Television

We Didn’t Need a Racially Diverse Sex and the City

We already know what the series has to say about race, and it wasn’t promising.

Sarah Jessica Parker poses with the cast and crew at HBO Max's premiere of "And Just Like That" at Museum of Modern Art on December 08, 2021 in New York City.
The cast and crew of “And Just Like That” at the show’s premiere at the Museum of Modern Art. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

On this week’s episode of the Waves, Slate’s news director Susan Matthews teamed up with Slate producers Danielle Hewitt and Cheyna Roth to talk about the new Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That, which premieres on Dec. 8. The three discussed whether we really needed another installment in the Sex and the City franchise, and what it means that the show is trying to get racial representation right this time. (The podcast was recorded before the show came out—no spoilers follow.)

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Susan Matthews: So, how did you guys feel when you heard about the reboot?

Danielle Hewett: I felt like how I feel about every other reboot of just like, did we really need this? There are so many other stories to tell that aren’t Sex and the City and aren’t existing IP, it’s just kind of very annoying … It felt like the show has wrapped up multiple times by this point.

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Matthews: Yeah, we’ve left the characters multiple times. We left them at the end of the series, we left them at the end of the first movie, we left them at the end of the second movie…

Cheyna Roth: And just watching the trailer, it looks like a show that really doesn’t have anything to say. I was struggling watching the trailer to figure out: What is the conflict that’s going to happen?

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However, I will say this—there was an interview with one of the show creators, and he said that essentially he wants to tell stories about women of this age group and you really can’t do that with new characters. I don’t think that’s completely true, but I get the point that in order to tell stories of women of this age, you need to have some group that people are already invested in.

Matthews: So the thing about this that I find so confounding is that their first argument is that they want to make stories about women in their 50s, which—sure, I actually am interested in that. But they’re starting with the premise that you need to have established characters in order to get people to care enough—and then they’re bringing in four other characters, in part to make up for the show’s original blinding whiteness. And so it just seems to me that both of their arguments are contradicting each other a little bit. It’s like: You have to care about the characters, but we’re actually introducing new characters because we realized that our original premise was flawed.

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This has become a trend—we bring back shows that were super, super white and we diversify them, and then we say that it’s better.

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Hewitt: They announce ‘we’re going to tackle race now,’ and it’s like…I actually don’t necessarily care what Sex and the City has to say about race. I think the problem is, you don’t get to call a mulligan on the first round of your show and be like, yeah we didn’t do this the first time so we’re going to do it again. I’m not itching for them to get this “right” because it was just a show about four white women. I fully believe that these four women don’t know any Black people. It is a show about these four women, it doesn’t have to be the representation of everyone’s experience of living in the city and dating.

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I would much rather see a show that was, from the jump, intentionally about four women of color or intentionally about white women and women of color. It’s frustrating to see this is the only way we can make representation happen is insert it into this existing property. It is disappointing to see so many television shows only center on white women. But I don’t think the answer is to make Sex and the City a different television show.

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Roth: For me, one of the things I keep coming back to is the fact that this is a show that, when it occasionally did have non-white characters, it portrayed them really, really badly. I don’t think there’s anything that they can do in a new series that’s going to erase Samantha’s Black boyfriend Chivon and how Samantha acted around him and his sister.

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Matthews: And from the trailer, it just feels like they’re slotting these women into the same kind of roles that Sex and the City has. It’s a show about very wealthy people who live in New York and have problems that are entertaining to watch. I feel like they’re just making Sex and the City again, and what we actually need is to just have other new shows.

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If you’re doing this in service of making an actually really good show, then I’m into it. But if you’re doing this to just kind of correct for that, then it’s not going to be good. The thing we need to actually do good work with representation is to not just fit it in, but to make it part of a story that we want to tell for a reason.

Hewitt: I would much rather have someone who has already fit thinking about racial dynamics or talking about non-white people into their worldview, then give it to someone who has different strengths. There are other people with other points of view that are much more interesting to hear from on these topics.

To listen to the full conversation, subscribe to Slate Plus:

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