Lifestyle & Culture

And Just Like That, I’m Done

January 3, 2022


Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in her cocktail-party-cum-funeral dress at Mr. Big’s memorial service. If his demise is a shocker, you haven’t been reading about the show. / Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/HBO.

HANDS UP IF you’ve leered at your husband and goaded him into masturbating in front of you.

No takers? Well, then.

So here they are, our four women friends from Sex and the City (1998-2004, plus two movies) and now the new, as of last month, HBO Max show And Just Like That. Twenty years later, Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw is still dressed as fashion roadkill; Kristin Davis’s Charlotte has morphed her school-girl wardrobe into a school-girl wardrobe with the occasional bare shoulder (and a hint of unfortunate trout mouth), and Cynthia Nixon’s Miranda has got herself up like the little boy who won’t grow up—and gets dressed in the dark.

T-shirt and cotton jumper, that’s our gal Charlotte (right), out looking for an after-school playdate, no doubt. Another view of the duo reveals that Miranda’s checked outfit is in fact a wide-leg jumpsuit, suitable for nothing in particular. Miranda pulls herself together for formal and somber occasions, looking like the elegant lawyer she is. By day, though, it’s anyone’s guess what she’s going to wear. / Photo by Craig Blankenhorn / HBO Max.

And as we’ve read, the sexually predatory Samantha, played by Kim Cattrall, has not joined her old pals. But that’s okay! They’ve mostly become as sexually explicit and lascivious as she was. Samantha was the free-love bookend to Charlotte’s marriage-at-all-cost stance. These days, though, the married Charlotte is more concerned with adding Black friends her social circle and dealing with the first whiffs of sexual questioning by her tweenage daughter.

Of course the show, and Carrie’s newspaper column, were always about sex. But it was heartwarming this weekend to view some of the charming original Sex and the City episodes. First, to see how young they (we?) were! And to see the big boxy things that passed for phones back in the Pleistocene.

And even to hear Charlotte whine, “What about romance!?” Yes, Charlotte is also the one who complained, “But I don’t want to be the up-the-butt girl! Nobody marries the up-the-butt girl” (or something very close to that, I promise). And for sure our “girlfriends” hurled as many F-bombs as, well, me. But there was an innocence. even when Carrie wrote, “Welcome to the Age of Un-innocence. Cupid has flown the co-op.”

Back then we didn’t have podcasts. Now, on the show, we have a sex podcast seemingly dripping at all times with some bodily fluid or other. Carrie’s discomfort with the banter, even as she gamely tries to get with the seedy program, caused one reviewer to out our favorite sex columnist as a prude.

Well, I’m lining up right behind her. When did the show become so coarse and tasteless? I thought it hit a low in the 2010 Sex and the City movie, when Samantha diddled her date under the dinner table in a conservative Middle Eastern country (though to be fair, the diners in any country would have been mightily offended). That doesn’t seem even remotely charming, even in hindsight, but at least it was an outlier.

To ask another question, When did our entire society become so coarse? I like to date it to 2004, when Vice President Dick Cheney told Senator Patrick Leahy to go fuck himself on the floor of the Senate. That seemed to be an official declaration. But maybe that’s just me.

Back to sex. And Just Like That is clearly trying to hit all the Zeitgeist buttons: integrating their lily-white social scene, raising LGBTQ possibilities, dealing with death and orthopedic surgery. The whole 2020s trifecta.

I’ll continue to milk the HBO Max show for moments of tenderness and charm. But here’s the difference: Back watching Sex and the City I envied the girls their coffee dates, their outings to clubs I would never even try to get into, even their romantic meltdowns. And Just Like That? So far, not so much.

—Nancy McKeon

This image is a distillation of the characters’ sense of self: Miranda in . . . something (what’s with Miranda and stripes? even the pillows on her sofa are striped), Carrie in . . . a very complicated something (note the two crossbody bags, de rigueur in New York), and Charlotte as Talbots as she can be. / Photo here and on the front by Craig Blankenhorn / HBO Max.

10 thoughts on “And Just Like That, I’m Done

  1. Kamer davis says:

    Nancy, I’m with you. And Carrie omg who goes out for a takeout coffee in a white tulle ball skirt? The show is bizarre.

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      Kamer, I’m gonna keep watching And Just Like That–who knows what they’ll do next!? I’m just hoping for no more sex/masturbation podcasts.

  2. Janis Fuhrman says:

    I had the same thoughts about the show. I am far from a prude, but
    I found myself cringing way too often.
    Seems very forced, could have been clever.

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      Rewatching those first shows reinforced how very smart and clever the writing was. This new iteration is too encumbered by checking off cultural boxes (LGBTQ, race, mortality, whatever). It’s heavier baggage than the singles-versus-married wars, the men who date only models, baby showers, etc. I think their reach may have exceeded their grasp.

  3. Kathy Legg says:

    And just like that Charlotte buys three coordinated floral Oscar de le Renta dresses for her and her daughters. Who does that?!!

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      I guess someone who has (a lot) more money than we do and also has an image of what her life should look like. And then reality intrudes! (Like one daughter who doesn’t want to look like part of a singing trio.) I had an editor years ago who declared that his new baby girl was going to be “a white wicker baby.” And I thought, Yeah, until she comes into contact with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all the other things the culture presses upon us.

  4. Nancy G says:

    I agree. AND, it’s not nearly as charming as I remember it to be, even with the sex. In fact, the ladies all seem a little desperate. But could just be me…..

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      It’s like real life just smacked them all in the face and they don’t know what hit them. Come to think of it . . . Anyway, I know I said I was done with the show, but I think I lied. These gals were my friends for a half-dozen seasons, so I owe them some time to be boring or just plain annoying–just the way I hope my old friends will cut me some slack, right?

  5. Andrea Rouda says:

    Nancy I’m glad you watch it so I don’t have to! As a former fan of the show I am dismayed by what I have heard and read this far. Thanks for the clarification.

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      I have many other thoughts, but I have to admit they’re still a jumble. I did have fun rewatching episodes from the first season, though!

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