Continuing our series on Jews & Sex, our anonymous contributor wonders what the new incarnation of Sex and the City will look like.
‘And just like that’ Sex and the City (HBO) is alleged to be returning minus one key character plus a couple of decades of life. Now, Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte (without the presence of the inimitable Samantha) will once again grace our screens to explore what it means to be female and aged in your early fifties living, one imagines, comfortably in New York City. Kim Cattrall, the actress who played Samantha, may or may not have fallen out with Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie) but clearly, enough was enough and she is not bringing Samantha back. First, there were four and now only three… How will that be explained?
Will it be possible to update this homage to consumerism that was originally set amongst an incredibly narrow and privileged New York social elite? According to Fran Leibowitz, in her new Netflix series, ‘Pretend It’s a City‘, no one can afford to live in New York City, yet, amazingly, eight million people do! With their designer clothes, endless cocktail nights, taxi rides and stupendous shoe collections, these characters were not affected by such trivial matters as money and opportunity. Indeed, at the end of the series in 2004, the main character, Carrie, who was a journalist, managed to afford to keep her rent-controlled – walk-in wardrobed – chic- pied-a-terre which was on the well-heeled Upper East Side whilst simultaneously living in a fabulous new apartment in an equally fabulously well-heeled location. Her dollars-per-word fee must have been extremely generous. Could she, and we may well find out, have it all?
The series, which first aired in 1998 was unique in providing a female perspective on sex, dating and relationships. Based on Candace Bushnell’s book of the same name, it was bold and outspoken in providing viewers with storylines about everything from toxic bachelors to anal sex to abortion. Same-sex relationships, one-night stands, romance, love, marriage, childbirth and adoption … it dared to address the complexities, heartaches, gender roles, awkwardness and endless disappointments of single life. Being New York, there was also a nod to Jewishness, with one character (Charlotte) converting so that she could marry her Jewish fiancé. That was pretty much the level of on-screen diversity at the time.
The scenarios and clothes may have been beyond the reach of most viewers, but the experiences of the characters and the clever script often possessed an honesty, which made the TV series incredibly endearing and unmissable. The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman praises the show for the often daring subject matter and emotional honesty of the characters, whilst acknowledging that it could not be made in the same way now, as it was then.
Sex and The City also appeared as two extended movies, the second of which was unarguably and incredibly just awful. BBC Radio 5’s Mark Kermode provided a scathing and totally accurate criticism of it, which is worth a listen as his disdain is magnificent.
So what of expectations for the new series, ‘And Just Like That..?’ The clip which was shared on Instagram is devoid of Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda but full of traffic noise and people, seemingly pre-Covid New York or a fantasy of a future post-pandemic return to busy city life? To what extent do we want or need to see the reality of this pandemic in our on-screen fairy-tales? A socially distanced Sex and the City would involve very little sex, possibly home-schooling kids and slouching around the home in sweat pants, a fashion low even Anna Wintour has sunk to. No cocktails, no taxis, no going out. Just some Zoom-face and quiet despair…
Since the series ended, Cynthia Nixon, who plays the acerbic and cynical lawyer Miranda Hobbes, ran unsuccessfully to be Governor of New York on a Democratic platform (in 2018). She is openly gay, married to her wife and an advocate for trans issues as her child came out as trans whilst at university. For these reasons alone, the new iteration of the series must be more ‘woke’ and en pointe than the previous tv incarnation? Surely nothing could be as bad as Sex and the City 2 – The Movie. The eyes cannot unsee what has been seen! Maybe ‘Menopause – the Movie’ is the natural endpoint of this potential new manifestation?
Upon re-watching Episode 1 of Series 1 for the purposes of this article – I have not been interested or bothered to revisit this series since it came off air in 2004 – there was one particular line which was possibly the greatest turn-off imaginable. ‘Mr Big’ played by the actor Chris Noth (who played a similar role in The Good Wife, another great and sadly off-air series which had two strong Jewish leads in Juliana Margulies and Josh Charles) is spotted by Samantha in a night club. She purrs to Carrie that he is worth meeting as he is, ‘Meant to be the next Trump – only younger and hotter!’ That was 1998 for you. Oy vey! The utter horror of wanting to meet ANYONE who resembled T@*$! – even back then – in any way shape or form is so gross! As the fabulous and coiffured Diane (played by the brilliant Christine Baranski) opines in The Good Fight (the very watchable sequel to The Good Wife), ‘I HATE TRUMP!’
Thank goodness he has gone! It may be ‘cancel culture gone mad’ but even Macaulay Culkin would like evidence of The Orange One to be expunged from Home Alone 2. I would be happy for any mentions of That Man to disappear from the shows I watch. Just that name is enough to bring me out in hives.
One week on from thankfully seeing the last of him as President but still suffering the realities of the pandemic and a deeply divided, disunited America, what lies in store for our returning trio? And will anyone, given what has passed and is still passing, want to watch? Sarah Jessica Parker wants us to wear heels again, even if paired with the aforementioned unfashionable sweatpants. Can’t say that is one of my lockdown or life priorities, but what do I know? Sweatpants and socks, however, I cannot imagine us ever being uncoupled, ever…! Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic… we shall have to wait and see.