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.
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.