I’m liking where I am with regard to viewable content. I’ve spent a long time burrowing into books mostly because the video medium was garbage churned out by rich, privileged, inbred people who didn’t care about humans like me. But the streaming services are getting with it. And even if I’m only a novelty test audience group, for now, there are shows being produced (and well) for people like me.
Am I watching too much content? Well, I have just survived the pandemic (and as of this week, COVID-19) and midlife crisis, among other things. This brain still works & if it must take its food from pixels instead of molecules, it will. At last count, I’ve savoured & enjoyed Modern Love Mumbai, Modern Love Hyderabad, The Time-Travellers’ Wife, The Sandman. And finding myself at a lull between sumptuous stories, I wandered fog-brained into a familiar storyline with Carrie Bradshaw. And just like that, the magic began again.
I loved the series so much when I was first introduced to it (by a boyfriend, no less) in the mid 2000s. That relationship gave me fun new labels and as a parting gift, Sex & the City that we watched off scratched CDs at his place. It blew my mind at the time, statements like ‘having sex like a man’, declarations about modelisers (men who only wanted media-determined beautiful women), characters like Samantha Jones, Miranda Hobbes, even Standford Blatch who were unabashedly, petulently, defiantly themselves. I was just an ordinary girl from a middle class Indian family, the kind that never said the word ‘sex’ even in the khatiya 90s. Progressive for my generation was being allowed to look for a matrimonial match on a website instead of surviving the chai-served scrutiny of monster in-laws.
A few years later, on my first flight back from London on the kind of very important trip that happened to English speakers in BRIC countries, I bought three DVDs – the first three seasons because that’s all was available. The advantage? Uncensored, baby. Full-on nudity, lurid language, the works (a time before Game of Thrones). Then a blogger friend met me before leaving the country and handed over a collector’s edition of the DVD box set, complete in its shoe-box packaging. “Because you seemed to like it so much,” he said, referring to my series of posts about it. Yes, this was also back when people actually read each other’s writing online without being spammed & assaulted with DMs, tweets & Reels teasing the main. The story wore thin for me over the seasons, especially at the point of Carrie’s cheating. It also helped me define where my markers were in this slippery slope of adulthood I was on, that bore no resemblance to anything I’d been taught. Sex okay. Premarital sex too. All kinds of sex. But not cheating. No.
I went for the first movie with a girlfriend because that’s what fandoms would go on to do later, loyal past story deaths. It bothered me and years later, I’d live my own version of that nightmare, getting stood up at the alter. Sadly (or maybe not), my prince charming didn’t come back to sweep me up in a hundred poetic apologies & instead left me to deal with shaming & attacks in addition to his abuse. So I came to the second film broken and like me, it felt angry, incomplete, hateful.
I’ve watched the waves of new feminism since then. The millennial MeToo movement & the GenZ revolution of gender pronouns – these have been brutal & bloody like all new life is and they’ve been such lessons. The movements that define these generations glorify rage which is another way of saying they function by decimating everything that is not them. Was my generation that way too? Maybe we were, after all, we did think we invented premarital sex, gay rights & cyber sex (well, actually this we did).
And now I come to regard And Just Like That, the way the world regards me. As an afterthought, with derision, judgement, disappointment. But maybe it was the week I’ve spent in COVID depression, at the culmination of two-and-half years of gnawing soul hollowness. I just feel too tired for rage. I’m too tired to carry grudges. Or worry. I’m still alive and I’m even tired of being mad about it. There is something on the other side of that much exhaustion & resignation. It feels like clarity and even better, it feels like peace. And because of these, it is promise.
I’m still watching the show, savouring it instead of hate-viewing (which is what bingeing is, like any other kind of addiction). The story made a lot of mistakes, especially with the films. It got drunk & bloated on its own success, like perhaps I did as I hit 30. The weight of all those new gifts of adulthood was just too much to bear. And I guess for a story that started off breaking REAL barriers in a brash, scrappy way, the victories went straight to its head like a bad hangover. The story has also suffered real losses. The world has only seen Sarah Jessica-Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis & Kim Cattral in their most tight-skinned, brash glamour selves. We now see wrinkles, grey hair, too much white skin, too many patchy compromises wearing thin. And no glorious Kim Cattral in any way. But instead of trying to be millennial, the story is about early old agers adapting. They are owning their age, not with brashness but with honesty. Honesty was always the best part of this storyline; now it’s less angry & more curious. A hyper honesty, a purer honesty if you will. That includes admitting they know nothing or letting go of all the rewards of the fight they started back in the 90s.
There is a scene that really moved me. Carrie Bradshaw is hesitantly part of a podcast on gender & sex where the conversation turns to masturbation. She blushes & she hesitates. Sex & The City never spoke about masturbation! They did however, singlehandedly bring ‘The Rabbit’ sex toy into popular consciousness worldover – SATC vibrated so the bustling pleasure toy industry could soar). Carrie hesitates after when the nonbinary host tells her she has to speak up more and says she’s ‘not really comfortable’. Che laughs & with refreshing kindness says, “Are you kidding? You were a sex columnist in the 90s. You were the OG!”
That kind of kindness & mutual consideration – I find that missing in current narratives, stories, activism & generations. Well, maybe it falls to my generation to lead the way there too. I’m glad to have my old friends back, even with their back aches, their grief drinking with nightmare repercussions & worries about getting pronouns wrong. These are my issues and they are as valid as the worries of a 30 year old. Carrie & co are a good 15 years ahead of me so it’s a real relief to see stories where people like that are still full of curiosity, pure emotions, passions & adventures. It tells me there is hope and more importantly – a place in the world for humans like me.
Isn’t that what feminism was always about? And friendship and life?