Representation matters, but not like this
OPINION: And just like that, the new 'Sex and the City' reboot fumbles its attempt to add color to its cast.
Warning: This post contains spoilers, so if you have not watched the first six episodes of And Just Like That…, please go do that first and then come back.
Let me start this off by saying I was a huge fan of the original Sex and the City series.
I started watching the show during its original run on HBO. I own all the box sets. I’ve seen both movies. As a writer, I imagined myself some sort of Black Carrie Bradshaw*, but without all the neuroticism, the fancy New York apartment and the over-the-top wardrobe.
*(Carrie Bradshaw could never. As a Black woman, I realize she could never fill my shoes, and I have a pretty extensive collection of Chucks that I don’t keep in my oven. The fact is, as a Black woman, I am much stronger than Carrie ever will be, but that’s a topic for a different essay. Moving on….)
When I heard there was going to be a reboot, I was excited—until I learned that Kim Cattrall wouldn’t be returning (more on that later), but I was still willing to give it a go out of…loyalty I guess?
So fine. We catch up with the ladies over 17 years and an entire social justice movement for racial equality after the final episode of the original show. Miranda is no longer a redhead, is still married to Steve, and allows her now teenage son Brady to have sleepovers with his girlfriend—which come complete with noisy sex that Miranda has to hear each night since, for whatever inexplicable reason, their bedrooms share a wall. Charlotte is still the most tightly wound member of the group, still married to Harry and doing the active mothering thing with their two daughters, Lily and Rose. Carrie still dresses like someone who is completely unaware of how filthy the streets of New York City really are as she drags frothy trains behind her through Manhattan. But she’s married to Big now, and they live in a fabulous penthouse apartment with all their rich people things, and I think we are supposed to believe that Carrie finally got her happily ever after.
The ladies are a couple of decades older, which they remind us about over and over again—almost to the point of beating us over the head with it—but they are still the same friend group minus Samantha.
And just like that, the first disappointing error from the new reboot is shoved in our faces, as the story we are told for Samantha’s absence is such a not-Samantha story as in Samantha would never do that and it doesn’t even match her personality. Getting dumped by Carrie as her publicist would not cause Samantha—who was already 10 years older than the rest of the girls in the group and the obviously most confident member of the quartet—to flee to London, abandoning her New York life and all her clients and clout because Carrie (seriously, because of Carrie?!?!) didn’t want her as a publicist anymore.
The Samantha storyline should have been the signal that everything else in this reboot would be handled just as clumsily, including the introduction of four new characters—all women of color—who seem to only exist through the lens of their white counterparts.
First is the beautiful Nicole Ari Parker, who is introduced to us by Charlotte as Lisa Todd Wexley or “L.T. Dub,” as she is known in the parent circles at the school their children attend together. Lisa is apparently that girl, and Charlotte is desperate for her friendship and approval, but we are never really given a reason why. Who is Lisa? What’s her story? Why is she so important to Charlotte? Six episodes in, I’m still not even clear on what exactly Lisa does, but at a dinner with her and some of her friends, Charlotte is able to impress all the Blacks with her extensive knowledge of Black art and Black artists, so I guess that’s cool, right?
It’s even more annoying when we are introduced to Dr. Nya Wallace (played by Karen Pittman), a law professor at Columbia University who is teaching a class Miranda is enrolled in for her Master of Human Rights degree. See, as Miranda clumsily explains to Wallace (who is completely uninterested—obviously so) as they wait in the same subway station, she was at home watching television when the “Muslim ban” came down, and she saw all those lawyers going to JFK to help, and she couldn’t just not do anything. Each of the first few scenes with Miranda and her Black heavily features Miranda’s white savior complex, because why introduce Black characters into this white show if you aren’t going to beat
white people everyone over the head with this message?
Both Parker and Pittman are capable of carrying their own, separate storylines, so while it’s refreshing to see color on the Sex and the City screen, it’s disappointing that their visibility only matters within the universe of the white characters they are propping up.
And there’s more of the same when we meet Che Diaz—as played by nonbinary Mexican actor Sara Ramirez who is smoking hot in this role—Carrie’s boss on a podcast she’s on to talk about sex and sexuality. Although there are some interesting and *cough* smoldering scenes with Ramirez down the line, we still only see Che when they are interacting with the white people on the show.
Full disclosure: I have been a huge Sarita Choudhury fan ever since she starred opposite Denzel Washington in Mississippi Masala (a great film if you haven’t seen it. Please find it and watch it). Every time I see her in something, I get so excited, and when I heard she was going to be in the reboot, I was happy.
She plays Seema Patel, a sexy and powerful Manhattan real estate broker who helps Carrie sell the penthouse she shared with Big and buy a new home after his death. Her scenes are again limited to her interactions with Carrie, and you just know there is so much more to her story that needs—and deserves to be told—outside of her relationship with the whiny brat main character of the show.
And speaking of Big, I’m not even going to get into the dumb way Carrie became a widow on the show. I’m just going to say, as a fan of the original series, I wanted to like this. Instead, I was annoyed from the very first episode. I am going to keep watching because there is some part of me that hopes it gets better, but after the weak and inexcusable way they wrote off Willie Garson’s character after he died, I don’t know how much hope there is.
Listen. We want to see ourselves reflected in the art we consume. I love Sex and the City, but there was a part of me that always knew the experiences reflected on the show were those of white women in their 30s and 40s, living a New York City life that made it possible for them to be completely oblivious that there were equally successful Black women walking around that city having similar experiences and conversations. I could never fully see myself in the show because we weren’t there.
Now that we are there, it’s time to write us into the story in a way that reflects us for us and not for the consumption of people who are not us.
Representation matters, but not like this.
Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download theGrio.com today!