tension or routine).
The marriages – and women – have survived the pandemic unscathed. There is no concern about money being tight; everyone remains very well-dressed and housed. And they’ve remained best friends.
With one giant exception, of course. A big question about the reboot was how the show would handle the absence of Samantha – as Kim Cattrall, who played her, had very publicly declined to participate. One of the more cringe-y moments of the first episode is when Charlotte (Kristin Davis) tells an old acquaintance that Samantha is “no longer with us.”
Oh, but she means that Samantha is just not in New York anymore! (Eye roll.) There’s more to it: There has been a falling-out that in some ways seems to mirror the real-life rift between Parker and Cattrall (at least according to reports).
But the amount of exposition, in the first episode anyway, is exhausting – and jarring; even the early cameos from some of the old quirky marginal characters feel forced.
There is a lot of work to be done righting wrongs: Addressing the appalling lack of diversity, the extreme white privilege and the elevation of consumerism to a religion that were uncomfortable hallmarks of the OG series.
These feminists now find themselves navigating a culture that has progressed beyond them. How could Carrie, of all people, be considered a prude? How could Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) find herself awkwardly on the wrong side of woke culture? She was the epitome of whatever we called “woke” in the nineties.
I actually found this relatable: One day you wake up, and you’re considered old and out of touch. Your kid knows more about technology than you do; your teenager is getting more action; and you are sticking your foot in your mouth on the regular in social situations. It was ever thus, I suppose. (But Miranda?)
So, that big development – it’s glaringly telegraphed, but still a shock. And it brings a whole new meaning to the title of the series – a phrase of Carrie’s once reserved for observations far less grave. You get to a certain point in life and just like that, something can shift that changes everything – a dispute with a friend, a job loss, a health issue, a pandemic. Sure, tragedy can strike at any point in life, but losses pile up as we age.
What happens next? I will keep watching.
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