How ‘And just like that’ Has Challenged Its ‘Woke’ Audience When It Comes to Race17.12.2021
It’s clear that things will be different after HBO Max announced its plans to revive the late-’90s series Sex and the City.
The series would not only be without Samantha Jones, Kim Cattrall’s beloved character, but it was also adding a few new faces to the show, saying goodbye some old friends and even introducing a new title, And Just Like That. All these changes seemed to mark a new chapter in Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte’s lives. They were in their mid-fifties, had been together through many things, including marriages, divorces and Post-it notes breakups and many other cosmopolitans.
This new era was not just about glamorous women running around New York City giggling at each other’s sex. Michael Patrick King, executive producer and showrunner of the series, recently explained that it was also an opportunity to correct some of the original series’ shortcomings.
The producers wanted to make And Just Like That, which aired Dec. 9, available for many. They addressed the elephant in their room by intentionally addressing the fact that the original 94-episode series featured very few people of color.
King stated that the title was changed to be a reminder that it is slightly different. It’s the same characters but it’s a different world. “We decided to change the frame of everything. Who else was there that we didn’t know before we made this decision? What is the world today that was not there when these characters were 35 years old? That’s race, sex and privilege.”
It is no secret that the OG Sex and the City were severely lacking in diversity. Carrie Bradshaw and Miranda Hobbes were just a few of the many partners that Charlotte York and Samantha Jones had with each other in New York City’s multicultural paradise. Only two Black men and one Brazilian woman were among them.
THe one of only Black actresses on the original series, was Sundra Oakley, who played Adeena, the young chef. Her entire storyline revolved around her dislike of Chivon (Asio Hismith) relationship to Samantha, because she was white. The episode contains some very offensive lines, such as Samantha’s comment about Chivon “big Black cock”. Oakley said that she was happy with her experience filming, but in retrospect, she did feel a little regret.
Oakley explained to Vanity Fair that she was happy to work on the show when she was 20 years old. “But, even after a few years,. . . It’s almost like “Oh man, why did it have so much to do with that?” It could have been so much more.”
Sex and the City didn’t have a problem with representation because of the lack of racial diversity. Sarah Jessica Parker acknowledged in 2018 that there was “no substantial conversation about LGBTQ community.” While transphobic jokes were made into some episodes, Samantha’s relationship with a woman was dismissed as a temporary thing.
It was, to put it mildly: there was plenty of room for improvement. King was quick to resolve the matter. Following the January announcement of the revival, which confirmed Parker’s return, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davies, the next announcement was that Sara Ramirez, a non-binary actor, was to play Che Diaz, a queer stand up comedian. Karen Pittman and Nicole Ari Parker, both Black, joined the cast in the summer along with British-Indian actress Sarita Chudhury.
The revival series pairs the four new characters with one of the original female characters. Choudhury, Carrie’s powerful real estate broker, is charged with selling Carrie’s luxurious apartment to Mr. Big. Ramirez.
Everyone’s favorite corporate lawyer, Miranda, has switched to a backpack as she pursues a master’s in humanitarian law at Columbia University. She decided that a pink pussyhat wasn’t going the way of her future. Miranda had a car crash moment in class with Pittman’s Dr. Nya. She blurted out a series of microaggressions, and then continued flailing during subsequent encounters.
Charlotte wants to be friends with Nicole Ari Parker’s Lisa Todd Wexley. Carrie is a whiz at being Nicole’s fashionista. The humanitarian-documentarian is considered the “It Mom” of the world of private schooling for Upper East Siders, and Charlotte struggles when she’s introduced to Wexley’s predominantly Black friend group.
King understood that it was not about putting people of color or queer characters on the show. It was also about making sure they fit in the world Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda live in.
King stated, “We wanted to make every gesture that was about society personal rather than polemic.” “We tried to put it in character and see how these characters interact with one another–each character is meant to start in the wheelhouse.”
The original trio didn’t have it all easy. The first episode shows Miranda, normally a bright and happy person, having a difficult time understanding Dr. Wallace’s conversations. Miranda was genuinely trying to advocate for minority and underserved communities. She not only verbally vomited while explaining that Wallace wasn’t her professor because her hair was braided, but also inflamed an innocent encounter between Wallace, a campus security guard, and Miranda.
Pittman stated that it was difficult to watch these scenes unfold and she is grateful that Pittman allowed the show to have such awkward moments between its Black and white characters.
Pittman stated, “When I first saw those scenes, I thought, wow! This is a great place to start because quite frankly, it’s very authentic. It’s how I started all my relationships with people I’ve had awkward, weird moments with.”
This is the result of having diverse writers’ rooms. They are able to understand the nuanced conversations around microaggressions, even as small as hair color differences. It was a nuanced conversation about women and race, Black women and white women, as well as what that looks like.
She said, “I think it’s an interesting space to be in, and to be speaking to our ‘woke’ audience, who are like, ‘Oh, I’m woke.’ But are you awake? Is that true? If so, how amusing could that be? Although we weren’t trying teach anything, we wanted to show how it feels when two people walk through that moment together and end up becoming friends.
This is the result of having diverse writers’ rooms. They are able to understand the nuanced conversations around microaggressions, even as small as your hair being different. Nicole Ari Parker stated that the writers deliberately allowed these characters to exist as they were, letting Carrie and Miranda figure it out for themselves instead of putting the burden of education on race and sexuality on queer characters.
She said, “Someone made that innovative choice at the top as well as in the writers’ area: ‘Let’s be doubly conscious that we’re not creating PowerPoint presentations from the Black characters’.” Let all that happen on the subway in real-time. Let’s make all that happen over a cup coffee, and let the kids struggle with it.”
She said that these women have a lot of things in common. “But our race, our climate and our time require a lot of debriefing and bumps in the road for us to reach that friendship.
Ramirez, who uses the they/them pronouns said that they were delighted that And Just Like That made room for trans and queer people and that they appreciated the fact that one character didn’t represent the entire community.
They said that Che is a single representation of a multidimensional human character. He can be funny, witty, problematic, dynamic, messy and human. This is only one representation. While visibility is not justice, visibility is vital. Visibility allows people to see themselves and others.
Ramirez, a long-time fan of the show said that they will be there to support the audience as And Just Like That attempts to “can meet this moment” in 2021 when so much important conversation is needed.
They added, “It really does matter.”