Intersects and the City
"Were the ethnic festivities to your liking?"
If the past few years have plagued you with worry, do not fear. Whatever vexes you today will have been replaced in a few decades with fresh dangers on the horizon. Fifty years ago Americans worried about the super power rising, Japan Inc., and very smart people like Jonathan Rauch wrote books on how the Japanese would soon dominate the world economy and replace the United States as the leader of the free world and the globe.
Much of what these critics had to say, especially about the poverty of American public schools in comparison to the culture of education in Japan, remains true. But Japan may have been kept from dominating the globe by one of the other concerns of the intelligentsia of the 1970s and the 1980s, The Elder Question.
The late Governor Richard Lamm of Colorado argued that elderly people, especially ill elderly people, have a “duty to die,” because of how costly they are to society in consuming healthcare resources. Philosopher Leon Kass wrote extensively on “The Case for Mortality,” arguing that besides the expense of life-extension, “immortal” human life becomes frivolous, and also blocks the young from finding unoccupied rungs on the ladder of success. My fellow libertarians wrote extensively on how the growing number of long-lived Americans would bankrupt social welfare ponzi schemes like Social Security and Medicare.
Covid - and all the other “gain of function” bioweapons the research departments of the American, Chinese, or other militaries will no doubt continue to generate - may have solved Governor Lamm’s problem, and perhaps even helped with that of the libertarians. The Imperial States may have created little biological agents that will eliminate the elderly when they become too fat or too sick, so that the subjects who can no longer generate tax revenue, or breed new taxpayers, or serve in the military (or as interns) will all have a shelf life and an expiration date. Like the rise of Japan Inc., the surplus of elderly may no longer be something to worry about. (Our future plagues may all instead be acronymic: PC, UFO, ET, CO2, M2F and F2M, AI.)
But some people may slip past the respiratory euthanasia nanobots - the wealthy or the healthy - and they will still face Dr. Kass’s prediction that lives without ends are lives without purposes. And for something of a peek at what that could be like, we might turn to the resurrection of Sex and the City, HBO’s And Just Like That.
The title suggests our surprise at the passage of time. The show picks up over a decade after the original series ended, and it begins in loss. Mr. Big (Chris Noth), who had eventually married Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) dies “just like that” in the first episode, after a workout on a Peloton. In our world the actor Kim Cattrall refused to join this production, so in the dramaturgy her character Samantha is lost to Europe, having moved to London, but appears in the show via texts, condolence cards, and conversations among the remaining three friends (Parker along with Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis) of the original foursome. But perhaps the biggest loss is the loss of looks. Nixon, whose character was always the bookish nerd of the group is now a grey haired old lady. Parker, who critics of the original series sometimes denigrated as horse faced and only saved by hair and makeup artists and luxurious costumes, is here in many close ups just an old Jewish lady. Kristin Davis, always the sweetest and prettiest of the group, remains the cutest, but the lips and face have so clearly been worked on by doctors with imperfect results, and the WASP princess’s generous curvy derriere the camera sometimes showed in the original series is now an enlarged square box that produces a shelf when in a tennis skirt. Kim Cattrall, though a decade older (born in 1956, while the other actors were all born in 1965 or 1966), actually looks younger. (Fan and writer Megan Fox - not THAT Megan Fox - reports that the writing team for the new show includes no one from the older show, and argues that the producers of the new show are sadists who are torturing viewers by making these characters look older and less attractive than they actually are.)
The fact that these women now look much older than the characters we had grown to love is relevant. We do actually expect women more than men to be attractive, physically attractive, and though there are many fields of endeavor where this should not matter, is a popular TV show one of them? In real life an elderly woman could be a brilliant novelist or she could be loved by her grandchildren. But a TV siren has to have sex appeal. The only alternative would be to be remarkably talented and funny. Betty White could get away with being as old as Betty White. Larry David can - just barely - get away with looking like Larry David. Nixon, Parker, and Davis don’t have that level of talent, they only have our nostalgia to count on - we loved them long ago and they have to hope that we will want to see them again just because of that. Even though they aren’t actually our mothers or grandmothers. (Even in their own dramatic world the ones of them who have children seem to rank their friendships over their relationships with their children, or their spouses). There is a reason Greta Garbo decided at a certain point to be a recluse.
Another oddity of the show is that it is no longer a foursome. I’m not sure why, but the foursome does seem to be an important element of the 30 minute situation comedy, from The Honeymooners to Hot in Cleveland: Lucy, Ricky, Fred, Ethel; Archie, Edith, Gloria, Meathead; Jerry, Kramer, Elaine, George; Will, Grace, Jack, Karen; Samantha, Darren, Endora, Larry Tate; Barney, Andy, Opie, Aunt Bea; Turtle, Vincent, Johnny, Eric. (The successful comedies that have another number in an ensemble often do it by having multiple ensembles, for example one at work and one at home…and one ensemble will be a foursome: Frasier, Niles, Daphne, Martin; Mary, Mr. Grant, Murray, Ted.)
Without the sex appeal of looks or youth and without whatever the magic dynamics are of the number 4, And Just Like That has to find something else to make itself interesting and so it is saved by a current concern, intersectionality. And Just Like That replaces Samantha with not one, but four new friends, at least one for each of the remaining three characters. And even without being a Netflix product, the four new friends are each a different color, as if Samantha were a ray of white light being decomposed by a prism into beams of different hues. It’s “Intersects and the City.” It’s a little like 3 pale ancient vampires have reconnected with their mortality and their humanity by preying on ethnic groups that have higher birth rates and lower average ages. I kept thinking of the scene in Bring It On where the inner city black school’s cheerleaders confront the suburban girls who have been stealing their routines with the question “Were the ethnic festivities to your liking?”
The original Samantha character was described by critics and fans twenty years ago as actually being a gay man but played by a woman. (Partly because the show’s creators, Darren Star and Michael Patrick King, were gay men, though the story is based on the writing of Candace Bushnell.) Urban and unashamedly promiscuous, Samantha bedded everyone she fancied, including even one woman (played by Sonia Braga). In the new show Samantha’s characteristics are distributed among four new characters. Sara Ramirez plays “Che,” a Latina non-binary sex positive butchy bi/lesbian who is Carrie’s boss and eventually Miranda’s (Cynthia Nixon’s) lover. Nicole Ari Parker plays a very proper upper middle class private school super mom, Lisa, who is Charlotte’s (Kristin Davis’s) friend, dubbed by one character, as if they were Barbie dolls, “black Charlotte.” Karen Pittman plays an assertive African American law school professor who teaches and becomes friends with Miranda. Sarita Choudhury plays Carrie’s Indian-American realtor who helps her sell the home she lived in with Mr. Big. Altogether the four women embody variously the style, sexuality, success and sass that was Samantha.
Choudhury’s presence is interesting since her career famously began with one of the original “intersectional” films, where she played Denzel Washington’s love interest in Mississippi Masala (1991). Like FX’s Pose, Mississippi Masala was organically intersectional, a story about people of different races and cultures interacting with each other. And Just Like That risks instead being intersectionality porn, where the “diversity and inclusion” is grating and artificial, as in all those Netflix remakes where characters are re-cast as another race, leading to complicated families with lots of biracial half-siblings and step kids.
Samantha’s being a gay man in a woman’s body was essential to Sex and the City. All women (and men) were being taught that they could and should live as gay men did - especially as gay men lived, before they could marry and adopt or have kids, and before AIDS connected gay sex to mortality much more directly than straight sex ever was, the latter simply generating those who will replace us. The pill, gender equality, and capitalism’s creation of jobs for women and household appliances that could do the work of wives meant that marriage and children were no longer necessary and could certainly be postponed. The only one of the foursome that was ever eager to both marry and procreate was Charlotte, and she delayed it so long that she ended up having to marry outside her faith and almost could not conceive. There is a reason this resurrection of Sex and the City is titled And Just Like That and not They Grow Up So Fast.
Gays always had a special auxiliary role in Sex and the City, which may be why the show was popular with gay men as well as young single women. (In DC’s Dupont Circle gayborhood, one bar, Duplex Diner, put whatever vodka concoction the ladies were drinking on screen on their menu, and had watch parties where hushed gays would swill Absolut lemontinis while following their adventures.) When you don’t have a husband and you have a fight with your girlfriend, to whom can you complain? When you don’t have a boyfriend but need a male escort, where do you turn? When you want a man to tell you you look good and need to actually ask him, or when you even want a male assessment that is objective, you can’t ask a male lover (actual or prospective), so whom do you ask? (Sex and City had the extra protective step of keeping the gay male friends much less handsome than the four women.)
In the original show Carrie and Charlotte each had gay best friends (and sometimes their pets did not get along). In the new show a new gay man is tossed into the mix, gay actor Jonathan Groff, who plays a young and juicy plastic surgeon who offers Carrie advice on what she could do to make Sara Jessica Parker’s aging face more youthful - but while telling her she is beautiful and doesn’t really need to do a thing. But let’s just see what you would look like if we did this…. His computer shows the alterations, and like magic Carrie is once again the SJP of old.
Since And Just Like That is an HBO offering, viewers can also watch additional material, including interviews with the actors. Sara Ramirez (in real life married to a man) has one such interview in which she spews wokeness, telling us her gay non-binary character of color represents a breakthrough because the original show had only one kind of gay (i.e. gay white CIS gender men), thereby erasing a whole season’s story arc where Samantha had an affair with a Latin woman played by Sonia Braga, or another season’s subplot where Charlotte traveled with a posse of A-list art world lesbians who danced and drank all night (and helped her career) until one wealthy Chinese lesbian who took an interest in her made her declare whether she was gay or not, replying to Charlotte’s vague affirmations that she enjoyed the sisterhood of being with women that it all came down to whether she ate pussy or not. Ms. Ramirez more crucially does not understand how the original show was all about how young single Manhattan women could now live as if they were gay men. (As an actor though, Ramirez - and Choudhury - are commanding presences in the new series, more than holding their own with the remainder of the original cast.)
That the cast is so woke they don’t understand the original show is not surprising. HBO has other shows that savagely skewer wokeness and modern liberalism, particularly Curb Your Enthusiasm and White Lotus. The latter show also had extra clips with interviews with the actors who absolutely had no clue that the show was a reductio of upper middle class liberalism (the writer-creator-director of the show, Mike White, a white gay man, is in interviews not as clueless).
The march of the intersectional warriors may destroy television and movies, as it has tried to destroy comedy. Some in Hollywood warn of organized attempts to dis-employ first white men, including the Jews, and then anyone who is not politically correct.
I’m hoping instead capitalism can solve the problem. Just as cable TV allowed us to have BET and TeleMundo and Logo (and its closeted friend Bravo) and other channels for minority audiences the old FCC regulated monopoly networks had to ignore, a free global market in streaming services should mean someone somewhere can produce non-woke shows. (Update: Ben Shapiro’s Breitbartean Daily Wire site released a feature film after this article was published and has two more scheduled for release.) Until then we may have to watch Carrie and friends imbibe faddish ideology and repeat popular jargon to fill up their empty and never-ending lives.
A shorter version of this review appeared this week at SpliceToday.