January 10th, 2021 was a day that’ll go down in history… as far as the Sex and the City fan base is concerned. If you didn’t already know, the teaser for the Sex And The City reboot came out that day, featuring NYC in all its glory with the caption, “And Just Like That.”
There’s no eponymous voice-over from the actress we’ve (mostly) all learned to love. Instead, it’s made up of sounds of the Manhattan streets kissed with hints of keyboard-clacking, which I can only imagine were born from the fingers of NYC’s sexiest fictional writer. This teaser, while saying nothing about the plot or giving away future details of the series’ return, made my SATC-loving heart full of excitement… until I really thought about it. The more time I lent to pondering how the return would manifest itself, the more I questioned its very existence. It made me wonder at what point we’ll stop trying to relive the past cultural successes and instead make room for new stories – i.e. is SATC 4.0 really worth it?
Let’s get one thing straight, there is undoubtedly a part of me that’s excited to see the iconic show return. It’s the ‘Carrie’ in me.
Most SATC-lovers have a favorite character, one they particularly identify with – some love Carrie, some love Samantha and some love Miranda, except I must say I don’t see many Charlotte stans. It’s a rite of passage to think of which character you’d be, and though I love all of them, there was never a question of which one I thought myself most like – or perhaps, wished I could be like – and it’s Carrie.
I love Carrie. She’s whimsical. She dives into the romance of life. She’s funny, though surprisingly awkward at times. Whatever she wears she rocks, and no matter how often common sense (and her friends) tell her to stop spending all her writing salary on shoes, she does it anyway. Carrie once told me (or so it felt), “The most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you that you love, well, that’s just fabulous.” And you know what? I believe her. Not because she’s Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City and can find romance in anything, but because she’s a writer who takes the puzzle of my feelings and pieces it together with ease. There’s just something magnetic about that.
Now, I like to think I’m a better chef than she – after all, her oven was used only for storage – and perhaps I wouldn’t have fallen into Mr. Big’s trap, though when I see their way of being with each other it strikes me as familiar. Everything about her that could be annoying, I find endearing. The enigma of her character and realness of her friendships keep me rewatching the same episodes, time and time again.
So, why aren’t I stalking the @justlikethatmax instagram daily for news of the official release date? Why wouldn’t I be simply overjoyed that this show is coming back? Of course, in part I am – or at least, the Carrie in me is. The rest of me isn’t as sure.
I love the OG series, but that doesn’t mean that as a 21-year-old woman in 2021 I can’t see where it falls short. It’s a glamorization of an elitist structure that doesn’t even really exist, centering on four white women living in spacious apartments, going out to expensive clubs and galas every weekend while spending large portions of their money on restaurant small plates and Manolo Blahnik’s. Sex and the City is an entirely unrealistic portrayal of womanhood and sexuality: stick thin women who seem to orgasm every time they engage in penetrative sex (the stats have certainly proved that one wrong). All the women of SATC ever talk about are heterosexual encounters; they’re effectively the bible of their lives. And then there’s the grand misstep of the second SATC movie, which was widely criticized for its failures as an exaggeration of racist views towards the Middle East and its culture.
Once I dove into the world of SATC’s original faux-pas, I could hardly get myself out, and now I wonder if it’s really worth it. Sex and the City couldn’t be released in 2021 as it was. Much about the original series would have to be – and should be – altered to fit our evolving cultural climate.
To HBO Max’s credit, they know this. They’ve employed three non-white writers to help craft the scripts: former Fresh Off the Boat co-excecutive producer, Rachna Fruchbom; Keli Goff, writer on acclaimed TV series Black Lightning and Samantha Irby, a comedian and author known for her blog bitchesgottaeat. They’ve also added three BIPOC leading actors to the cast, in an effort to make the story more reflective of the diversity that New York City encompasses.
But could Sex and the City ever be reflective of the ‘real’ New York? I certainly don’t think so. The series features just one of the many niches that exist within the bounds of the city, and a pretty exclusive one at that. Though maybe that’s the point of the show, maybe it’s how it garnered so much attention when it first came out. Viewers longed for a reality like the one they saw on television. It may have succeeded as a model – idealistic NYC-based stories surely rake in the ratings – but that doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest one. As far as the SATC reboot is concerned, I hope HBO Max will think about the harm they could be doing by ranking subscriber-counts above cultural well-being. They may need to compete with the rise of new streaming services such as Paramount +, Peacock and Discovery+ (each which boasts their own unique offerings), but overvaluing reboots of series that’ll draw subscriptions to the platform isn’t the way to go about it. No matter how much I loved the original series, I’ve acknowledged where it went wrong, and I’m wary of further wrongdoing.
At the end of the day, the Carrie in me will watch the reboot. The writer who loves fashion and dreaming about the glamour of a life that my younger self always wished I’d have, that person wants to know where the women of SATC are, what they’re doing and how each character has made it to their 50s. What is sex in their 50s like? Will they still be married, or frequenting the mid-life dating scene? That part of me wants romance; she wants to learn about lasting female friendships and how on Earth I’m supposed to one day make those work. She wishes Samantha were returning, because she couldn’t imagine Sex and the City without her. The Carrie in me will be swept away by the dazzling series that’s been stealing hearts since 1998. She’ll window-shop for Manolos and stalk The Real Real for the 75% off sale that will never come. She’ll probably write a few more sex and relationships essays and yearn for exactly what Carrie had.
Yet each day, Carrie’s voice in my head grows fainter, as the rest of me thinks about the other stories, the other characters and settings that have yet to be born – or have been born but can’t make it to screens because of systemic racism in our country. I want to see realistic portrayals of sex (I think we deserve that much). I want to learn about a New York that isn’t dreamed up, so I can begin to really imagine my future life there. I want to see real, lasting change in the entertainment industry, as opposed to band-aids that don’t seem to do the trick of fixing its copious wrongdoings. I’m ready to welcome new stories with open arms; I’m ready to see streaming platforms focus on true inclusivity, and I really hope they do.
Truth is, the Carrie in me can live in my head – I don’t have to pay her a dime of attention if I don’t want to, and neither does anyone else. Us SATC lovers can retire her narrative without losing what she represented – the good she did bring as we navigated the pendulum swing of single-to-relationship – for as long as that might last. We can all love Carrie, wish we were Carrie, and be ready to move on.