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Amanda: Welcome to episode 61 here at The Department, our FIRST episode of 2022 and our first one after a long break! Kim, what have you been up to since the last time we recorded?
In this episode, we’re going to be doing a round up of the trends, or trend-adjacent events/cultural landmarks that have popped up as we’re getting going in 2022. The thing about 2022 is…it feels a lot like 2021, right? But it also feels a lot like…the early aughts, which we’ll be talking about today and in the next episode.
2022 is strangely feeling a lot like the early aughts right now. And if that feels TOO SOON or just TOO WEIRD to you…let me remind that you referencing say, 2002 in 2022 is the equivalent of being really into 70s aesthetic, style and music in 1994. Yes, my friends, it has been 20 years since the aughts and I feel super weird about it, too!
So let’s get this weird current-yet-past moment rolling with a group of women from the past who we knew were coming back for a visit…Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte, and the Sex and the City reboot (?), continuation (?), sequel (?) And Just Like That. Now, if you’re new to The Department or you missed it, please go back and listen to our fairly comprehensive breakdown of Sex and The City and the social, fashion, and food trends it launched. I say “fairly comprehensive” because in my hours of research I forgot to cover the cultural appropriation behind Carrie’s iconic nameplate necklace. If you’re interested in learning more about that, go check out the show notes because there will be a link to get you going on your deep dive.
Side note: I got weird troll sending messages to my personal account, calling me a social justice warrior after I responded to a comment about this topic.
So, Kim, have you watched the show yet? What did you think of it?
Response has been pretty, well, I wouldn’t even say mixed. It’s been very negative.
The show has a 60% on Rotten Tomatoes and the average audience score is 29%.
We know that the original show did not age very well–once again, go back and listen to our deep dive. The cast was extraordinarily white, the writing felt sexist and transphobic. A lot of the attitudes around sex–for a show that was supposed to be about sexually liberated people–were profoundly antiquated. And of course, Carrie was a terrible friend.
And Just Like That tries to correct some of that, but seems to miss the mark despite some new rad secondary characters that I’m excited to know more about!
Not surprisingly, a lot of the negative reviews out there on the internet right now (and on r/andjustlikethat) call out this new, “woke” approach to the writing. To be fair, the topics and issues seem relevant to 2022, but they are presented really awkwardly and it feels ingenuine. And a lot of the character behavior seems, well, WEIRD! As Juan Barquin wrote for the AV Club,”From the moment I started watching, I was floored that this was a real TV series and not an off-beat parody. The characters behaved erratically, not because we were meeting them again over a decade later and were unaccustomed to their new lives, but because their interactions with other people seemed almost alien in nature. The more I’ve watched, the more confused I have become by what the series has done to its characters.”
Because I love reading a review, I picked some of my favorite reviews to sort of guide what’s happening out in the ether in terms of the response to this show.
Let’s start with extreme: “F'ing h3ll... WTF was that! That was the most detestable and disturbing thing I have ever seen on a show. Holy c**p this is really really really bad. As in, someone should go to jail bad.”
The death of Mr. Big, Peloton, and well, it turns out Chris Noth is a monster.
Yes, spoiler alert here: Mr. Big dies a tragic Peloton-related death after his 1000th ride (heart attack, not fall or crash). And yes, there were about one million posts in the social mediasphere about why Carrie didn’t call 911.
Now, a rep for Peloton confirmed that while, yes, the brand new they would be included in the show, they did NOT know that they would be the cause of someone’s death. Peloton quickly (within 48 hours) put together a Chris Noth/Ryan Reynolds ad that ended with Reynolds saying, “And just like that the world is reminded regular cycling stimulates and improves your heart, lungs and circulation reducing your risk of cardiovascular diseases.”
But just a few days later, Peloton pulled the ad when it turned out that “just like that” Chris Noth is a sex pest, abuser, and creep.
We have to talk about Miranda.
Another Rotten Tomatoes review: “This isn't Sex and the City. Charlotte's the same, Carrie's the same, and then there's Miranda and Che (for some reason). The problem isn't Miranda and Che- the problem is Miranda is now a dopey, indecisive, wishy-washy woman who appears to want to find herself. This is 180' against the smart, independent woman she'd always been.”
Miranda, Miranda, Miranda. The women who launched “he’s just not that into you.” The eternal skeptic. The one friend who actually gave grief to Carrie about her unhealthy relationship with Big…well, she seems to have lost her mind. She says things like “comedy concert.” She had a drinking problem for a few episodes that just disappeared. She seems unable to function like a decent, adult human being around Black people. And she’s obsessed with Che, the most unfunny comedian in the history of comedians. It’s awesome to see successful, happy non-binary character on this show, but Che is so poorly written that the Daily Beast published a piece called “‘And Just Like That’s’ Che Diaz Is the Worst Character on TV”.
Side note: Have I mentioned that Che is Carrie’s boss at the world’s most unappealing podcast, which seems more shock jock/wacky morning show than an interesting dialogue of human sexuality?
Now Miranda is leaving Steve. She seems to have no relationship with Brady. And she’s become a strange sad hysterical teenage girl in a really bad wig. WHERE HAS OUR MIRANDA GONE?
In his piece “And Just Like That…We Have A Miranda Hobbes Problem,“ Juan Barquin says, “You have to wonder what exactly is going on in the writers’ room that would result in this inability to manage the tone of her character. Has the decision to lean into a certain absurdity and sensational sex with Miranda been an attempt to fill the Samantha Jones void? Has Cynthia Nixon decided to forego separation of character and actress and chosen to morph Miranda into herself? Has Michael Patrick King just committed himself to slowly performing character assassination since the horrendous second film? Whatever it is, the show is at its worst when it focuses on Miranda and Che.”
One last Rotten Tomatoes review: “At the end of each episode, I say to myself : " Is that all ?". Miranda has become a teenager again, Kristin Davis no longer knows how to interpret Charlotte and Carrie is useless, but still selfish. It's painful to watch.”
Okay, we have to talk about ageism. I’m going to start by saying that I am EXCITED to see a story about women in their 50s living a fabulous, fun, sexy life. I’m thinking Blanche Devereaux on the Golden Girls. Hollywood and television tend to think at that age you should be focusing on grandchildren and gardening. We know that’s not true and I was hoping that And Just Like That would be groundbreaking…But that’s not exactly what is happening here.
Rhonda Garelick wrote a great piece for the New York Times called “Middle Age Doesn’t Happen ‘Just Like That:’ She describes the show as depicting “a world of middle-aged characters suspended in perpetual astonishment and discomfort about everything they encounter, from commonplace political and social phenomena to their own bodies.”
More from the article:
“It’s as if its characters must have been asleep for 20 years and awakened utterly gob-smacked to find themselves encountering such things as Black professors, nonbinary children and queer longings,” said Joy Castro, 54, a writer and professor of English and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The characters do seem Rip Van Winkle-like, as they stumble upon and blink in amazement at very unsurprising things. “Wow! Instagram? Podcasts?” marvels Miranda at some of Carrie’s latest endeavors, as if these were edgy new enterprises.
I did find a great comment on that New York Times article that does give a different perspective that I appreciate: “It is painful to watch—painful because it hits home. It’s what’s happened to many of us upper-middle-class white women who were living it up in the city in the early aughts. The “Carries” of yesteryear are called “Karens” today. The characters *know* they need to “get with it.” Carrie’s wit and flair made her delightful, Miranda’s mild feminist impulses made her refreshing. Their sexual excitement made them fun. Now those things are “cringe.” Those of us who were awake these 17 years have felt this happen gradually, but it’s still hard. And my friends and I (who all met in the city in our 20s) talk about this daily. “
Age is brought up constantly in every episode, and while the characters are only 55, they act as if they are 75:
- There are so many peeing issues.
- Harry’s colonoscopy comes up so often that many viewers thought that it was hinting at a colon cancer plotline.
- Steve is like 100 years old now.
A lot of this makes 55–once again, not elderly–feel ancient.
Overall, I don’t know what will happen with the show. If it is renewed for a second season, I will definitely watch it. But my hope is that the writing will be better. It’s been really difficult for me to care about anyone on the show (except for the children and the new characters) because no one feels like the characters I came to know so well. And It feels like they are in a bad school play, a la Rushmore.
One trend of late 2021/now is something very exciting! It’s snarking on the snarkers.
As we discussed back on our trolling episodes, snarking is “critical or mocking comments made in an indirect or sarcastic way.” And during the pandemic, as we have all been sad and miserable, we have seen snarking pick up major momentum, with snarking television shows, podcasts, influencers, and famous people of all varieties becoming a way of life. There is a subreddit for snarking just about anyone or anything. There are snarking twitter accounts, youtube channels, IG accounts, TikTokkers…WE LOVE SOME SNARK. Your girl (ME) has even been snarked on Reddit!
I first became aware of snarking as America’s pastime in 2020 when I had a lot more time on my hands. It was a wild world to me because I’ve never been into following influencers or watching reality shows (except for 90 Day Fiance). And at first I was SO GLAD that someone was calling out the bullshit with influencers and reality show stars: photoshopping themselves into unrealistic bodies, not calling ads that were obviously ads, presenting these fake lives. I could see the impact this was happening on the mental health of their followers. And then we had influencers like Danielle Bernstein literally copying small designers with impunity. So it seemed like a good thing, like maybe it would open some eyes and make some change.
But then it got weird. Snarking about kids, the names of their kids, husbands, posting too many photos, having too much fun, being too happy, etc. It just felt like nitpicking. Then it escalated to digging way too deeply into these individuals’ private lives. Finding out where they lived, who their friends were, their grades in school, etc. And it was all just so nasty all the time. Like reading that stuff isn’t good for anyone’s mental health. And negativity breeds negativity.
In the late fall, I noticed more and more accounts (and subreddits) popping up to snark on the snarkers: essentially calling them out on their bullshit. And I like this because it seems like it could course correct. I even listened to a podcast called Roasts & Toasts, that holds the snarkers and trolls accountable.
I most recently got way too involved in the saga of girlgangz (an account that snarked on influencers and Bravo stars). This account—run by a woman named Erin–was merciless in revealing personal things about influencers that should not have been public, while also being generally nasty to them. At the same time, Erin was definitely enjoying that power of an ever-growing follower base. And then things got really weird…