Colin Farrell is a Samantha
All right, class. Who can tell me why Colin Farrell is a Samantha? Anyone?
Yes, these are all great answers. He’s very sexy and magnetic, like Samantha Jones, that’s true. He’s not an uptight occasional hatemonger like Charlotte, also true. He did not leave his delightful husband Steve to move to Los Angeles with Che Diaz, like Miranda. He’s not the most annoying person of all time, because that title belongs to Carrie Bradshaw. All valid points. But what we were looking for was that Colin Farrell, like our good friend Samantha, does not appear in the series And Just Like That… (I know, I know, she was in a text message in the last season and apparently will be in a phone call this season. Whoop-dee-doo. That definitely makes up for taking the most fun character out of the series.)
And yet, I’m going to write about it anyway. We’re overdue. It’s summertime; Colin can take a brief hiatus. It’s AJLT… time.¹
Season 1 recap
So in season one of this Sex and the City property, here, according to me, is what happened:
Carrie and Big, whose real name is John, as revealed in one of the most jaw-dropping final episode twists in TV history² have been happily married for a while, and then in episode one, whoops, he goes too hard on his Peloton and straight-up dies (I still can’t believe Peloton allowed their name to be used in connection with literally actually killing someone), but probably wouldn’t have if Carrie had made absolutely any attempt at all to call for help or do anything when she discovers him almost-dead in their apartment, which she does not, at all. Now that’s a big reveal! Bonus: the eponymous catchphrase’s inaugural use, to conclude the first episode, is Carrie’s good old voiceover declaring, “And just like that, Big died.”
Soon after the episode aired, several outlets broke stories about Chris Noth, the actor who played Big, and his long history of alleged sexual misconduct, including accusations of sexual assault by two different women. His Law & Order: Criminal Intent costar Zoe Lister-Jones told the LA Times that he was “consistently sexually inappropriate,” often drunk on set, and a “sexual predator.” Bye bye, Big.
So, Big-less, Carrie spends the remainder of the season grieving (like, sort of, a little), contemplating reentering the dating scene, and refusing to talk about sex on a podcast about sex and dating (more on that later).
Miranda befriends her Columbia professor, Dr. Nya Wallace, played by Karen Pittman, by repeatedly being ridiculously racist and cutely stammering that that’s totally not what she meant until Dr. Wallace I guess decides that this embarrassing white lady who can’t shut the fuck up long enough to keep her foot out her mouth is not only still worth her time and energy but actually a really great friend. In the absence of Samantha, all of the girls get at least one person of color as a buddy, so that when we enter the new season, the original gang of four has become a gang of seven, four of whom are the show’s first ever non-white recurring characters, and all of whom have storylines I barely remembered, because they were tossed in for the new series. It’s pretty clumsy and weird.
Anyway, Miranda also falls for Carrie’s podcast co-host, the one and only Che Diaz, played by Sara Ramirez. Che is a standup comedian who is non-binary, amazing in bed, and absolutely insufferable. If you’ve heard anything about AJLT…, it’s been about Che. There’s discourse on discourse on discourse on Che, and there’s little I can add that hasn’t been said before, suffice it to say it’s cool that there’s a non-binary character on this show and that Miranda has a sexual awakening with a non-dick-having person, but I would not go to one of their standup shows (or “comedy concerts,” as Miranda memorably calls it). Also, Che arrives directly at the expense of Steve, Miranda’s husband and, in my opinion, the best character in this franchise’s history. By the time Miranda leaves Steve for Che, he has been reduced to a Mr. Magoo figure, comically hard of hearing, bad at sex, and bearing no resemblance to the delightful, handsome, kind, patient, devoted to his mom, canonically awesome in bed guy we’ve grown to know and love. Barring some half-episode cameo down the line, I think we’ve seen the last of the other best part of this show. Fare thee well, Steve.
Ew, did I really save Charlotte for last? Charlotte’s Charlotte-ing, hating on everyone’s life choices, freaking out about her child Rose who was assigned female at birth wanting to go by “Rock” (mainly, it seems, because they don’t want to wear dresses anymore), telling Miranda she can’t be with a non-binary person because “you’re not progressive enough,” and then I guess maybe getting it together by the end of the series so that we don’t have to completely hate her. She allows Rock to have not a bat mitzvah but a “they mitzvah” (Charlotte’s term), and in the season two recap, the only reference to Charlotte is her new friend of color (played by Nicole Ari Parker) telling her she needs to stop spending all of her energy taking care of other people and focus on herself. Uh, okay.
Oh, and Samantha moved to London because Carrie fired her as her publicist and is never to be seen again.
Whew. That was exhausting. It matches the tone of the voice memos I made while watching the new season, that of someone being forced to do something very much against their will.
Season 2 so far (spoiler: still no Samantha)
There are a couple things I liked about the first two episodes of AJLT… That’s right, I said liked!
I like that we’re coming back to a sex-forward place that I feel like we abandoned a little bit in the last season to devote time and energy to “can you believe how old everyone’s gotten and how long it’s been?” The season starts off with a nice sex montage of all of our folks hooking up with their significant others (or in one case, watching something sexy on TV while her significant other is out of town, which I thought was going to be a masturbation scene, a topic this show has a long history of covering pretty well, but instead she gets sad and goes to bed. Can’t win ’em all). I like Miranda navigating queer sex in her new life with Che in LA.
I liked Che’s plotline where they’ve been mandated to lose weight for their upcoming TV show, and they feel self-conscious and won’t let Miranda put her arms around them. They cry out of frustration and say, “After all I’ve been through, I can’t believe this shit still gets to me.” That really hit home, and it was especially great to hear from a usually annoying character who does act like nothing gets to them, because they’re savvier and cooler than anything and anyone else. But they are still impacted by, of all things, comments about their weight, because that’s how insidious that shit really is. Now, mind you, this plotline got about one minute, and we also had to hear Che’s standup set about, wait for it, how LA is different from New York because people drive everywhere, which made me genuinely think this character might actually be intentionally written as a terrible comedian.
Charlotte’s older daughter sells a bunch of her clothes because she’s a budding musician and wants to buy a new keyboard, and Charlotte freaks out again (oh sorry, I forgot to mention that she sold a bunch of her clothes including a beautiful Chanel dress!!!). It’s literally exactly the same thing that upset her about her gender-nonconforming child. Whether you’re pursuing your passion or trying to live authentically in your self, one’s thing for goddamn sure: if you’re an offspring of Charlotte Goldenblatt née York, you’d fucking better like dresses. Nothing else matters to this woman. Nothing. That’s enough about Charlotte, let’s move on.
The Chandler problem
I wish I could isolate for you readers a particular clip from my voice memos. I watched these two episodes in the thick of a summer cold, complete with a low-grade fever, and stupidly thought this might be a low-stress activity, but if you think that stopped me from yelling at my TV during this screening, you are wrong.
Carrie now has her own podcast, called Sex and the City, where she answers relationship and sex questions; in the first episode, a caller asks her what she should do if she’s not ready to take her current hooking-up arrangement with a guy to “the relationship place.”
“First of all,” says Carrie, “The Relationship Place is a great name for a restaurant.”
That’s when I yelled into my recording phone, “NO IT’S NOT! WHAT THE FUCK? WHAT IS THIS SHOW?”
Here’s the thing: I don’t want to watch characters crack jokes to other characters on a TV show. I don’t want those to be the jokes. I want the TV writers to write jokes into the story so that I laugh. One character turning to another one and saying “here’s a funny joke I just thought of” is not going to make me laugh, ever. Jokes can tell me something about the character, but those aren’t laugh lines. They’re just not. And this show has treated them like laugh lines since the very beginning, and they’re usually from Carrie (she’s always got a stupid pun for whatever sex quirk the gals are discussing over their salads). Also in this episode, Carrie’s podcast buddy takes her out for lunch and tells her he has a new stupid fancy blue credit card; when the waitress takes it from him, he says, “Bank of Smurf,” and, to the credit of the actress, she breathes out a little non-committal laugh, like “Yup, I’m a waitress and people say stupid not-funny shit like this to me all day.” WHY? Why is that moment on a television show?
Do you want to watch a Friends with all Chandlers? Most of the time, the people who spend time with Chandler tell him that his constant joke-telling is annoying, so great, that’s an element of his character and the way people around him see him, it’s all doing its job. But Carrie’s not funny, and she is annoying, and yet no one tells her to please stop with the jokes already, and they just keep popping up in these scripts. Stop. Please stop. We know that in real life, people make stupid jokes. We don’t need to see it represented on the screen.
Speaking of Carrie’s podcast, we arrive now at a crucial issue, one that popped up, bafflingly, in season one of AJLT… and which apparently is still with us here in season two. Carrie Bradshaw, the author of the “Sex and the City” column that was the entire genesis for this entire intellectual property, in the 25 intervening years and with the change in medium from newspaper to podcast, no longer wants to talk about sex.
In season one, Che Diaz asks Carrie to comment on her masturbation regimen on their, you know, sex-centered podcast. Carrie finesses some other answer, feels extremely uncomfortable, runs around to everyone she knows talking about how extremely uncomfortable she is talking about her own sexual peccadilloes on mic. Che, to the show’s credit, I believe points out, once, that that is ABSURD, because this is a person who rose to prominence because of her, you know, SEX COLUMN. Where she talked about a guy who wanted to pee on her and walking in on the person you’re sleeping with sitting on the toilet and giving blowjobs to guys with weird-smelling semen and becoming addicted to your vibrator, and we all know the list goes on. It’s almost as if it’s what this entire show is based on.
But for Carrie, in 2021, the mention of masturbation is too invasive.
And now, in 2023, we find her having to read ad copy for a vaguely referred to “vaginal cleanliness product,” and wouldn’t you know it, her hand goes straight to her pearls again. She waffles a little in her protest this time; it’s not really clear if her objection is to the clumsy copy (“Hey ladies, do you ever find strange smells ‘down there’?”) — no one talks like this, I won’t say “down there,” etc. etc. — or if, as seems to also be the case, she flat-out will not read an ad about vaginal anything on the air. Again, during her sex podcast.
Like moviegoers at the turn of the century confronted in a cinema by what they were sure was an actual train, not an image, headed straight for them in the theater, Carrie seems to have some confusion about words coming from text vs. from a microphone. I guess, in the 1990s, while using her real name to write words about the many, many activities of her vagina and those of her closest friends, apparently all that time, she felt protected by some anonymity granted by people not being able to hear her voice saying the words she wrote? Or is the idea that she’s become more prudish as she’s aged, in which case I must again ask, WHY? This is Sex and the City, right? Carrie, what happened?
In the most obnoxious resolution possible, Carrie does eventually write her own copy for the ad, but we never actually get to hear it, which I’m pretty sure is an illegal move in screenwriting. She pulls an all-nighter with her podcast producer and current hookup partner, during which he’s a total professional, trying to get it done because that’s their job and there is absolutely no reason not to other than this woman’s completely out of left field squeamishness — it’s not an ad for Trump’s reelection campaign, it’s an ad for some useful hygienic product for people with vaginas — while she squeams and squirms at his every suggestion.
Now remember, through all of this, that Carrie is our gal; we’re supposed to be with her, on her side, which for this viewer the show has never done that successfully, but sometimes it at least tried. Tell me why, Carrie; tell me why the pioneering sex-positive figure of feminism and bodily freedom now doesn’t want to discuss anything below her own waist, for any other reason than “Yuck, icky.” WHY!!!
I wish I could wrap this up with some theory, some reason, but Carrie not only has doubled down on her neo-prudism, she’s brought some new ugliness to the issue as well. Her producer/boyfriend suggests referencing WAP in the ad, WAP being, of course, both an acronym for Wet-Ass Pussy and one of the most popular and talked-about songs of the past five years, and remember, much of that talking was conservative outrage from the right, laced with dog-whistle racism and all kinds of bullshit. Carrie hasn’t heard of it, so he tells her it’s a song by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, to which Carrie, OUR HERO, goes ahead and effectively aligns herself with those cool people, saying, “Well, I’m Carrie B, and I don’t talk like that, so Megan Thee end.”
So, in conclusion, fuck you, Carrie. Truly fuck you. I’ll see you all next time, when I will be discussing whatever Colin Farrell movie seems the least like Sex and the City and all of its related I.P.
Good luck, and stay safe down there.
- I will be including the ellipses in my abbreviation of the series title each and every time, because I think it’s so ballsy to stick a typographical specificity into your brand name and make everyone use it every time. The hubris! When I was a tiny child, in the times before the Internet, my copyeditor father had what I remember as a thin sort of leaflet, it couldn’t have been more than like twenty stapled pages, that was just a listing of brand names, with the correct capitalization, spelling, and other anomalies. It was, somehow, impossibly, usually the only reference he needed. I never understood how they fit “all” brand names in this little leaflet, and still don’t, but my dad did seem to find it sufficient. But on the rare occasion when he couldn’t find what he was looking for in the weird Strega Nona magic pasta pot that was this reference pamphlet, he’d find me, too young at that point to stay home alone, and announce that we were going to the store, he had to check something. Once it was to the supermarket to inspect an Oscar Meyer package. And once we drove to a couple different drugstores to find a thing that, to my dad’s great irritation, was called STIM-U-DENT. “I can’t believe it’s really all caps,” he said to me as we drove home. “That’s ridiculous, to have to write it that way every single time.” Postscript to this story: disapproving as he was of its branding, my father was intrigued by STIM-U-DENT, which is basically a little pack of sharp minty toothpicks, and has been a loyal user of the product ever since.
- Not really, but they did wait til the last couple seconds of the final episode to tell us that, as if it was some kind of Shyamalan mindbender.