'50 and fabulous': 'Sex and the City' revival tackles ageism on and off the screen
"There’s so much misogynist chatter... that would never. Happen. About. A. Man."
TV show "Sex and the City" first tackled sexism through the friendships and relationships of its iconic, 30-something New York City foursome: Carrie Bradshaw, Miranda Hobbes, Samantha Jones and Charlotte York -- when the show launched in 1998.
Now Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte -- all in their mid-fifties -- are back in a revival of the romantic comedy classic and the actresses are speaking out against the ageism women experience both on and off screen.
"And Just Like That," which debuted Dec. 9 on HBO Max, follows a new chapter of the lives of the women as they reprise their "SATC" characters.
'So much misogynist chatter'
Kristin Davis, who plays Charlotte York-Goldenblat, reflected on the scrutiny the actresses faced in an interview with the Sunday Times, saying that the experience has left her "angry" and is reminiscent of how her character's weight and looks were critiqued during the original series.
"Everyone wants to comment, pro or nay or whatever, on our hair and our faces and our this and our that. The level of intensity of it was a shock," Davis said, adding that she is fed up with efforts by paparazzi to capture "bad pictures" of the actresses on set.
"They would write articles every week about how I was 'pear-shaped,' which I didn't feel was a compliment at the time," she said. "It would stress me out a fair amount because I couldn't avoid it. I kind of feel like that's how it is now too. But I also feel — I'm going to be blunt — I feel like, 'F— you."
Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays sex columnist and author Carrie Bradshaw, also lamented the scrutiny the actresses face about their age in a November interview with Vogue and called out the double standard.
"There's so much misogynist chatter in response to us that would never. Happen. About. A. Man. 'Gray hair, gray hair, gray hair. Does she have gray hair?'" she said, reflecting on commentary about her character's long blonde locks, which are streaked with gray in the revival.
"I'm sitting with Andy Cohen, and he has a full head of gray hair, and he's exquisite. Why is it OK for him?" Parker said, referencing Cohen, a friend and TV host. "I don't know what to tell you people. Especially on social media, everyone has something to say. 'She has too many wrinkles, she doesn't have enough wrinkles.'"
'Older women are particularly erased'
Madeline Di Nonno, president and CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, told "Good Morning America" that she applauds shows like "And Just Like That" for featuring three women over 50 as protagonists because "older characters are missing. Period."
A 2020 report by the Geena Davis Institute examined the roles of women over 50 in movies over the past ten years, and found that "older adults as a whole are grossly underrepresented in media, although older women are further marginalized in comparison to men."
Although Americans 60 and older make up 19% of the population, they only represent 4% of major television characters, and "older women are particularly erased," according to the report.
Meanwhile, older male characters outnumber older female characters two-to-one, while 11% of male characters between ages 50 and 64 are "perceived as 'old,'" compared to 22% of female characters, the report states.
The report, Frail, Frumpy and Forgotten, also shows that there is a lack of positive portrayals of older women on TV.
According to Di Nonno, "female fictional characters are more likely to be shown as frail, feeble, without a job, not being independent," and not romantically involved -- characteristics that are based on "old tropes and stereotypes" about women.
"We have grown up in a society that has always pursued the Holy Grail, the fountain of youth," she said.
'Fifty and fabulous'
"SATC" also tackled the subject of women and aging. In the last episode of "SATC" season 6 which aired Feb. 22, 2004, Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte gather for one more girls night at a chic bar in New York City to mark a special occasion.
It was a celebration of "an oldie but a goodie," as Carrie put it, because Samantha -- the oldest of the group -- was turning fifty.
"A toast to Samantha -- fifty and fabulous," Carrie says as the women held up their signature cosmopolitans to mark a particularly special birthday after Samantha, the uninhibited and fiercely independent public relations maven, survived breast cancer.
Ahead of the debut of "And Just Like That," Cynthia Nixon who plays Miranda, praised the writers for not bringing in younger actresses to cater to a new generation.
"I like that we're not trying to youthify the show. We're not including, like, a 21-year-old niece," she told Vogue.
In the debut episode of "And Just Like That," Charlotte criticizes Miranda for embracing her gray hair and suggests that she looked better as a redhead.
"I just think the gray ages you," Charlotte says after asking Miranda, who was set to pursue a masters degree in human rights, whether she plans on coloring her hair before going back to school.
And in typical fashion, Miranda snaps back, "No, you think the gray ages you, because if we are friends and I am this age, you can't be whatever age you're pretending to be."
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