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How Sex and the City failed the feminist movement, according to Cynthia Nixon

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Kayleigh Dray
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Cynthia Nixon, who plays Miranda Hobbs in SATC, just got real about the HBO show’s biggest mistakes…

Does HBO’s Sex and the City still feel like a feminist tour de force in 2019? Last year, I rewatched every single episode of SATC in a bid to determine whether or not the award-winning show’s free-handed depiction of sex and female friendship had stood the test of time. And the results? Mixed, at best.

Now, Cynthia Nixon – who brought the show’s best character, Miranda Hobbs, to life on screen – has admitted that the iconic show does not hold up well to modern-day scrutiny. 

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Speaking in an interview with IndieWire, Nixon admitted that Sex and the City – which premiered in 1998 – would be very different if it were made today.

“Well, I certainly think we would not have all been white, God forbid,” Nixon tells the outlet. “One of the hardest things for me – it was at the time, too – is looking back and seeing how much of it centred around money, right? And how, Steve, my [character’s] husband, was like the closest we got to a working class guy, you know? Never mind a working class woman, right?”

Nixon continued: “Also, I think we wouldn’t all look like that. In terms of like, the perfection factor. In terms of always looking so incredible. And I know that’s the fantasy element, and in terms of the show that was important. But I think there’s a lot of ways that people can be visually compelling without looking – quote unquote – perfect.”

Nixon added: “There was so much debate when [Sex and the City] came out about whether it was a feminist show or not, which I always thought was stupid – of course it’s a feminist show.

“But I think it has a lot of the failings of the feminist movement in it. In that it’s like white, moneyed ladies who are fighting for their empowerment. In a bit of a bubble.”

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Nixon isn’t the first SATC star to acknowledge that the show is “tone-deaf”: Sarah Jessica Parker, who played Carrie Bradshaw, has similarly called it out for its lack of diversity.

“You couldn’t make it today because of the lack of diversity on screen,” she said, via Hollywood Reporter. I personally think it would feel bizarre.”

SJP continued: “I don’t know that you could do it with a different cast. I think that’s radical and interesting, but you can’t pretend it’s the same.

“If you came back and did six episodes, you’d have to acknowledge the city is not hospitable to those same ideas,” she added. “You’d look like you were generationally removed from reality, but it would be certainly interesting to see four diverse women experiencing NYC their way… it would be interesting and very worthwhile exploring, but it couldn’t be the same.”

Despite SJP’s misgivings, though, it was recently announced that a new SATC show was in the works… albeit one with a “feminist twist”.

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The series will be based on Is There Still Sex in the City?, a new novel by SATC creator Candance Bushnell, which is due to be released in the UK and US in August 2019. Set between Manhattan’s Upper East Side and a fictional country retreat known as The Village, the book will explore the dating lives of women in their 50s and 60s as well as the complexities of marriage, children, divorce and bereavement.

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Bushnell will write the pilot script for the TV adaptation of Is There More Sex in the City?, as well as serving as executive producer. In a statement, she said she was looking forward to showing what life is like for many 50- and 60-something women in 2019.

“It didn’t used to be this way. At one time, 50-something meant the beginning of retirement – working less, spending more time on your hobbies, with your friends, who like you were sliding into a more leisurely lifestyle,” she said.

“In short, retirement age folks weren’t meant to do much of anything but get older and a bit heavier. They weren’t expected to exercise, start new business ventures, move to a different state, have casual sex with strangers, and start all over again.

“But this is exactly what the lives of a lot of 50- and 60-something women look like today and I’m thrilled to be reflecting the rich, complexity of their reality on the page and now on the screen.”

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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