Sex and the City’s original cast: Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones, Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes, Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw and Kristin Davis as Charlotte York.
A short list of things nobody asked for in 2021: coronavirus clusters, the storming of Capitol Hill and, quite possibly, a new Sex and the City series. But when the trailer for it dropped on Tuesday, that’s exactly what we got.
And Just Like That, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon, who all promoted it on their Instagram feeds, drew a hefty amount of cynicism, not least because one of its four original characters, Samantha Jones, (Kim Cattrall) would not be appearing. Then, there were derisive murmurs about how a show centring on the petty grievances of three very privileged, very wealthy, middle-aged white ladies could stir the excitement of viewers when the country it is set in has, to date, suffered 385,000 deaths from the worst pandemic in a century.
Filming will reportedly begin in the northern spring – that’s March. So will creators of the show that spawned one mediocre, and one appalling sequel, simply pretend coronavirus doesn’t exist? What about the biggest civil rights protest of our time, Black Lives Matter? Will that get a mention beyond a bad pun? Celebrity commentator, Lainey Lui has said that this instalment is for no one except the “Karens” – those middle-aged, self-important, suburban women, who once knocked back Cosmopolitans like water and now complain about having to wear a face covering.
But… I couldn’t help but wonder… is there a way to save Sex and the City? Is it possible to make what was once a taboo-busting show about the nocturnal lives of witty sophisticates as cool as it was when it hit HBO in 1998?
The teaser trailer gives us some hope. Gone is the girly xylophone soundtrack, in its place a handful of moody shots of Manhattan. Not a tutu in sight. Is this how we mourn Samantha? Samantha will be missed, there is no doubt about that. But her character’s exploits mean that she is, in the best possible way, redundant.
Samantha’s lifestyle – unapologetically sex positive – is now, thanks in part to the mainstreaming of feminism and the internet itself, commonplace. It was Sam, not Carrie, the sex columnist, who initiated conversations around bodily fluids, female masturbation and sex positions. Nobody outside of a Cleo magazine was entering into those dialogues before Samantha eagerly ventured into them, sober and at brunch, no less.
Her intimacy issues notwithstanding, (she was, for most of the series, allergic to relationships) Sam’s philosophy on sex – that her pleasure was paramount; that she dated younger men and she always came first, honey – though shocking at the time, is now standard. Samantha had a different man each episode, sometimes two or three. Meanwhile, hook up culture, was still generating controversy in 2012. It has taken online dating for women to feel truly unbridled by it.
And speaking of online dating. It would be remiss of the writers not to include such a massive cultural shift. If getting dumped via post-it note from Burger left Carrie bereft and furious, what would ghosting do? What about bread-crumbing? (where an online interest leads you along without ever really materialising into anything). And what about the fact that online dating now includes people in their 50s? Will Carrie be single? Did Big’s heart – the one he needed medical attention for – finally give out?
And, if Carrie is single, and so spoiled she needs an assistant to answer her emails, (like she did in the first movie) can we please not have a black woman occupy a role of servitude? Jennifer Hudson sparkled with charisma, but she couldn’t play a friend? Really?
Sarah Jessica Parker has said that Carrie would be a proponent of the #MeToo movement. It makes sense – she was sexually harassed by her editor, Julian Fisher at Vogue, when he pulled his pants down one night at the magazine. Perhaps she’ll out him with the headline “He Called Me Cookie”. Or perhaps, Carrie herself will get cancelled. It would be refreshing (and hilarious) to have a Generation Z actor unearth an old column and tweet about its hetero-normative, exclusionary “white-centred” language. Maybe Lily, Charlotte’s eldest daughter, is the one who finds it while studying at NYU and in doing so discovers that her mother – Mrs York Goldenblatt of the Upper East Side – once had an affair with her first husband’s gardener. It would be revitalising to see what sort of fallout Lily’s knowledge could have on Charlotte and Harry’s bland, shiny union.
That Samantha will be replaced in some capacity is predictable. Dan Levy from Schitt’s Creek who is popular with “Karens” and Millennials alike – could slide right in and make snide quips about how Carrie, a freelance writer, wouldn’t survive a second in today’s gig economy, ravaged by coronavirus.
Dan could comfort Miranda when Steve cheats on her – again. “I’m holding space for your pain, sweetie, because we both know Carrie’s latent narcissism means she’s incapable of truly seeing you. I mean, Big left her at the altar. But Steve had sex with someone else while married TO YOU. How did she not see that?”
Hopefully, this time, Carrie, like the rest of us, will have her eyes opened. It’s 10 episodes. Dare we hope …
Natalie Reilly is freelance writer for The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times and WAtoday.