When I was 20 years old and serving in the Singapore army, I once brought pirated DVDs of the “Sex and the City” series to watch on the communal television in the bunk. I’ve seen the series multiple times and can quote many of its iconic lines from memory.
So when HBO announced earlier this month that it was bringing back the girls – minus one, but more on that later – for a 10-episode limited series on its streaming service HBO Max, I should have been making myself a celebratory Cosmopolitan. Instead, I felt a pit of dread.
Let’s get some things out of the way first. Apart from the fact that the reboot will be called “And Just Like That” and pick up with the characters in their 50s, HBO has been more tight-lipped than Charlotte is when it comes to spilling on the details.
Still, the trajectory of the series, from its original 1998 to 2004 six-season run on television, to the two movies in 2008 and 2010 respectively, has been a stiletto heel to my heart.
The original series was far from perfect – many critics have pointed out its whitewashed fantasia of New York City and problematic LGBT moments and storylines. But the movies seemed to forget entirely what made the four lead characters relatable and memorable.
The second movie, in particular, was an end-to-end gaslighting of long-time fans, beginning with the inexplicable marriage of two gay characters who loathed each other in the television series then kissed unenthusiastically at a New Year’s Eve countdown party in the first movie.
Then there is what happened to Samantha Jones, sexual lioness and launcher of a thousand memes, who once declared that “I am fifty-fucking-two and I will rock this dress” when a shop assistant dared to question her choice of clothing as “a little young”.
In the second movie, she pops 40 vitamin and hormone pills in a desperate attempt to stave off menopause, then stares, mouth agape and full of pills, as a buxom young nanny bounds across a lawn. One can only imagine what OG Samantha would have said about this sap.
When the reboot airs, it will be without Samantha Jones or Kim Cattrall, the actress behind the libertine, who has been vocal about wanting to move on from the character. While this is a shame, shows have come back from less promising beginnings.
The larger question mark hanging over the show is this: What version of Sex and the City will we get when it makes its long-delayed return?
The ground-breaking, heart-breaking, bed-breaking lightning in a bottle of the television series?
Or the tone-deafness of the films where two of the lead characters drank a toast on a private plane to women who somehow get along without hired help?
The world – and New York City – is in a much different place than when the women hung up their heels and had their last round of Cosmopolitans. In a way, this could be reinvigorating for the series and its surviving characters.
While many of the show’s successors have outstripped it in its trademark sexual frankness, I can think of few reboots more well-placed to take on the current complexities of sex in the city in the wake of the #metoo movement. Miranda as a Time’s Up lawyer, anyone?
“Sex and the City” made its mark with its four straight-talking, difficult, complicated women, especially in the early seasons of the television show, not the bizzaro versions we got in the two movies. Let’s hope that the reboot is not just a return to its original format, but to form.
Zengkun is a freelance writer based in Singapore who covers a wide range of topics, including science, environment and culture.