The antiquated homophobia of “And Just Like That”

Much of the “Diwali” episode on “And Just Like That,” the HBO Max show that re-enlivens “Sex and the City,” reminded me of a different, much older series.

Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) confessed to her friends that she had sex outside of her long monogamous marriage, sex with a common non-binary friend. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) already knew this, having not really slept after hip surgery and in the next room when the indiscretion happened, hearing much of it. But when Cynthia works up the courage to tell her longtime friend Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Charlotte’s reaction is extreme, outdated outrage directed at the wrong part of the experience.

His mouth opens. She backs away from the picnic table where the women are seated, having a delicious meal as the sun sets. A gasp escapes him, a What?! strong enough to make Carrie physically flinch. Charlotte reacts to the fact that her friend had sex with a queer person – not that the sex took place in Carrie’s kitchen, or even that it happened while Miranda is currently married to someone else .

Carrie isn’t helping matters. She avoids eye contact. She looks disgusted. ” It does not suit you ? Miranda asks him. “I don’t even know what it is yet,” Carrie said.

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Miranda’s friends’ reaction to her queer experience brought to mind my deeply problematic childhood favorite “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” when the character of Willow (Alyson Hannigan) dated her best friend and roommate, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar ).

“Oh,” Buffy said. “Oh.” She quickly gets up from Willow’s bed where she was perched. “Tara is really awesome. . . girl.” She keeps saying Wil’s name and moving awkwardly, restlessly, around their common room. “Are you scared?” Willow asks.

At least Buffy recovers somewhat quickly, becoming supportive, unlike Willow’s ex-boyfriend (Seth Green) who physically assaults Willow’s girlfriend Tara (Amber Benson) once he gets an idea of ​​what to do. their relationship. “STOP! Is she in love with you? He shakes Tara violently. “Tell me.” Then he transforms, as we do in the Buffy-verse, into a vicious werewolf, and tries to murder the woman with whom his ex has found love. The show has always been heavy with its metaphors.

Here’s the thing. This episode of “Buffy” aired in 2000. “And Just Like That” airs in 2021. That Miranda’s adult friends – in their fifties, but acting, in many ways, like much older people – might having the same disgusted reaction to a friend talking to them as teenagers would decades ago is a problem.

They are not disgusted to the right thing. Miranda cheats on Steve (David Eigenberg), to whom she had a seemingly now sexless marriage for years, and who is the father of her child. The fact that this is marital infidelity is hardly worth mentioning, nor is the fact that Miranda feels happy – alive, as she puts it – for the first time in a very long time.

It is homosexuality that his friends oppose. Charlotte seems to be confused about how a woman could have sex with someone who isn’t a man, leading to an offensive and tasteless exchange over “one finger”. It’s immature. And that’s something else.

The object of Miranda’s new affection is Che (Sara Ramirez), the boss of Carrie’s podcast, a stand-up comic and as Kevin Fallon writes in The Daily Beast: “one of the new characters added to the series in a waking panic”. In a desperate attempt to remedy the complete lack of diverse characters in the first round of ‘Sex and the City,’ the HBO Max show is throwing characters and issues to the wall like spaghetti, hoping something is done and will stay. . One of Charlotte’s tweens experiments with a new name and a new way of dressing, for example, and contributes to the non-binary anxiety rising in Charlotte. So many storylines, each barely touched upon, including those about gender, reduce what might be relevant contemporary stories to after-school specials.

Che is, according to Fallon, “TV’s worst character”. As often happens with bisexual characters, the series stereotypes the queer character as hypersexual (which they also did with Anthony’s character, who is gay, polyamorous, and promiscuous, getting jerked off by a caterer in a gym. bath in a scene at a school event). Even Charlotte admits to dreaming of Che because they are “so cool and charismatic”. And while bisexuals are often lumped together as promiscuous, dangerous, and cunning, “And Just Like That” features the non-binary character as . . . an inappropriate age fraternity member?

In a strange twist on how the main trio of women talk and behave much older than their characters are supposed to be, Che is a middle-aged person who acts like a terrible-behaving teenager, giving out marijuana to Miranda’s underage son at a party, shooting Miranda with a vape pen, and of course having casual tequila-fueled sex with her while Carrie is a few feet away.

Che’s only appeal to Miranda so far is sexual. They are definitely not a good friend, supportive, or trustworthy. After the two have sex — Miranda’s first-ever queer experience — Che forgets to text Miranda back for months because. . . Che apparently smoked too much weed to remember her? How does this person maintain a steady job?

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Steve, Miranda’s husband, barely enters the conversation in part because the show has done a good job of suddenly making him a foil. He’s had few scenes so far, and his only character development is that he now wears hearing aids due to age-related hearing issues. Its first four lines (yes, I counted) are all a variation of “what?” “And Just Like That” is a vivid example of how not to write a disabled character. Like the women, Steve seems doddery, confused, and older than his age: forgetting his wallet, unable to find Miranda in a public place.

Miranda’s (and Steve’s) storyline is a huge missed opportunity for the show. A middle-aged woman struggling with new and different sexual feelings, struggling to define herself as a long marriage evolves (or perhaps dissolves), and herself changes is instead turned into a caricature. The show plays on both disability and complex human sexuality for cheap and cruel laughs, and takes what could have been a momentous moment – ​​a not-young character who may be stepping out of his friends – in a moral panic. outdated.

“You’re not progressive enough for that,” Charlotte tells Miranda, calling her sex with Che a “midlife crisis” and further insulting Miranda’s appearance: “You should have dyed your hair.” But even Carrie doesn’t show empathy for her friend. When a visibly upset Miranda tries to back out of the situation, Carrie tells her, “You can disagree, but you can’t leave,” reminding me hate the sin, not the sinner, and the sickening bromides of let’s disagree to disagree — a recklessness that doesn’t work when someone’s humanity has just been questioned.

With each episode, “And Just Like That” strips away the nostalgia of the original series with cringe-worthy storylines and heavily drawn stereotypes. “Sex and the City” may have provided a kind of fantastic escape into the wild life and wilder clothing of the original women, but anyone looking for a comfortable watch here will be disappointed. It’s not an escape. It’s a trap.

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