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8 July 2023

And Just Like That… is a woke horror show 

The Sex and the City sequel is a combination of glib identity politics and extreme shopping – and it’s impossible to look away.

By Rachel Cooke

I tend to tell people – I tend to tell myself – that I stick (like glue) with And Just Like That… only for the clothes, and it’s true that in the small hours, I do sometimes picture Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) flipping open the wing of her JW Anderson pigeon clutch bag and nonchalantly pulling out a stick of gum. “Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!” I mutter to myself, semi-hysterical at the memory of the tricorn hat she wears one early morning in a Manhattan coffee shop in episode four (how I wish she’d gone the full Long John Silver, and put the pigeon on her shoulder).

But the truth is that while I might well come for the My Little Pony pastels and the Piers Plowman footwear, I stay for the combination of glib identity politics and extreme shopping, which for me signal just as powerfully as any rising temperatures or deathly wildfires that, indubitably, The End Is Nigh.

Truly, it’s biblical: the horror, the foreboding. Olympia Le-Tan, who makes bags that look like books that sell for £1,200 a pop, should design one called “Revelations”, and send it to the show’s stylist asap. For Carrie, Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) – the last of the four friends is still absent, her forthcoming cameo yet to materialise – seem ever more like the Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse, every good thing turned to bad the moment they ride in.

Who knows what lies ahead, but I believe this series – the second, words it feels unbelievable even to type – may already have hit rock bottom. Also in episode four, Gloria Steinem appeared as herself, addressing a group of social X-rays at a fundraiser for a prospective magazine for older women called Vivant. Gloria! I don’t think this is what bell hooks would have wanted. 

Steinem said something about age being the last frontier, but the scriptwriters have their own ideas about how to deal with discrimination now their characters are middle-aged. Ignore it! The editor of Vivant is Enid Frick (Candice Bergen), who’s in her late seventies, but dating a man known as – my sincere apologies – the Tripod, whose dick she recognises instantly when she sees it on Carrie’s mobile phone (I’ll spare you the details of how it came to be there).

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Meanwhile, Miranda has been trialling strap-ons in the cause of giving her non-binary lover, Che (Sara Ramirez), full satisfaction (though it seems that Che doesn’t wholly disdain the real thing, because the couple have also had a threesome with Che’s ex-husband); Seema (Sarita Choudhury) the estate agent has had a two-night stand with a guy who had to use a pump to achieve, er, full rigidity; and Charlotte has been dealing with a husband who has been suffering from a condition known colloquially as dust balls (again, I draw the veil).

Only Carrie, the grieving widow, is Not Getting Any. Most recently, there was a guy with an Alexander Calder mobile. But he was too preoccupied with his work for her Olsen-twin jokes.

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I’m sure Sex and the City was a lot more gruesome (fatuous, vulgar) than we remember it – and even if it wasn’t, the intervening years would doubtless take their full effect should we dare to go in for a rewatch (I don’t dare).

But still, nothing it offered could even touch the sides of the woke decadence of its (Botox 2.0) reboot. The boxes of race and gender having been ticked courtesy of new characters and Charlotte’s trans child, it’s full steam ahead with late capitalism. Put Trump, DeSantis and all the others out of your mind, and enjoy instead – so funny, so cute – the spectacle of Charlotte haggling over a child’s Chanel dress; of Carrie making a six-figure donation to a non-existent magazine purely to assuage her embarrassment over a dick pic; of Lisa (Nicole Ari Parker) and her husband accidentally wasting thousands of dollars on a dinner that will never be eaten.

In this world, climax may only be achieved via solid gold vibrators, Birkin bags are endowed with powers akin to those of the Holy Grail, and there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t vote Democrat.

Like I said, it’s mesmerising. Every week, I shamefacedly google Carrie’s jewellery, and feel very, very afraid.

[See also: What Gen X feminism forgets]

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This article appears in the 12 Jul 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Tabloid Nation