Sex, the City and the Generation it Influenced

I should start this by saying, I watched Sex and the City when I shouldn’t have. It was a taboo for a girl of my age at the time to watch something that was so openly provocative. But, watch it I did and it is probably one of my biggest awakenings as a woman.

This led to me, like so many fans of the series, being incredibly excited when the reboot was announced last year and eagerly awaiting it’s premiere in December. I hoped to see my four favourite women and where they were today. I hoped to see the things they had accomplished and what I had hoped for them become true. Sadly, I was disappointed.

Sex and the City, on the surface, was four women navigating the dating scene of New York in the late 90’s and early 00’s. But underneath that, it was the beginning of so many important conversations and went on to influence a generation.

It allowed women to be powerful and taught me that the narrative that was told to me of myself, was not a limit of what I could be but actually something I had licence to rebel against.

Each woman in the show represented a different persona of women, in my friendship group we have one of each and some mixtures of them all and all are valid in what they aspire to.

Sex and the City influenced a generation of women to have power. It allowed them to be sexual. It allowed them to prioritise their careers. But it also was one of the first shows to address issues that women face. Not the issues that other shows portray, or Caitlyn Jenner writes a speech about, no. This is much deeper than choosing what to wear in the morning.

It addressed fertility issues before IVF was a word in everyday conversation. It spoke about being a single parent. It spoke about misogyny and discrimination in the workplace. It showed sexual assault that women endure. It showed unacceptable language used about women. It showed women aspire to a career. It unapologetically showed it all and it encouraged women to feel what these characters were feeling and empowered them to fight against the social norms.

All in all, Sex and the City was a show so far ahead of its time and so enjoyable for all.

Enter, And Just Like That, the 2021 Sex and the City reboot. The long-awaited show aired in December and is currently nearing the end of its first season. As well as the very obvious absence of Samantha, there is also a notable absence of depth.

It’s worth noting that viewers today are shocked to see the lack of diversity in the original series. The cast is mainly all white and straight aside from some very stereotypical ‘gay best friends’, something which is not representative of society as a whole and particularly current social issues.

The new show however has been accused of overcorrecting this. Within the series so far, we have met non-binary characters, we have seen Miranda enter a queer relationship, we have had comments about natural hair, we have seen a parents struggle with their child discovering their gender identity, we have seen alcoholism, we have seen IVF struggles, we have seen a Diwali celebration, we have seen self-conflicts with plastic surgery. We have seen a lot.

Sex and the City’s appeal to me was it’s relatability. Not that every person could afford an apartment in uptown New York and a new pair of Manolo Blahnik’s every week, but in that this felt like a genuine representation of peoples emotions. We were given time to connect with the characters and their issues.

For me, the new show is so fast paced that it feels they are trying to ‘tick the boxes’ so quickly and overcorrect the lack of diversity in the original series so quickly, that we don’t have time to connect to the storyline or characters at all. It leaves no time to get under the skin of the very real issues it is trying to address.

For example (spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t watched the show), the death of Mr Big. We watched 10 years and 2 movies about Carrie’s on-off relationship with this man, and in one 42 minute episode we see his death and her grief be overlaid with a mugging, a woman’s awaking to her internal prejudice, another’s struggle to understand her child’s gender identity and underage pot smoking. I for one, think Mr Big deserved better.

Whilst it’s important to address the lack of diversity in the original show, and of most shows of the era, it needs to feel authentic. In series 4 when Samantha had a relationship with a woman, Miranda spoke negatively of this and showed a complete lack of understanding. For this woman to do a 180 turn and begin a queer relationship of her own with no narrative around her internal feelings about this seems so far from what we have seen and know of her that we can’t even decide if we are rooting for this new relationship or not. It’s a shock. Maybe that’s what the writers were going for, who knows. But to me, it feels a little ‘woah, who dis?’.

The overcrowded show, to me, is a real let down. Will it stop me watching it? No. Of course it won’t. But has it made me rewatch the original series in tandem to retain my love for these characters? God yes.

Words by Danielle Every, Account Director at The Fitting Room

2 years ago