Things we hope the ‘Sex and the City’ revival gets right this time around

We couldn’t help but wonder: can Carrie and co. do better?
February 2, 2021 4:18 p.m. EST

In 1998, when Sex and the City first premiered on HBO, it was hailed as ground-breaking television, and rightfully so, for the permission it gave 30-something women to be frank about boyfriends, bodies, booty calls, breasts, and BJ’s over brunch. For six seasons and two movies, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) was the heart of the story, Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) was the feminist lawyer, Charlotte (Kristen Davis) was the wasp-y dreamer, and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) was, as Mr. Big once quipped, “trouble.”

Considering the show premiered over 20 years ago, it’s understandable that it got some contemporary cultural, social, and sexual movements wrong. As we learn more about gender, sex, race, identities, and women’s solidarity in a post-#MeToo world, some hot episodes from the SATC archive can be seen as outdated, basic, and dare we say it, even a tad toxic. But like everyone (we’re all works-in-progress), now that they know better, they can do better!

With the upcoming SATC revival, And Just Like That, these are some of the things we wish they will either address, or even better, represent with a more progressive 2021 lens.

Bi-identity inclusion

For a show about exploring all facets of sex, SATC largely ignored the LGBTQ+ community. In the episode "Boy Girl Boy Girl," Carrie dates a bisexual man, and for some reason, that stops the relationship dead in its tracks. Over brunch, her and the girls make painful anti-LGBTQ+ comments like “of course it’s a problem!” (Miranda), and “I’m not even sure bisexuality exists, I think it’s just a layover on the way to gay town” (Carrie). It’s an incredibly heteronormative take, especially for someone who is supposed to be a sex columnist, or as she describes herself in the pilot episode, a “sexual anthropologist.” 

Later in the series, when Samantha starts dating a woman named Maria (episode: “What’s Sex Got to do with It”), the girls gossip about her, saying, “Oh please, she’s not in a relationship, she’s just doing this to bug us!” (Charlotte). Then the show goes out of its way to frame her relationship with Maria as a dull and boring fad, loaded with stereotypes about lesbians. (“All we do is take baths and talk about our feelings!”).

In the past 20 years, society has moved beyond rigid ideas of sex and attraction and embraced depictions of such. Movies like Brokeback Mountain and Call Me By Your Name, and shows like Euphoria have portrayed people falling in love with one another not because of their sex or gender, but because of who the other person is. The goalpost has, understandably, moved.

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Better handling of trans identities

And Just Like That can absolutely right its past wrongs with regards to trans characters, especially with reports of Caitlyn Jenner in talks to appear in the revival. She is arguably the most visible face of the trans community in Hollywood (we say “arguably” because Laverne Cox also exists), and we would love to see this.

When Samantha encountered transgender sex workers outside of her building (in “Cock-a-doodle-do”), the three transgender people are portrayed in the show as comical and worthy of mockery, satire, and also, comeuppance. The story is framed to make us loathe them. The language used to describe them hasn’t aged well at all either with slurs thrown around the brunch table.

Naturally, the conversation and visibility of transgender people has advanced quite considerably since this episode first aired 20 years ago. Over the years, we’ve had TV shows like Orange is the New Black, and Transparent, and films like Transamerica, Fantastic Woman, The Danish Girl, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Dallas Buyers Club; all of which have portrayed trans stories that previously weren’t seen by large audiences.

More BIPOC please

For a show that takes place in New York, it is woefully devoid of people of colour (like Seinfeld and Friends before it), and when POC do show up, the portrayals are… not-so-great. In “No Ifs Ands or Butts” Samantha dates a Black music producer named Chivon. His sister Adeena is written as the Angry Black Woman stereotype, and their interactions are framed to make us see Samantha -  a white blonde rich woman - as the victim of racism.

When Samantha goes to the club with Chivon, she’s patted down with a metal detector, demonstrating the violence and over-policing the Black community experiences. Samantha even uses AAVE (African American Vernacular English), which Charlotte scolds her for. The actress who played Adeena gave an interview about that role a few years ago, stating how damaging the character seemed to her.

SATC seemed to be trying to right this wrong with the first movie where Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson was cast as a sweet and honest addition to the quartet. With no Samantha in the revival, now might be the time to have more nuanced BIPOC portrayals that don’t just show up for a 90 minute movie and are never heard from again.

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Yes, sex and body positivity; no, slut- and body-shaming

For all her columns about her sex life and those of her girlfriends, Carrie sure does dabble in slut-shaming rather frequently, especially towards Samantha. The show itself has a tendency to lean conservative and prudish when it comes to sex whereas Samantha most embodies the freedom and sexual exploration of the show’s ethos, sometimes to her detriment.

In the episode “Cover Girl,” Carrie slut-shames Samantha for her encounter with the Worldwide Express Guy, blurting out, “that is not something I would ever do!” In the episode “Frenemies,” Charlotte is about to literally call Samantha a “slut,” getting out “My God, you’re such a—” when Samantha interrupts, “A what? What am I Charlotte?”

Carrie also jabs at Samantha for not remembering all of the men she’s slept with, by saying, “Toto I don’t think we’re in single digits anymore" even though she never does anything that men haven’t been doing shame-free for centuries. The fact that Samantha won’t be in the revival is a shame because after years of enduring these slights, she deserves to have a full circle moment.

In addition to this, the show dabbles in body-shaming more than once. In the first movie, we’re led to believe that Samantha has gained weight due to her relationship with Smith. A close up of her belly seems normal to all of us, yet we’re meant to believe she’s gotten fat? But she looks… fine? Somehow the movie gets away with shaming her “gut.” Similarly, after Miranda’s pregnancy, she joins Weight Watchers (ugh, where to begin with that…) and we’re meant to believe that her weight of *checks notes* 152 lbs is bad? That’s a normal weight. In fact, it’s below average.

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And Just Like That needs to do itself and the SATC fans a major service. In a post-#MeToo world, women are now standing in solidarity with one another, and refusing to be shamed for their sexuality and bodies. Bisexual and LGBTQ characters are expected to be portrayed with dignity and respect, and BIPOC characters deserve greater nuance and complexity, devoid of harmful stereotypes.  

With Kim Cattrall not returning to the franchise, the show has extra space to fill Sam’s absence with a character or even multiple characters that experience the full spectrum of sex, inhabit different body types, and can authentically tell BIPOC and LGBTQ stories.

This is our hope, because, flaws and all, Sex and the City was a cultural touchstone and a juggernaut for the sexual liberation of the 21st century woman. We can’t help but love it (even though, like Samantha, we’re probably seeing other people too).

Watch the full series and both Sex and the City: The Movie and Sex and the City 2 on Crave anytime.

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