With its multitude of Manolo Blahnik shoes to its sprawling Upper East Side apartments, Sex and the City captivated viewers with its depictions of glamorous city living in early 2000s Manhattan. Nearly 20 years after the show’s last episode in 2004, the much-anticipated sequel TV series, And Just Like That…, premiered this December. Where Sex and the City luxuriated in focusing on the relationship issues the group of friends discussed in hip restaurants and at chic gallery openings, And Just Like That… shifts its focus to today’s sociopolitical concerns. Making up for the near-complete absence of BIPOC characters in Sex and the City, And Just Like That… features multiple story lines where Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) embarrass themselves in their desperation to be anti-racist and politically correct.
Last week’s episode, “And Some of My Best Friends,” saw Charlotte freak out because her new Black friend, Lisa, had invited Charlotte to a birthday party for her husband, Herbert. “Lisa and Herbert run in an eclectic, diverse crowd,” Charlotte tells her husband Harry, reminding him to name drop popular Black authors like Zadie Smith during their dinner chit-chat. Despite her desperate attempts not to say the wrong thing at a party full of Black people, Charlotte immediately stumbles by confusing one Black woman for another.
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However, she is able to redeem herself during dinner when she defends Lisa to her mother-in-law, who had accused Lisa of spending too much money on her art collection. Charlotte, who had owned a gallery before getting married, points out how impressive the collection is. Works by Gordon Parks, Carrie Mae Weems, Deborah Roberts, Barkley Hendricks, Derrick Adams, and Mickalene Thomas are shown as Charlotte confidently expounds on their value. “With the keen eye of Lisa,” Charlotte says to Lisa’s mother-in-law, “the family is in very good hands.”
Despite her awkwardness as she navigates having to check her white privilege, Charlotte’s love of art is meant to communicate her truth: she is well intentioned, and harbors no real racial bias. But critics have pushed back on this overly transparent absolution.
Artist Pamela Council tweeted, “This was not a read. It was an overcompensation. And somehow she with no Black friends got to be the hero by validating the collection. I’m glad they said the artists name on this platform but the show’s diversity tour is tragic & cringe.” Critic and curator Antwaun Sargent agreed, responding to Council that the scene is “a perfect portrait of the art world rn. overcorrection that is somehow still racist.”
In a separate post, Sargent pointed out that Charlotte didn’t even get the facts right. In her speech, Charlotte refers to an Adams painting hanging on the wall as his “early work,” which she says is “like owning early sheet music by Beethoven.” The painting in question, Style Variations 32, is, in fact, not an early work—it was made last year. As with Charlotte herself, the show seems to contain an anxiety about getting with the times. The result is in an obsession with appearances, without all the important details.