New Sex and the City is clumsy attempt at wokeness
Twenty years after “Sex and the City”, three of the four main characters are back in a remake of the emblematic series. But while TV audiences had never watched four women discussing their sex lives over brunch at the start the 21st century, “And Just Like That” is a rather more clumsy effort to recognize the world has since become less white and less heterosexual.
Sex and the City undoubtedly contributed to opening up the dialogue about female sexuality in popular culture. The freedom with which the show's four female lead characters in New York explored and owned up their sexual experiences gave the show plenty of suffragette street cred.
But with the rise of woke culture - which has made it clearer how widespread discrimination of all sorts of groups is in our society - the series deserves a more critical eye. While the show pioneered in showing sisterhood is as important in a relationship for a woman as her romantic feelings, it did less well in portraying people of colour or queer folks. There was only one non-white person in it, and only in the last season. Queer characters were mostly stereotypes. And – weirdly, given the title of the show – it sometimes shunned the most liberated character, Samantha, for being too overtly sexual.
Last month, the reborn series premiered, keen to prove it could do better. Or was it? The first few episodes depict the difficulties of upper-class white woman in her 50s in adapting to unlearn white privilege and using the non-binary pronoun “they”. More queer and non-white characters now make their appearance in the series. But its effort to boost its diversity is half-hearted. The question is whether that is intentional or not.
The characters come from privileged backgrounds, which leads to a few hiccups. As an older, white straight woman, you will not experience racial injustice the same way as women of colour do. You will also have trouble understanding that gender - and sexuality - are not limited to a “man” being with a “woman”. Unlearning the unspoken norms and values we have been conditioned to think of as natural is a difficult and uncomfortable process.
And so, the reboot’s attempt to create a more diverse narrative is its downfall. Aiming to create woke content it quickly falls back into stereotypes. It mentions progressive ideas such as Me Too and Black Lives Matter, but only on a superficial level, without digging deeper into why the systematic forms of oppression exist that these movements are fighting.
But letting go of Samantha, the most liberated of the characters, is what ails the show the most. Samantha was the most outspoken character, talking freely and about her countless sexual conquests and without shame about her experiences. Whenever her friends would fall into sexist patterns, Samantha would keep them in check. She was the true feminist of the show.
Her absence leaves a void the numerous newly added woke characters cannot fill. The show, is definitely worth watching, particularly if you have seen the original. But the makers have missed an opportunity to create a show that is ready for the 21st century that is as emblematic as its predecessor.