In some ways, the world of Sex And The City (SATC) hasn’t aged much. The fashion remains as edgy and desirable as ever (even though the footwear of choice today might be the comfortable white sneaker and not the tottering high-heeled Louboutins favoured by Carrie and co.), and female friendships and solidarity are even more celebrated in the post-SATC world, as is the sex-positivity the show embraced back in the 1990s.
But in many other ways, the show’s values seem out of place. In the season 2 episode The Awful Truth, Carrie talks about a friend who is married to a horrible, shouty, rude and unlovable man, and when he yells at both of them for waking him up by sneaking into the couples’ apartment (their shared apartment, mind you) late in the evening, she literally tiptoes around him, commenting that “he is just tired and cranky”.
No Carrie, he is abusive, and wondering whether telling your friend to leave him is cool or not because of some vague principle like “don’t interfere in a marriage” is not the kind of dilemma that ages well. The world of dating and marriage as portrayed in SATC has moved on inexorably. Women don’t sit next to a telephone waiting for it to ring, and it’s not just the technology that has changed, it is the agency they have to control their own romantic and sexual lives.
In today’s world, Carrie’s relationship with Mr Big would evoke all sorts of uncomfortable questions about the power imbalance between them—not just financially, but the difference in their ages. You just have to scroll through a few posts on subreddits like r/Relationships and r/AmITheAsshole to see how much the dominant public discourse on power equations in a relationship has changed from SATC’s glory days: Even the whiff of an age discrepancy can set off alarm bells in the minds of today’s daters.
If the show’s giddy, heightened femininity is passe in a more gender-fluid world, the conversations on privilege are loud enough to make the economics of the show seem very strange indeed— for instance, how does a columnist with a New York tabloid afford a Manhattan apartment, designer clothes and drinks at “it” bars, not to speak of weekends at Martha’s Vineyard and flying around the world?
Even the title of the forthcoming new show on HBO Max, And Just Like That…, with its teenage-diary ellipses and soft-focus nothingness, is twee and girly in a cloying way that the original, to give it its due, wasn’t, and crashes all our hopes for an edgy 21st century reboot in the style of 'Fleabag meets SATC'.
Of course, the new SATC could evolve from these positions and embrace the newer dynamics of sexual relationships (along with sneakers and exaggerated brows and anti-fit clothing and the death of casual kissing in a post-covid world), but then it wouldn’t be SATC, it would be some other show. And with Kim Cattrall’s Samantha not making an appearance in this reboot, it could well be.