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Reboots and the City: A Love Letter to Samantha Jones

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In January 2021, it was announced that a reboot of the iconic 90’s TV show “Sex and the City” was in the works. However, the reboot would be missing some important characters such as the legendary love interest Mr. Big, the token “nice guy” Steve, and most importantly — one of the four leading ladies of the show, Samantha Jones.  Fans did not react to the announcement lightly and with good reason. For many of them, including me, Samantha is an inspiration in the free, empowered fashion she embodies womanhood and subverts traditional gender expectations. Without her, there is simply no show.

Sex Positivity and Liberation

The most prominent characteristic of Samantha is, without a doubt, her liberal attitude towards sex. She was vocal about enjoying sexual pleasure both with others and by herself and had little desire to pursue relationships that go beyond the physical. Most of her storylines revolved around her sex life and exploration and it was rare for any of her “love interests” to remain on the show for longer than a couple of episodes.

Back in the 90s, female promiscuity was much more taboo than it is now. Examples of men indulging in casual sex, refusing to be tied down by a relationship were abundant as they are now. However, women were (and still are) much more bound to societal expectations of settling down and building a family with a nice man that would take care of them. The prominence of this misogynistic viewpoint is perhaps what made Samantha so special. She was subjected to “slut-shaming,” not only by the media and audiences but also by her best friends. Yet, she stood strong. She remained confident and proud in her lifestyle and delivered some of the best responses to the misogyny she faced: I will not be judged by you or society. I will wear whatever and blow whomever I want as long as I can breathe—and kneel.

Looking back at the character at a time when we’re much more open and accepting towards female sexuality, it’s even clearer why the Samantha character was so important. She is a woman who so fearlessly rejected the idea that she needed a man to be fulfilled in life, was ambitious in her career, wasn’t afraid to treat men like they did women, and led a life in tune with her needs and pleasures. Her exemplification of the “strong independent woman” persona served (and continues to serve) as an inspiration for women around the world who didn’t want to conform to society’s expectations of them. While all the “Sex and the City” women characterized different forms of female empowerment, in my opinion, Samantha made the most important mark as a symbol of sexual liberation and female empowerment. Her absence in the revival also means the absence of these ideals and values that women have come to associate with the show and embrace in their personal lives, which is why the news hits the fans so hard.

The Friend We All Need

Besides, the character as an individual, the absence of Samantha in the four-person friend group will surely be greatly felt. Throughout all six seasons of the show, a lot changed in the lives of the characters. Men came and went, houses were bought and sold, jobs were taken and left but one thing stayed constant: the friendship. 

All the girls loved each other deeply and Samantha’s unwavering support for her friends showed the deepest, mostly in the most unexpected times. Despite what her crazy, fast-paced life would suggest to some, she would always show up for her friends when they needed her. Even if the issue was insignificant to her, she wasn’t afraid to confront anything that upset her friends head-on; perhaps best exemplified by the time an old friend of theirs stole Charlotte’s dream baby name and Samantha didn’t hesitate to put her in her place and storm out of the baby shower. Although she was sometimes prone to shaming Charlotte for her traditional views on life, she was still the least judgmental out of all of them and remained calm and supportive even in the face of the craziest stories and stupidest decisions. It’s definitely safe to say that her friendship will be deeply missed by both characters and fans.

Without Samantha, the dynamics fall apart. How long can we listen to stories about married life if there isn’t a wild sexual story by Samantha following right after?

More so, each of the girls brought something different to the table that the show needs to survive. Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte were different in many ways and each of them signified a distinct female archetype (characterizations that all seemed to crumble at some point in the show, but were there nonetheless). Carrie often found herself in great big love stories but never seemed to get it right, Samantha was promiscuous and fun, Miranda was career-driven and ambitious and Charlotte’s biggest dream was a typical, happy family. These differences created interesting and balanced group dynamics. Without Samantha, the dynamics fall apart. How long can we listen to stories about married life if there isn’t a wild sexual story by Samantha following right after? Or how much can it feel like we’re sitting at the restaurant with the four of them if we don’t see the horror on Charlotte’s face whenever Samantha mentions something that is wildly graphic and perhaps a tiny bit inappropriate for brunch? 

Familiarity

Even beyond everything that makes Samantha a great character, her absence points to a bigger problem that reboots of this kind can face. The absence of Samantha in the revival is due to the fact that Kim Cattrall, the actress who portrays her, decided (along with several other actors from the original show) she was done with the “Sex and the City” chapter of her life and declined to take part. This is a completely valid decision on her part, but begs the question: Should they really have gone forward with the project without such vital parts of the show?

With the revival of a show over 20 years after its original air time, most fans aren’t watching to experience realism or new stories — they’re watching to feed their nostalgia.

Casey Bloys, HBO Max’s chief content officer, stated that Samantha’s absence was realistic as it’s natural for friends to grow apart from their 30s to their 50s, but with the revival of a show over 20 years after its original air time, most fans aren’t watching to experience realism or new stories — they’re watching to feed their nostalgia. It is already very unlikely that a reboot captures the emotions it did during its initial run, but it’s even worse in a case like this.  After all the time invested in these characters and the relationships between them, a revival with several major characters missing can simply never be the same. 

In any case, Samantha Jones will surely continue to be cherished by audiences for a long time. We love her, we miss her and we will continue to carry her free spirit with us.

 

Cover: Canadian Film Center

Edited by: Andrada Pop

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