Sex and the City reboot refreshes show for a new era — to mixed results

December 10, 2021
Sex and the City reboot refreshes show for a new era — to mixed results

Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte are back (sans Samantha, you might have heard) in And Just Like That…, the much-anticipated reboot of Sex and the City. And as with a number of mid-2000s television series, it’s been refreshed for a new generation of viewers.

As with many beloved series, Sex and The City has been revisited by fans over and over since it ended in 2004. The show has aged since it first aired, and some fans have criticized its lack of visible minority characters (particularly given its setting in multicultural New York City) and questioned its storylines around race.

The reboot has tried to correct some of these shortfalls, but during its first two episodes it doesn’t seem to be hitting the mark, said Meera Estrada, a cultural commentator from Toronto who co-hosts The kultur’D Show, a Global News pop culture radio show. 

“I actually think the audience is the creators,” Estrada said. “I feel like they want some redemption because in the last several years, since society has changed, the show has been slammed for many different things: for being elitist, for only showing a white perspective.

“With this new series, I just feel like it’s trying so hard and almost desperate to be diverse and relevant.”

Sarah Jessica Parker stars as Carrie Bradshaw in And Just Like That, a reboot of Sex and the City. In 2018, Parker acknowledged that the original series did have any women of colour in its cast, and that the show would look “very different” today. (Bell Media/HBO)

Original had ‘no women of colour,’ Parker says

The reboot catches up with the group of friends, now in their fifties, as they navigate life in New York City. Carrie has a new gig as a regular guest on a sex podcast; Miranda, disillusioned with her work in corporate law, has returned to university; and Charlotte is a heavily involved school board parent. Kim Cattrall, who played Samantha, declined to take part in the reboot. 

At a 2018 media event hosted by the Wall Street Journal, star Sarah Jessica Parker acknowledged that Sex and The City would be a very different show if it were set in present day. 

“There were no women of colour … and there was no substantial conversation around the LGBTQ community,” she said. “This city has changed an enormous amount politically and economically and socially and I think it would be a different show, honestly.”

WATCH | And Just Like That… trailer revisits old characters, introduces new ones:

As Estrada pointed out, the show has paired each of its central characters with a new friend or colleague of colour. Carrie’s boss at work is a non-binary sex podcaster played by the actor Sara Ramirez.

And the actor Nicole Ari Parker, who was touted as a replacement for Cattrall’s Samantha, plays opposite Charlotte as a fellow mom friend. 

In one of the show’s intentionally cringe-inducing scenes, Miranda meets her young, Black law professor, Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), and expresses disbelief that she’ll be teaching the class. Sensing that she has said the wrong thing, Miranda overcompensates and ends up rambling about the professor’s braided hair to the discomfort of the class — and the audience.

“I feel like it was handled so wrong because it felt like we’re supposed to feel uncomfortable for Miranda, but I didn’t,” Estrada said. 

“I felt uncomfortable for everybody else in the room and for her professor.”

Karen Pittman, left, portrays Dr. Nya Wallace, Miranda’s law professor. Wallace is one of three women of colour with a major supporting role in the Sex and The City reboot. (Bell Media/HBO)

A step in the right direction

Early reviews of the show have noted its new tone, both favourably and with apprehension.

A review from Variety magazine said the show’s characters of colour are treated “as sounding boards or reactive forces, to refine and reframe the racial politics of the leads.”

By contrast, a New York Magazine critic praised the show’s efforts at diversity: “This version of Carrie Bradshaw’s world finally includes people who aren’t white.”

Estrada noted that whether or not these new characters are developed beyond their adjacence to the main characters, the show got something painfully right: that as people grow further into adulthood, their friend circles evolve, and space is made for new people while others fade out.

Though she feels And Just Like That… leaves something to be desired as it incorporates these three new characters of colour, Estrada notes the show’s efforts to improve representation are a step in the right direction.

“Despite my criticism of it, I think it’s important,” Estrada said.

“Because when the original series came out, so many shows like Friends, Seinfeld, they were very whitewashed. And at that time for me, in my early 20s, I didn’t see people that looked like me. And that actually affected me in making real life decisions.”

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