Whatever vexes you today will be replaced in a few decades with fresh dangers on the horizon. Fifty years ago Americans worried about the superpower rising, Japan Inc., and 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. 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 in the 1970s and the 1980s, The Elder Question.
The late Gov. 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 undoubtedly continue to generate—may have solved Gov. Lamm’s problem. The States may have created little biological agents that will eliminate the elderly when they become too fat or sick, so that the subjects who can no longer generate tax revenue, 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 may slip past the respiratory euthanasia nanobots—the wealthy or healthy—and they’ll still face Kass’ prediction that lives without ends are lives without purposes. And a peek at what that could be like, turn to the resurrection of Sex and the City, HBO’s And Just Like That.
The title suggests 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’d 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, 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 the biggest loss is the loss of looks. Nixon, whose character was always the bookish nerd of the group, is now a gray-haired old lady. Parker, who critics of the original series sometimes denigrated as horse-faced, only saved by hair and makeup artists and luxurious costumes, is here in many close-ups as just an old Jewish lady. Kristin Davis, always the sweetest and prettiest of the group, remains so, but the lips and face have clearly been worked on imperfect results, and the WASP princess’s generous curvy derriere 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.
The fact that these women now look much older than the characters we’d grown to love is relevant. We do expect women more than men to be attractive, and though there are many fields where this shouldn’t matter, is a popular TV show one of them? In real life an elderly woman could be a brilliant novelist or 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.
Another oddity of the show is that it’s no longer a foursome. I’m not sure why, but the foursome is an important element of the 30-minute sitcom, from The Honeymooners to Hot in Cleveland: Lucy, Ricky, Fred, Ethel; Jerry, Kramer, Elaine, George; Will, Grace, Jack, Karen; Samantha, Darren, Endora, Larry Tate; Barney, Andy, Opie, Aunt Bea; Turtle, Vincent, Johnny, Eric.
Without the sex appeal, And Just Like That has to find something else to make itself interesting and so it’s saved by a current concern, intersectionality. And Just Like That replaces Samantha with four new friends, at least one for each of the remaining three characters. The four new friends are each a different color, as if Samantha were a beam of white light decomposed by a prism into beams of different hues. It’s “Intersects and the City.”
The original Samantha was described by critics and fans 20 years ago as a gay man but played by a woman. (Partly because the show’s creators, Darren Star and Michael Patrick King, were gay.) Urban and unashamedly promiscuous, Samantha bedded everyone she fancied, including one woman (played by Sonia Braga). In the new show Samantha’s characteristics are distributed among the four new characters. Sara Ramirez plays “Che,” a Latina non-binary sex positive butchy bi/lesbian who’s 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’) friend, dubbed by one character “black Charlotte.” Karen Pittman plays an assertive African-American law school professor who teaches and becomes friends with Miranda. Sarita Choudhury is Carrie’s Indian-American realtor who helps her sell the home she lived in with Mr. Big. The four women embody the style, sexuality, success and sass that was Samantha.
Choudhury’s presence is interesting since her career began with one of the original “intersectional” films, playing 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 as a gay man in a woman’s body was essential to Sex and the City. All woman (and men) were 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. The pill, gender equality, and capitalism’s creation of jobs for women and household appliances meant that marriage and children were no longer necessary or could be postponed. The only one of the foursome that was ever eager to marry and procreate was Charlotte, and she delayed it so long that she ended up having to marry outside her faith and almost couldn’t conceive. There’s 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 the menu.) When you don’t have a husband and 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 say you look good and need to ask him, or when you even want a male assessment that’s objective, you can’t ask a male lover (actual or prospective), so whom do you ask?
In the original show Carrie and Charlotte each had gay best friends. In the current 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 her aging face more youthful, while telling her she’s beautiful and doesn’t really need to do a thing.
Since And Just Like That is on HBO, viewers can also watch additional material, including interviews with the actors. Sara Ramirez (in real life married to a man) 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 a lesbian 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. Ramirez more crucially doesn’t understand how the original show was all about how young single Manhattan women could now live as if they were gay men.
That the cast is so woke they don’t understand the original show isn’t 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 she show was a reductio of upper-middle-class liberalism (the writer-creator-director of the show, Mike White, a white gay man, isn’t as clueless in interviews).
The march of the intersectional warriors may destroy television and movies, as it tried to destroy comedy. Some in Hollywood warn of organized attempts to dis-employ first white men, including Jews, and then anyone who’s not politically correct.
I’m hoping capitalism can solve the problem. Just as cable TV allowed us to have BET and TeleMundo and Logo (and its closeted sibling 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 can produce non-woke shows.