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Sex, race and the city: how has And Just Like That handled diversity? | And Just Like That

Rejoice! The new Sex and the City (SATC) reboot is not quite the depressing slog it appeared to be. Following two lackluster debut episodes, the third installment of And Just Like That finds our girls regaining their former strides. Carrie, spiraling from the discovery that her late husband just left his ex-wife $1m, is back to peak Carrie hijinx, unsuccessfully stalking Natasha only to barge in on her on the toilet. Charlotte stops crying, and an initially unbearable Miranda feels newly revitalized, with fans across the internet delighted to find out she might actually be queer!

The latter remains unconfirmed, but what we do see is Miranda lingering at the afterparty of Che’s (Sara Ramirez) standup special, lavishing emphatic praise on to Carrie’s new boss. Seeking to quell Miranda’s hyper-enthusiasm, Che offers weed: “Do you mind if I shotgun you?” they ask, exhaling a stream of smoke in scintillating proximity to Miranda’s lips. As the scene unfolds in slow motion, guitar feedback drowns out all surrounding noise. It feels as though something profound in Miranda’s world has just changed.

Or she’s high.

In any case, this storyline is a welcome break from Miranda’s rut as an over-eager white ally, an irritating new development that plagued episodes one and two. The most assertive and self-actualized of SATC’s original quartet, she’s been rebooted as a specific type of obnoxious white woman, desperate for validation from her new Black Columbia law professor, Dr Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman). It’s the heavy-handed overcompensation of a show founded on four white, privileged, heterosexual women; atoning for SATC’s history of racial cluelessness, AJLT confronts issues of race head on, with Miranda on the receiving end of its newly woke sensibilities. (Truly, she’s the only character who could handle it.)

In episode two, she name-drops How to Be an Anti-Racist as she needlessly rescues Nya from a non-altercation: “That’s very noble of you, if not a tad bit white savior complex,” the professor responds, in an exchange so cringe-inducing that I can never watch this episode again.

Miranda Hobbes’ current struggles echo those of the early-aughts franchise, both being feminist icons of a past era. Ageing for either has not been a linear progression into maturity, but an inelegant process of trial and error, the awkward navigation of a landscape dotted with cultural landmines. For both character and show, the anticipation of heavy scrutiny results in painful overthinking, as Miranda later explains to Carrie: “I was just so worried about saying the wrong thing in this climate that I said all the wrong things.”

The awkwardness of these scenes feel deliberate, while the setup feels ungainly. It’s been a full decade since the last SATC film (originator of the phrase “Lawrence of my labia”), ample time for these characters to have evolved offscreen, and yet we’re still watching them adjust to having Black and brown friends for the first time ever. Che and Nya provide respective foils for Carrie and Miranda, only younger, cooler and non-white. Implausible scenarios were invented for these friendships to occur: Miranda meets Nya pursuing a degree in human rights, and Carrie, an avatar for the original series’ ultra-vanilla, heteronormative views on sex (recall her disdain for Samantha’s habits; the episode of bisexuality-shaming, or a consistent preference for the missionary position) joins a podcast with the non-binary, half-Mexican, sexually progressive Che.

Sara Ramirez in And Just Like That
Sara Ramirez in And Just Like That. Photograph: HBO

(Charlotte’s new friendship with Lisa Todd Wexley, the queen bee of moms at her children’s school, actually seems perfectly reasonable, although their dynamic doesn’t come into play until episode four.)

Reminiscent of feel-good movies like Green Book, this new-brown-friend formulation rides a fine line between tokenism and diversity. In the former, people of color exist strictly in service to the bad whites, shepherding them down a path to less racism, less homophobia. Where we find the original characters’ shortcomings, the new characters offer infinite patience: for Carrie’s prudishness, Che has encouraging, straightforward advice: “You better step your pussy up.” (Carrie never really steps her pussy up.) When Miranda actually threatens Che with physical violence, she’s disarmed by their calm, charismatic flirtation – the kind of survival skill that marginalized people develop out of necessity. There’s good evidence, however, that the series is headed for diversity, with fully formed histories, futures and ambitions that continue in the absence of their white friends. (Believe me. I’ve seen the fourth episode.)

As for Miranda, the third episode offers viewers a sigh of relief; freed from the burdens of allegory and exposition, her character returns to the familiar rhythms of the SATC universe as the cool, level-headed voice of reason. Where both Carrie and Charlotte are essentially who they have always been, defined by their respective relationships to men, Miranda’s embarking on a new trajectory that embraces the signs and missteps of aging (which may also include alcoholism, a new queer love interest, or both). When Brady’s girlfriend Luisa accidentally comments on Miranda’s “ageing bones”, she recovers with an excellent point about the passage of time: “I’m ageing too,” she says. “That’s kind of part of living.”



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