It’s a ‘Sex and the City’ World. Can Carrie and Co. Still Live in It?

In the first episode of the HBO series “Girls,” Shoshana asks her cousin Jessa to like her “Sex and the City” poster. “You sure are, like Carrie, but with some aspects of Samantha and Charlotte’s hair,” Shoshana says. “That’s, like, a really good combination.” And in the first episode of “Run the World” on Starz, Ella, a writer who has a tumultuous relationship with her ex-partner, describes her friend Sondi’s ex-boyfriend as “My Big.”

Her friend rejects her saying that he is not old. “There is a very clear and well established pop culture roadmap for this,” she told Ella.

There is, in fact, a well-established roadmap for this purpose; It is no coincidence that many shows use “Sex and the City” as a reference point. The show, which debuted on HBO in 1998 and ran for six seasons (and spawned two really bad movies), changed the game with its portrayal of women as complex sexual beings.

But when “Sex and the City” comes out now, it often comes up with the term: “It was great.” for her time. It’s been more than two decades since that series first aired on HBO, and not only has our culture changed; it’s also evolved a genre in which “Sex and the City” has become the standard-bearer for the film, the ladies’ gang romantic drama, about four girlfriends who navigate sex, love and dating. .

Two years after its first show, “Sex and the City” was followed by “Girlfriends,” a show about four black friends who work and date in Los Angeles. In 2012, “Girls” became known as “Sex and the City” for millennials. Now, nearly a decade later, 2021 has been a year of awards, including the premiere of “Run the World,” “Harlem,” “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” and the final season of “Insecure.” We are in a new era of presentations about contemporary feminine life that either engages or engages in dialogue with “Sex and the City”, expanding images of race and class and engaging modernity with more of the nuances of being a woman in the world.

In the midst of this wave of new women’s gang shows, “Sex and the City” returned this month with a revival on HBO Max, “And Just Like That…”, featuring Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristen Davis) ), all in their fifties now, settled into their lives with their families. The nineties are long gone. So is Samantha (Kim Cattrall) fan favorite. Now the new series faces the difficult task of reintroducing itself into a genre that has matured beyond the model it built.

It’s immediately obvious how the revival is self-consciously trying to update “Sex and the City” for 2021. Carrie has an Instagram account! And work on a sexy podcast! Miranda has to deal with her now teenage son who has sex! Charlotte has a black boyfriend! The series has a lot of work to do to take into account all the changes that culture – and television, in the wake of “Sex and the City” – have undergone in the past 23 years. Across the four episodes released so far, its progress is questionable.

In “And Just Like That…,” Miranda, who enrolled in a Columbia University course with students decades younger than her, struggles to figure out what it means to be an ally for LGBT people. Identity politics was one of the main areas where “Sex and the City” were avoided as…well, like four of the five boroughs of New York City. Not only did the series feature four white women, but the number of people of color and gay women present throughout the series, even as walking characters, was so small that one might wonder if any of them lived in New York City in the 1990s. . (They did.)

Several shows appeared after starring in “Sex and the City” which offered a stark contrast to the straight white characters on the show: “Girlfriends”, “Harlem”, “Insecure”, “Run the World” and “The Conception of Sex Lives of College Girls” Friendships are more than just white women. In fact, most of the main cast consists entirely of black women. Having women of color enjoy their sexuality without over-sexing and full-on personalities—with real concerns, gathering with friends for drinks or making moves in their careers—is revolutionary in the way Carrie and Co. once were for white women.

at least for white straight woman. “Sex and the City” distinguished itself in the 1990s by being a series of recurring gay characters – Stanford Blatch (Willy Garson) and Anthony Martinino (Mario Cantone) – but what progress was made at that time would now be considered problematic. Stanford and Anthony fell neatly into the “gay best friend” stereotype and were eventually paired up. As for the ladies, the “gender” of the title was almost exclusively of the binary and heterosexual variety.

Later, shows like “Girlfriends” and “Girls” also followed this pattern. But with the development of the sexual politics of culture, the politics of the chain of women’s gangs also developed. For example, “The L Word,” which premiered the year “Sex and the City” ended, offered a groundbreaking depiction of queer women never seen before on television.

Among the newest shows in the genre, “Harlem” is one of the few that features central queer characters. And there’s not just one: alongside Ty (Jerry Johnson) who presents masculinity, is Quinn (Grace Byers), who first appears as Black Charlotte on the show, but eventually begins to question her homosexuality when she’s attracted to a girlfriend. And in “Sex Lives,” there’s the notorious socialite Leighton (René Rabe), who is spending the first season on hold.

“And Just Like That…” attempts to address the franchise’s past shortcomings by introducing friends of color (every lady gets at least one, including those performed by Sarita Chowdhury, Nicole Ari Parker, Karen Bateman, and Sarah Ramirez), but these characters aren’t exactly the same. Give it important story lines or a development of its own. The series also introduced neo-queer characters (the gender-dysfunctional daughter of Charlotte Rose, played by Alexa Swinton, and Carrie’s boss, Che, played by Ramirez), who challenge the conservative notions of the main lady actors about sex and sexuality, or, in the The case of Miranda, guide them through personal hacks about their sexuality. The show’s attempt at diversity is laudable but shallow, and most of it is there to educate the three straight white women about new identity politics and help them along the arcs of their own personality.

“Sex and the City” was surprisingly open about a woman’s right to choose in an episode when Miranda would consider abortion, but other than that it was pretty apolitical when it came to women’s health. Its successors have largely followed suit – in fact, due to their focus on sex, not much attention is given in this series to the thorny issues that arise from it. For all the ways that “Sex and the City” and its successors capture the nuances of femininity, many have avoided the more serious and less fun parts of being a woman today.

Sometimes the issue of miscarriage appears, and sometimes a woman gets sexually transmitted diseases, but it disappears as quickly as it appeared. In “Sex and the City” Black Racers, an additional challenge is to discuss the most common medical problems for black women – in “Girlfriends” and “Harlem,” for example, the characters suffer from uterine fibroids. In Unsafe, a character plunges into postpartum depression, another common but rarely addressed health problem that puts black women at greater risk due to unfair social and economic conditions.

However, the lady-gang series has evolved significantly in one area of ​​gender-based politics: Nowadays, it might seem strange not to include story lines about misogyny, toxic relationships, harassment, and consent in women-related programming. Among the more recent shows, those featuring younger characters — first “Girls” and now “College Girls’ Sexuality” — have been the most dedicated to addressing these issues, reflecting the frequency with which younger generations have these conversations. “Sex and the City” has largely been and continues to eschew such sexual policies, although the case casts a shadow over the new series regardless of the multiple accusations of sexual assault leveled against Chris Noth, the actor who plays Mr. Page.

At some point, most of us also have to work hard for a living, particularly in New York, and in general, Sex and the City didn’t need to let go of its ambiguity regarding career and class politics in order to have a successful series. On the contrary, the show might have been a more appealing fantasy without it. The newer series has taken a more realistic path. For the women in series like “Unsafe,” jobs are real and present concerns; “Girlfriends” and “Sex Lives” portrayed the class difference in great comedic and dramatic effect.

Meanwhile, Carrie and the two girls always seem to lead great leisurely lives for reasons that haven’t always been explainable. What the original “Sex and the City” did most to deal with the segregation of its women was an episode in which Carrie was humbled by the fact that she had to – panting – get on the bus. The “girls” wore these same jackets 14 years later. Both shows existed in an impenetrable bubble of upper-class life, which made these shows excluded for many audiences who fall outside this narrow perspective and offered a two-dimensional picture of modern life. However, there is still an audience for “And Just Like…” just as there was an audience for “Sex and the City”. But now, for fans who want more of their imagination, there are many other options.

At one point in “And Just Like That…” Carrie laughs uncomfortably during a podcast episode about masturbation. Later, she recounts her experience with Miranda, saying that she has to be more frank in her sexual talk. Miranda replies, “That’s not who you are.” Carrie replied, “Well, we can’t stay the same, can we?” These once modern women look like remnants of a museum that fell into modern times.

One thing women have to face is the unique brand of age discrimination that creeps up like a bogeyman when they reach a certain age. In this regard, little has changed. The ladies’ gang literary genre still mostly targets young adults, beginning in the late teens with shows like “Sex Lives,” and extending into your twenties, as do “Girls” and “Girlfriends.” Some move into their 30s as their characters, such as “Insecure”, “Harlem” and “Run the World”. Beyond that, this genre offers very little. It is as if women are reaching their late thirties, sinking into the abyss of celibacy and irrelevance.

So what happens to these shows when the ladies get older? Is the genre collapsing? It shouldn’t, because women are still going out and having sex after their twenties and thirties. (Think of another foursome that did just that, years before “Sex and the City”: The Golden Girls.)

“And just like that…” should be successful in these terms, and in some ways it is. But she often feels uncomfortable with the new demographic square his characters fall into. Where “And Just Like…” fails in this department, it’s not because of the ages of the characters. That’s because the writers largely fail to recognize the ways in which women in middle age and beyond can remain funny, sexual, and relevant.

Things have changed since the ’90s, but much has remained the same. We still love women’s dating programs. We still need presentations of women’s friendships. Without “Sex and the City,” we might not own all the soap operas we have today.

There is room for more of this kind but for women who aren’t just Carys, Charlottes, Miranda or Samanthas; After 23 years, there are more types of women having sex in the city, and TV is better for them.

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