Commentary: The sequel to Sex And The City demonstrates that women’s identities are not limited to those of wives or mothers

Commentary: The sequel to Sex And The City demonstrates that women's identities are not limited to those of wives or mothers

BIRMINGHAM, England: was ecstatic on the eve of the release of the Sex and the City sequel, And Just Like That. 

Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte navigate life at 50 in world that has changed dramatically since the 2000s.

Commentary: The sequel to Sex And The City demonstrates that women's identities are not limited to those of wives or mothers
David Eigenberg, left, and Cynthia Nixon appear in a scene from “And Just Like That” in this image released by HBO Max. (HBO Max via Associated Press)

I recently earned another university degree in order to support a career change – and, like you, I discovered my queerness later in life.

While older women continuing to be sexual beings is not novel to television, a sustained examination of their struggles with emerging or latent queerness deviates from established tropes and provides a welcome diversion from the focus on heterosexual middle and older age.

REMOVE THE TERM “MOTHER” FROM MY NAME

Carrie’s childlessness-by-choice also resonates now in a way that it did not when I was engaged to a man in the early 2000s and naively believed that having a child was a necessary part of female adulthood and marriage.

Women in their eighties and nineties are frequently portrayed as wives and mothers. If they are childless and divorced, their stories are frequently tinged with despair or sadness.

Over the last decade, childlessness has increased among all women for a variety of reasons, including career advancement or concerns about the future and the environment. It seems only natural that more stories reflect this growing reality for older women.

Now that I am in my early forties, And Just Like That demonstrates to me that awkward fumbling is not limited to adolescents. As adults, we never cease to navigate life in an awkward manner because it is constantly changing, as are the rules.

AGEING WITH FRANCISCA AND GRACE

And Just Like That, like Sex and the City before it, demonstrates that friendships with women are worthwhile relationships deserving of attention and intention.

Perhaps, as with their youth, romantic loss presents older women with new opportunities and adventures. Rather than the familiar depressing images of lonely divorcees and widows, older women can form new, non-romantic bonds and explore previously uncharted areas of their potential.

This new hopeful outlook on romantic relationships is evident in the Netflix series Grace and Frankie (2015), which follows two retired women who become unlikely friends after their husbands confess their love for one another.

It premieres 30 years after NBC’s The Golden Girls (1985), which similarly explored how older women’s lives endure even when their marriages fail or their children leave the nest.

Grace and Frankie, now in their 70s, are more daring on television than Blanche and the other Golden Girls were in their 50s and 60s. That’s correct; the Golden Girls were the same age as the characters in And Just Like That are now.

Consider this for a moment. It confused me as well, because they appear to be much older. More importantly, as a show about the friendship of two septuagenarians, Grace and Frankie reflects a shift in how women in this age group are portrayed.

Whereas many women of this age are relegated to supporting roles, this series demonstrates that older women are not only relevant, but also capable of exploring the kaleidoscope of their existence through various eras and phases.

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I had hoped that this reboot would be more self-aware of their whiteness and class privileges. Additionally, I desired for Carrie and the girls to have more meaningful interactions with women of color and younger generations.

While it still has some work to do on this front, it has exceeded my expectations in terms of how it represents women over 40.

Both Grace and Frankie and And Just Like That demonstrate that women are more than wives, mothers, and romantic interests.

What an incredible time to be alive. To see older female characters portrayed with the same depth, authenticity, humour, and shades of awkwardness as female characters in their teens, twenties, and thirties are now portrayed.

Now, if we could just broaden the focus on older women who are not white, upper middle-class, heterosexual, with candor and grace, I would be grateful. Kindly and gratefully.

Kadian Pow is a Birmingham City University lecturer in sociology and black studies. This commentary was originally published on The Conversation.

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