The ‘Sex and the City’ Revival Exposes TV’s Infuriating Diversity Problem

There are plenty of other stories about sex to tell—so why are we giving Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte more screen time?

When studying journalism was just a dream of mine, Carrie Bradshaw was my idol. I mused about lugging my laptop to every coffee shop in Manhattan. My column would be called “CP and the City” because I’m a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy (get it?), and a website like Cosmopolitan would expect it weekly. Readers wouldn’t be able to get enough of my witty anecdotes about dating with a disability in the Big Apple. I would wear designer clothes—even at the coffee shop—and have a sprawling, fully wheelchair-accessible apartment with a view of the water and an accessible tub too.

So I should be thrilled I get to catch up with Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte on HBO Max’s upcoming Sex and the City limited series revival And Just Like That….

But I’m not.

I just watched Sex and the City 2 to refresh my memory of where we left the ladies (it was a bumpy ride, thanks for asking). When Mr. Big comes to pick up Carrie from her staycation at her old apartment, she says, “And just like that, it was 1998 again.” I get why it’s a clever title for a revival. But this disabled, white-passing, part Latinx, TV-obsessed woman can tell you that where representation and authenticity on television are concerned, being back in 1998 is a nightmare.

I understand that nostalgic entertainment is comforting. But now is not the time to give three straight, white, abled, rich female characters more screen time. Kim Cattrall hasn’t signed on to participate in the revival, and back in a 2017 interview, she said, “[Samantha] is a great part. I played it past the finish line and then some, and I loved it. And another actress should play it. Maybe they could make it an African American Samantha Jones or a Hispanic Samantha Jones or create another character.”

 

Now is not the time to give three straight, white, abled, rich female characters more screen time.

 

There will never be another Samantha Jones, but she’s onto something with that whole “create another character” thing. Sex and the City could live on for years as a reboot, with brand-new characters for Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte to mentor and befriend. Why can’t Maysoon Zayid be the next Muslim, disabled Carrie, writing a fictional version of the aforementioned column of my dreams? The disabled community needs a character like that on TV to help dispel myths about disability and sex, like that disabled people don’t have sex at all or that if we do, our partners are always disabled too. It would also provide a platform to talk about romance issues that don’t cross everyone’s mind regularly, like dating and building accessibility.

New Carrie needs her girlfriends, of course. Someone like Melissa Barrera could play a wonderful reincarnation of Miranda—a fierce Latinx lawyer who has other dreams for herself than raising a family, even though she feels cultural and familial pressure. “The city” that Carrie and friends love is filled with different ethnicities, after all. Why not reflect that and use it to start conversations about how body image and identity and sex intersect?

The new Charlotte could be Black and queer and having difficulty finding someone to live up to her expectations of a “power partner.” Kiersey Clemons could play her and finally give the Sex and the City franchise a way to explore the LGBTQIA community and sex in depth. I understand that in 1998, just having gay characters like Stanford and Anthony on TV was a big deal. But by the Sex and the City 2 movie in 2010, their lavish wedding and less than 10 minutes of screen time (which was mostly used to validate stereotypes) was sad. A new version of Sex and the City could be used to rectify these issues. Instead, by assuming we want Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte in the spotlight again, And Just Like That… is magnifying issues of diversity on TV.

 

GLAAD’s Where We Are on TV report for 2020 to 2021 revealed that LGBTQIA representation dropped across all types of TV networks. The streaming category tracks data on only three platforms—Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime—and the total number of LGBTQIA series regulars across those platforms decreased from 106 in last year’s report to 95. When recurring characters are included, the number increases to 141. But lesbian characters represent only 28 percent of those 141 characters. Overall, the report states that LGBTQIA representation on all platforms is going backward for the first time in years. The point is obvious: We don’t need more cis straight women on our screens, no matter if they’re old friends.

The Where We Are on TV report also tracks Latinx and disabled characters. On broadcast TV, only 7 percent of series regulars are Latinx. This is a decrease of two points from last year, according to the data. The percentage of disabled series regulars actually increased from 3.1 percent to 3.5 percent this year. But according to the CDC, about 26 percent of adults in the U.S. have some kind of disability. So to say the entertainment industry is disproportionately representing the community is putting it nicely.

 

We don’t need more cis straight women on our screens, no matter if they’re old friends.

 

I’m not blaming the Sex and the City franchise alone for TV’s diversity problem. But let’s take a look at where we last left the ladies: In Sex and the City 2, we left Carrie and Big on the couch in their lavish apartment, happily married and watching The Talk of the Town. Charlotte was happy to be home with her family and her nanny, and Miranda found the elusive work-life balance. Samantha was having sex on a beach and I would expect nothing less of her.

I respect the fact that these women’s stories aren’t over but not the fact that Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis are reported to be paid over $1 million dollars per episode to put champagne problems center stage for about five hours total.

I love champagne, and I know that part of the allure of Sex and the City is these women and their ridiculous wealth. But it’s downright irresponsible, boring, and almost insulting that it’s 2021 and someone thought we wanted to watch four white, straight characters whine about their privilege some more, especially when there are so many other stories to tell.