In honour of the Emmys, Vogue posted this throwback photo. A good choice, right? Sarah Jessica Parker “liked” it. When this photo was taken in 1999, HBO was the be-all and end-all of prestige TV. Sex and the City was provocative and a cause for panic (like the Who Needs a Husband? Time Magazine cover.)
Today, the show has a complicated legacy. It’s dated, it’s daring, it’s myopic in its view of women, it’s shallow, it’s sex positive, it’s sex negative, it’s willfully lacking in diversity for a show set in NYC (just like Friends and Seinfeld). I can appreciate it as a time capsule, but by the time the movies came around, they should have known better. The first one is bad, the second one is trash.
When Kim Cattrall declined to play Samantha for a third film, it wasn’t hard to understand why: the character had devolved into a cartoonish parody of a woman. The news that SATC 3 wasn’t happening set up a rabid fan response, and Kim Cattrall was immediately identified as the reason why their dreams weren’t coming true. SJP, who I think is probably lovely and professional, threw Kim under the bus, drove away, and then backed it up. There was no reason for her to get into Kim’s motivation for doing or not doing the movie (SJP’s friend and co-star Willie Garson jumped in, too). Kim Cattrall is a 62-year-old woman in Hollywood who was leveraging her positon and she was publically punished for it. When Kim chose to respond, there was no shade or subtext. It was very direct.
The public dissolution of the relationship was in no doubt fuelled by reports of a long-standing feud between the two women; maybe the rumours were true, or maybe they were fine and the media scrutiny led to a strain. On top of the hurt feelings between them, it’s hard for some fans to accept that once a show or movie wraps, people go on with their lives. Sarah, Kim, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis are not meeting for brunch every weekend at their favourite coffee shop. They are colleagues who went through an intense experience together. That doesn’t make them friends. It doesn’t even mean they have to like one another. Their obligation was to be professional, not to brush each other’s hair at a sleepover.
But back to the Emmys. Kristin Davis also posted an Emmy throwback, a photo that excluded Kim.
So, shade or oversight? I don’t think it was malicious, but I also don’t totally believe that it was unintentional. It is a flattering photo – maybe Kristin just liked the way she looked in it?
She later followed up with a post to say that she did not mean to slight anyone… but she didn’t mention Kim by name. That is more shady than the original post; we all know who she’s talking about! Why not be specific?
(One outlet called Kristin’s Emmy posting “a Samantha move,” which it’s not. Samantha was actually a very thoughtful and supportive friend. Carrie was a sh-t friend, do not @ me.)
The irony of the situation is that by leaving Kim out, Kristin demonstrated how Kim can’t be left out. She will always be part of the conversation. They cannot make a third movie without her. If they could, they would do it. The know it wouldn’t work.
And it’s a shame that we can’t turn this mess into a movie. SATC made female friendship a priority – it was as important as work and relationships and family. The third movie could be an examination of how those friendships evolved with age -- the lives that go in different directions, the misunderstandings that turn into silence, the obligations and excuses that turn into cancelled plans. The end of friendships. Imagine if Carrie and Miranda lost touch. Or Samantha and Charlotte grew closer. Forget Big and Steve – what happened to those relationships?
Judging by the first two films, that would never happen. Writer Michael Patrick King and producer Sarah Jessica Parker are interested in giving the audience what they want (Clothes! Men! Hijinks!) and not what they need. Maybe that, and not Kim Cattrall, is what really killed the franchise.