SJP and the women of 'And Just like That' just can't win. They're criticised for their "ageing appearances", yet they'd be equally lambasted if they looked youthful.
23 years on since the first Sex and the City episode aired and Sarah Jessica Parker is preparing to make her imminent return to our screens. And yes, of course, she looks older… that’s the point.
Speaking to Vogue about all things Carrie Bradshaw-related, the actress said that fan anticipation for the upcoming reboot has reached near frenzied levels – and it’s not just those who grew up with the show that are looking forward to its comeback either.
“14-year-old girls walking their dogs call out to me, ‘I can’t wait!’” Parker notes. “I think young women still really relate to this story. It’s about finding friendships that matter, looking for work that fulfils you, and pursuing love even when it drags you, bloodied, down the street.”
It’s about more than that though. People questioning why they’d sign up for a reboot, irks Kristin Davis (who plays Charlotte on the show) to no end and it’s symptomatic of a much more pertinent issue – complete disinterest in women’s lives and how they unfold as they get older. “People are like, ‘Why should they come back?’ and it really bugs me. Are women’s lives not interesting now? Nobody ever asks, ‘Why would you do this violent remake over and over again?’ For me, that is so indicative of our reluctance to sit and watch women’s lives develop over time.”
Davis makes a valid point. And Just Like That is a show about women now in their 50s. They’ve aged since we last saw them gallivanting around New York City in their tulle skirts and Manolos but the progression is intentional. They’re not trying to “youthify” the series as Cynthia Nixon (a.k.a Miranda Hobbes) points out. SJP agrees, later addressing some of the ageist backlash she’s gotten since the first photos of the reboot were released.
“There’s so much misogynist chatter in response to us that would never. Happen. About. A. Man,” she says, punctuating every word with a clap. “‘Grey hair, grey hair, grey hair. Does she have grey hair?’ I’m sitting with Andy Cohen [of Bravo fame],” Parker goes on, “and he has a full head of grey hair, and he’s exquisite. Why is it okay for him? 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.’ It almost feels as if people don’t want us to be perfectly okay with where we are, as if they almost enjoy us being pained by who we are today, whether we choose to age naturally and not look perfect, or whether you do something if that makes you feel better. I know what I look like. I have no choice. What am I going to do about it? Stop aging? Disappear?”
As usual, this is very much damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t kind of situation. The Sex and the City pilot episode aired on HBO on June 6, 1998 when the actress was 33 years old. Over two decades have passed since then, so it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that SJP looks different to how she used to.
Imagine for a moment, that she somehow looked exactly as she did when the original series first started filming all those years ago… I guarantee that the critics would have just as much to say about that as they do about her ageing. Not only would they accuse her of “having work done”, but they’d probably attack her for setting a bad example for other women in the industry too. They’d lament her choice to try and preserve her youth, while ignoring their own roles in perpetuating conversations about age and aesthetics. We want women to look younger but then demonise them if they actually try to do anything about it.
SJP isn’t the only woman in Hollywood to have faced scrutiny about her ageing body though. Earlier this year, friends and former Charlie’s Angels costars, Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz shared an unedited photo on Instagram together. Clearly just happy to be in each other’s company after so many months apart, some did seem to miss the point of the sweet reunion snap and it wasn’t long before messages about how the two looked started to roll in. While the vast majority of the subsequent comments were admittedly very positive/complimentary, I can’t help but wonder whether they were also sort of redundant.
Praising Barrymore and Diaz for “ageing gracefully” without the help of filters, botox, or other such “enhancers” – though much less overtly critical – still feeds into the narrative that a woman’s worth is largely based on her appearance. Where were the comments about their friendship? Why didn’t we commend them for the strong bond they’ve managed to maintain throughout their careers? We’re told that how we look is the least interesting thing about us, it’s time we act accordingly and treat other people as such.