Learn to walk in other women’s shoes... not just Manolo Blahinik’s

And Just Like That: Cork women have their say on the Sex and The City Reboot. Here ADRIENNE ACTON and NICOLA DEPUIS share differing views on the show
Learn to walk in other women’s shoes... not just Manolo Blahinik’s

The new chapter of Sex and The City, a series called 'And Just Like'. It follows “Carrie” (Sarah Jessica Parker, centre), “Miranda” (Cynthia Nixon, left) and “Charlotte” (Kristin Davis, right) in their 50s.

I couldn’t help but wonder…. By Adrienne Acton

FOR those of us that came from a one horse, two-nightclub town in Roman Catholic Ireland, Sex and the City was more than just a comedy show. It was escapism of the best kind. A show where women put themselves on pedestals in a world of fashion, excess and adventure.

The star of the show, for me, was always the city of New York, the shots of Staten Island and Central Park, restaurants catering to every whim and wish at all hours of the day and night, and who can forget the clubs where they had beds instead of tables and chairs! The show inspired us to purchase cocktail shakers so we could entertain our friends properly and shove the bottle of Blue Nun back on the shelf where she belonged. All thanks to SATC.

New York was always the main character. The second most inspirational character was of course Samantha. She put the SEX into Sex and the City. She was bold, brave, beautiful and brilliant, and yet she brought to life the story of breast cancer with dignity and realism.

Carrie was self-obsessed, Miranda career-driven and Charlotte lived in some weird Victorian-like bubble.

And now we have And Just Like That, which in my opinion is less about escapism and fun and more about political correctness and inclusion gone haywire.

Political correctness has come at the cost of most of the show’s humour. The backdrop of New York City has all but been forgotten, Samantha left because Carrie decided to get a new publicist. What? That goes against Ms Jones’ character completely. But most glaringly obvious is the misuse of the male characters.

Carrie and Mr Big... do they have their happy every after?
Carrie and Mr Big... do they have their happy every after?

BIG spoiler alert here, for those who have not seen it...

Firstly, Mr Big is killed off in some sort of ‘fitness kills’ weirdness. Charlotte’s husband, a successful divorce lawyer, has managed to become a weedy sidekick to his ‘valley of the dolls’ wife and, as for Miranda’s husband, Steve, he’s getting pushed aside like nothing more than an inconvenience to the storyline. As for the removal of Stanford (because of his death in real life) they decided that the character would suddenly head for Paris with little more than a by your leave. This is really jarring as the character wouldn’t have crossed the road on his own, never mind cross a continent. So, Paris, really?

At this point, it is hard to fathom that the writers and producers are the same. I can only assume that they sat in a meeting, listed out those they may or may not have offended or left out in Sex and the City, and decided to rectify these non-existent wrongs.

Perhaps the producers’ brain-storming meeting went something along these lines….

Lots of gay and lesbian characters and transgenderism – tick.

Miranda wearing hold-all knickers to make up for being horrified at Samantha’s weight gain and for saying Big’s first wife was FAT – tick.

Che Diaz (incidentally the worst stand-up comedian ever, bar none) having both Irish and Mexican blood, this shows inclusively – tick.

Black people trying to be friends with white people and visa versa to show a nod to Black Lives Matter – tick.

DIVERSE CAST: Sarita Choudhury who plays Carrie’s new friend, Seema Patel.
DIVERSE CAST: Sarita Choudhury who plays Carrie’s new friend, Seema Patel.

An Asian gentleman running the corner shop – tick. (Are we to ignore the fact that he appeared from nowhere and is the only person to know Carrie’s real name?)

Gender confusion in a child – tick.

A pathetic hint at alcoholism (no consequences other than a dimly remembered book ordered on the same subject) to make up for the cocktail guzzling in the earlier series – tick.

A dodgy hip in a nod to age inclusivity – tick.

A decision by Carrie to not get plastic surgery in a nod to age appreciation – tick (please note that Charlotte’s face barely moves thanks to botox).

Social conscience? Miranda leaves her law firm – tick.

Sexual consent? Let’s have Che shout out in a clear and concise voice ‘May I touch you?’ And have Miranda answer in as clear and concise a voice ‘Yes, I want you to touch me’ – tick.

A lecture from a Park Avenue kid on inappropriately attired cultural dolls, while at the same time, from downtown, an Indian culture appreciation lesson – tick.

Oh no! We forgot disability! OK, let’s put the producer of Carrie’s podcast in a wheelchair. Phew – tick.

Thankfully, Harry Goldenblatt is a Jewish man or else we would probably have the spectacle of them having lunch at a Jewish-themed restaurant and making a donation to the Holocaust memorial fund. Jesus wept.

The only character I looked forward to seeing was the fabulously witty and brilliantly inappropriate Anthony. Long may he last without filter.

And just like that, we learned that politically correct reboots ruin what was originally a ground-breaking fun show. They call it a revival, might I suggest a do-not-resuscitate order if they’re considering another?

The trip are back - without Samantha, in And Just Like That.
The trip are back - without Samantha, in And Just Like That.

If It Ain’t Woke....Just Fix it! By Nicola Depuis

Before I launch my defence of the much-maligned Sex & The City reboot, I must acknowledge that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original Sex & The City series. It espoused all of the self-obsessed heteronormative capitalist values of the loathsome ’90s that we’re still recovering from, and unlike its peerless predecessor, The Golden Girls, it showcased women as primarily motivated in life by men, mojitos, handbags and cocktails.

As screenwriter Susan Rice put it, it was ‘a gay man’s idea of what women are like’. That’s not to say I didn’t watch it. On the contrary, I found it quite interesting, like an ethnological study into women I had very little in common with.

The original Sex & The City series gave us 94 episodes of ground-breaking TV. It opened up much-needed conversations about contraception, abortion, divorce, friendship, women in the workplace, and motherhood. It gave women not just a new love for vibrators, but a new vibrant language to speak about their most intimate desires and fears.

Launching in 1998, five years after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland, and two years after the Spice Girls came to girl power, Sex & The City was a taboo-busting tour de force, giving women across the world the confidence to speak openly about everything from masturbation to mastectomies. Well, maybe not all women. Actress Cynthia Nixon, who plays Miranda, later called the original series ‘tone deaf’ when it came to race and gender, and was reluctant to return for the reboot unless ‘it was more diverse’. She had a point.

If you were tasked with bringing back one of the most culturally significant TV shows of the 20th century, what would it look like?

Would you still want it to be about four friends obsessed with shoes, handbags, men and mojitos? Carrie wouldn’t: ‘So what are we going to do? Sit around bars, sipping Cosmos and sleeping with strangers when we’re 80?’ Granted, they’re in their mid-fifties, not their eighties, but she also had a point.

It’s been 18 years since Sex & The City left the small screen, and during that time gender and sexual politics have changed dramatically.

We have witnessed numerous sex offenders in high positions being brought down, and the language of sexual consent is becoming more common-place.

Sarah Jessica Parker in And Just Like That.
Sarah Jessica Parker in And Just Like That.

Life has changed, no more so than in the past two years when the onslaught of Covid-19 and environmental catastrophe, have forever changed our sense of security in the world. Maybe a yearning and nostalgia for the safer pre-Covid times has made audiences immune to the relevance of And Just Like That.

Maybe our grief-stricken world just wasn’t ready for a grief-stricken Carrie Bradshaw, played beautifully by Sarah Jessica Parker.

But for SATC to find its place in this new normal, it needed to do what it’s always done, and that’s open up conversations and explore language. Giving the writers’ room a good shake up, Michael Patrick King invited in Rachna Fruchbom (Fresh off the Boat), Samantha Irby (Shrill), and Keli Goff (Black Lightning); writers with different gender expressions, sexualities, and race, to help Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte navigate the new Roaring 20s. So this time, the conversations that SATC was so good at opening up are not just for straight, white women; they’re for women of colour, gay women, queer women, disabled women, those who self-define as non-binary. 

What’s not to like about that? This is the ‘new chapter’ of Sex and the City, and if you’re having issues with its ‘wokeness’, you just might need to ‘Check your Privilege’.

As a gay woman who grew up with no visible lesbian representation on TV, I spent my formative years watching heteronormative storylines play out, wondering where, if anywhere, I fitted in. It was lonely, and I always felt like an outsider. The very static hyper-feminised ‘sex and shoes’ gender expression of women played out in shows like SATC left me confused, wondering where all the women like me were.

Gender theorist Judith Butler believes gender is performed. And to perform it, we take our cues from all around us, the people we meet, the media we view.

What happens when the world around you looks all the same; all straight, all white, all binary, all non-disabled?

To lament the lack of comedy in And Just Like That, or accuse it of tokenism, without heralding the fact that SATC is now representing many types of women’s stories, is really to lose sight of one crucial change that any TV comeback needs to make in this day and age: if it ain’t woke, just fix it. And just like that, we could all learn what it’s like to walk in another woman’s shoes... not just in Manolo Blahnik’s.

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