I was on my couch Sunday afternoon re-watching Bob’s Burgers, when I felt my phone vibrate with a notification. Due to the dumpster fire that is the United States, I was hoping that it would be about something inconsequential. And The Hollywood Reporter delivered:
I had read a couple of weeks ago that a revival of Sex and the City might happen with HBO Max and as of today, it is official. So I should care, right? I should be celebrating with my cosmo in hand? When the series first aired on HBO, I was definitely watching. It was a show that my high school and then college-aged self found groundbreaking because it felt like a female-centric story in which women talked openly about sex (except not really, because Carrie Bradshaw was a major prude for a sex columnist). I’m cringing while writing this because I just remembered that I hosted a series finale watching party in my apartment, and I totally wanted her to end up with Big. I’ll also confess that I own(ed) every DVD, and that I’ve watched the entire series multiple times...but it was after watching the first SATC movie when I finally felt I had outgrown the franchise, and finally quit it cold turkey. When others did me the favor of writing about how awful the second movie was, I made sure to accept their gift and stay away, and I don’t think I’ve consciously watched an episode since.
I am majorly guilty of a TV rewatch, much to my husband’s chagrin (by the way, one of the reasons I love him is that he hated Carrie and his favorite was Miranda). A TV rewatch is the way I escape late at night, what can help me cook on a day I am tired, how I might crochet a baby blanket for a friend, one of the ways I take breaks from grading, or what can help me get through washing the dishes for the millionth time. I am currently fast-forwarding through cringe-worthy performances and falling asleep to Glee because I just finished a rewatch of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (which I recommend!). At the end of each semester, I usually start a rewatch of Gilmore Girls (tried this time but couldn’t), and in past years I’ve definitely done rewatches of Ugly Betty, 30 Rock, the first two seasons of Arrested Development, Superstore, and the Sorkin seasons of The West Wing. What I am trying to say is that I am the Queen of the Unnecessary Rewatch and I still don’t want to watch this. And aside from the fact that everyone involved just wants to get paid (understandable), I am wondering who actually cares what Carrie Bradshaw and her two friends are still up to?
Lainey, of course, had a succinct answer for me. When I sent her a screengrab of this Hollywood Reporter story and just asked, “Why????” She texted back, “For Karens.”
Reader, this was me.
I laughed (and laughed) because as soon as I read it, I knew it was true. It’s for the Karens.
I can’t imagine watching a show about these characters again and caring. But I guess it’s because Sex and the City no longer is (and never was) a show for me. It is a show for people who can and have escaped the uncomfortable realities of white supremacy all of their lives, and who can easily escape the pandemic’s increasing numbers or the aftermath of COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths. Can’t you see Carrie Bradshaw complaining how a mask messes with her outfit or wearing a completely dysfunctional mask that does go with her look? This show was one where its protagonist proudly shared she did not vote when dating a politician, and who as a writer never had to worry about freelance writing opportunities, the challenges of the publishing industry, and the constant changes in the media landscape. Will it become a show that will acknowledge any of New York or the United States’s current realities? If it does, will it do so with nuance? Should it? Because that’s not really what the show was/is about and what it was known for.
In The Hollywood Reporter story it is noted that Darren Star (who originally created the series for HBO) apparently “had no interest in returning to the series” because:
“I May Destroy You is the Sex and the City for now,” he said [in October] as part of a Creative Space interview pegged to his Netflix comedy Emily in Paris. “Girls was the Sex and the City for its moment. I wouldn't be doing Sex and the City today. Twenty years ago, I knew those people that I was writing about. I understood the time and I understood the characters and also what needed to be said."
With this comment, I think even Star recognizes that this show, its ideas, characters and premise are outdated, and that there have been and there will be other shows that are having and will have important, relevant, and thoughtful conversations about relationships and sex.
But what do we make of the renaming of the series? Is the new title, And Just Like That, a way to acknowledge that the show will be something different without Kim Cattrall? And could it be a way of also moving on from the initial premise of what Sex and the City was? Could the new title signal a change or growth for all of its characters, especially Carrie Bradshaw? And…maybe the Karens?
In 2018, Sarah Jessica Parker told The Hollywood Reporter that she felt Carrie would be “energized” by the #MeToo movement. “It's hard to imagine her not wanting to write about it, not wanting to talk about it and not having an opinion,” she said at the time. “It would be rich territory for her to explore.”
Maybe this new iteration of the series could show a “woke” Carrie Bradshaw. A Carrie Bradshaw that acknowledges her white privilege, as so many others have been doing over the last few years, and finally cares what others are struggling with. But even then, I must admit, at least right now, I don’t think it’s enough for me to watch. I was a sucker for this series in my late teens/early 20s because to see four women on the screen back then, regardless of their race, felt like a win. It was enough for me then, but it is not enough for me now. Not even as an escape. If I want the comfort of old TV shows to help me feel less anxious, I have plenty of options. I don’t need to watch an old story marketed as a new one.