Sex And The City is one of many examples of media that was considered progressive for its time, but has since become dated and problematic. It’s clear from the season two trailer of And Just Like That… that the spinoff is no different. Sex And The City is known for very many things: fabulous outfits, quippy one liners, and the infamous “Carrie run.” The new reboot of the series, And Just Like That… continues the legacy of the notorious HBO hit, with Carrie and (some) of her friends taking on new storylines, new relationships, and new Prada bags.
But there is one glaringly obvious problem. Both Sex & The City and And Just Like That… have been constantly criticized for their lack of diversity, as well as for their mishandling of storylines that involve people of color. By looking at the season two trailer for And Just Like That…, it’s clear that the show is trying to rectify its actions in the worst way possible: with performative activism and virtue signaling. This has many people asking the question: how do you diversify a cast without contributing to tokenism?
The trailer was released Wednesday April 26. Shortly after the drop, Twitter was ablaze with criticism. This tweet from writer and producer B.A. Parker pointed out the strange dynamics of the trailer, which features several, seemingly random women of color. These women, who rarely speak, essentially serve the purpose of “yes men” to Carrie and her friends. (One of the first and only lines spoken by a black woman in the trailer is over exaggerated ebonics: “For real?!”) The post has nearly 60,000 likes, and over 6.4 million views.
I still can’t get over each main character getting their own emotional support woman of color https://t.co/jIlcvbMM1d
— B.A. Parker (@aparkusfarce) April 26, 2023
Parker points out how this is clearly just a misguided response to the backlash the show received for its previous lack of diversity, where characters like Miranda’s law professor, Nya Wallace, was shoehorned in with minimal screen time and an underdeveloped storyline. Other users call out the show for being tone-deaf, considering that Sex and The City was never a show that featured, was associated with, or positively portrayed people of color. With this new, seemingly well-intentioned approach to diversity, they’re simply just contributing to the same problem that they’re aiming to rectify. And it seems forced, disingenuous, and out-of-character for them to do so now.
the crazy thing is the show was always just 4 privileged white women being offensive and acting privileged but now they’re trying to make them super “progressive” which seems out of character if you’ve watched the show ?
— tia (@ladymarmaladea) April 27, 2023
But this is not the first time SATC has faced criticism for trying to respond to their utter disregard and mistreatment of non-white characters. Within the SATC universe, it’s very clear that people of color have always been an afterthought —or simply just not thought of at all.
The original run of the show has been undeniably and overtly racist, and people are finally speaking up about it. TheTake has a full 22 minute video on all the things SATC got wrong: “In Sex and The City’s version of New York City, one of the most multicultural cities in the world, people of color are mostly absent or treated as set dressing. Most problematic is the number of people of color who are only shown in roles of servitude to the white characters.”
In season 6 of Sex & The City, Samatha “tries out” a black man. The role for Samantha’s suitor was actually turned down by actor Blair Underwood, who stated “I’m not interested in [contributing to the notion of tokenism and] black curiosity.” The episode was riddled with problematic narratives. These include (but are not limited to) the hypersexualization of black people, the criminalization of the black community (Samatha goes to an “urban” club for the first time, and is checked by security: an experience that is foreign to her). To top it all off, Samantha is painted as the hero after getting into a fight with an “Angry Black Woman”, mocking her by saying that, and I quote, “Get your big black ass out of my face! And your okra wasn’t ‘all that!’ ”
It’s clear from this one episode alone, that many people don’t trust the showrunners to handle the topic of intersectionality. And it’s not like the idea of tokenism and performative activism are anything new. Social activism has been in a huge bloom since the early 2010s, so they have no excuse to continue to perpetuate this narrative of black sidekick. We’re tired of being background characters, we’re tired of not getting our own storylines, and we’re tired of only getting media representation if it’s in subordination to white women. It’s 2023, and we need to do way better.
Top Photo Credit: Screenshot from “And Just Like That…” Season 2 Trailer via HBO Studios