Reviews

Queer Sex And The City: A Tragically Hip Review

The original Sex and the City series completely missed the mark when it came to representing queerness is no secret. When the trailers of ‘And Just Like That…’ dropped, they promised to attempt to weave a more inclusive picture of New York City (and well, sex).

*Spoilers Ahead

Do you know what I thought I would never see in a mainstream show? A middle-aged, white-haired woman having sex with a ‘queer non-binary Mexican-Irish diva’. Obviously, ‘And Just Like That…’ is far from perfect. There are problematic interpretations, some really questionable plot and dialogue choices and a hyper (almost meta) awareness about how this is different from the original series. They seem to feel a need to spell out every single instance of the show being inclusive and pointedly talk about every single progressive change. And that also means that they get it frustratingly wrong at times, like when Carrie referred to a lehenga as a ‘saree’ or when they decided to keep emphasising the tired ‘my parents want me to get married’ storyline Hollywood forces on every single brown person.

The original Sex and the City series completely missed the mark when it came to representing queerness is no secret. When the trailers of ‘And Just Like That…’ dropped, they promised to attempt to weave a more inclusive picture of New York City (and well, sex). The first obvious step was actually bringing writers with diverse voices onboard, and Samatha Irby joined the team. She wrote the 5th episode. She also wrote the latest edition of her newsletter which I received in my inbox this morning. Titled “do i really deserve to die because you hated a fictional sex scene?”, Irby lets us know that ‘..i was not prepared to receive death threats over a fictional character’s fictional relationship choices that are fictional which means not real?’ Of course, the fictional characters in this case are a very hot Che and a very married Miranda who have sex in Carrie’s kitchen. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Usually I refrain from doing a detailed recap of the episode in a review but stick with me for this one because it is the plot that has become the biggest point of contention at the moment for fans and critics alike. This particular plot begins with Carrie needing hip surgery and, as expected, her friends rally around her with assurances of how they are completely by her side. What is completely unexpected, however, is that her podcast boss Che turns up unannounced to the hospital to see her. Which is sweet, but can also be a nightmare depending on what your relationship with your boss is like. Since Carrie is so indisposed as to require Charlotte’s assistance to pee at this point, she asks Miranda to get rid of Che – which she does by sharing a meal and a heartfelt conversation with them in the hospital’s cafeteria.

The sexual tension between these two was explored more obviously in episode four when they share an intimate moment involving smoke and lips that come very, very close – teasing the viewers and Miranda alike. This tension finally finds its moment of release in Carrie’s kitchen when Miranda is on ‘Carrie-duty’. Che decides to (once again) drop by unannounced to meet her employee – but this time, they bring a bottle of tequila with them. While Carrie is asleep in her bed, Miranda and Che end up drinking and smoking up in her kitchen. And then they have sex in it. Carrie wakes up needing to pee, and ends up seeing them. She tries to pee in a bottle because she does not want to interrupt whatever is happening, but explodes at Miranda later after Che leaves.

This sex scene has people completely divided: Miranda is married. Miranda has made a big deal about Steve cheating in the past. Miranda has previously questioned her sexuality and reached the ‘resolution’ that she is straight. Miranda is having sex with her recovering friend’s boss while she is supposed to be helping said friend. Basically, a lot of fans feel that this storyline is not consistent with the Miranda that they know and love. However, perhaps the important thing is that the universe that the show operates in and the characters that exist in it ALL agree with ALL of the above. Including Miranda. Cynthia Nixon as Miranda delivers an absolutely phenomenal performance in the exchange that she has with Carrie about what exactly happened in the kitchen. We have known Miranda to be tidy and structured and balanced. Now we get to see her standing in the middle of the chaos that is the result of two simple words which she has perhaps not said out loud till this moment: ‘I’m unhappy.’

Does that justify infidelity? No. The point of this episode does not seem to be to pass a positive moral judgment on her actions. Instead, it seems to want to take us on the journey of a fifty-something woman realising that she has ticked all the boxes on her to-have list (marriage, career, child) and is now dealing with whether that list is actually what she wants to abide by for the rest of her life. This storyline does not feel like the previously-known Miranda because for the first time, Miranda is not sure of what she is searching for and why she doesn’t feel content. To expect that the pandemic, which had an effect on all of us, did not change a single thing about how fictional characters navigate their lives or change their perspectives of it whatsoever is unrealistic. Not to mention that we last met Miranda more than ten years ago. Also, it is perfectly okay for someone to have previously felt sure that they were heterosexual and now be questioning their orientation again. Everyone has a different journey and all of them are equally valid.

This episode also saw Charlotte and Harry getting to know that their child has asked everyone in the school to call them ‘Rock’ and goes by they/them pronouns. As the parents try to have a conversation with the teachers and understand why they weren’t given a more active role in these conversations, we see the teachers’ affirm Rock’s agency and let us all know that it is best to let the child take the lead because it is their identity; they really do know themselves best. We also saw Samantha ‘appear’ for a few seconds when Carrie exchanges texts with her – which is honestly just sad because there is a huge Kim Catrell shaped hole in the series which cannot be filled by anyone or anything (and rightfully so, since she is completely within her right to not want to return, no matter what the reason). It is also a little jarring to see the sudden closeness between Carrie and Anthony because of the way Stanford was written off after Willie Garson’s death (which again, makes you wonder why they would choose such an ungracious exit for such a well-loved queer character).

However, in the case of this particular plot point, Miranda’s exploration of who she is seems to be grounding the show in an element of reality, chaos, and self-exploration, giving space to a deeper and more progressive storyline than any that I have ever seen in the SATC universe. And let’s be honest, this is a universe that has included a lot of problematic ideas about femininity and queerness in the past. It is also giving us a chance to see middle-aged queer people as individuals with desires and personalities that go way beyond being a secondary character or afterthought.

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The student that always has her hand up in class, and in life. Dreams of a world where Lizzo's songs automatically shower glitter on the listener, minorities are not constantly expected to put in unequal emotional labour for everything, and kind people find each other despite all the noise.
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