Sex and the City forever changed how women — and sex — are depicted on screen, but for all its high fashion and witty writing, it still missed the mark when it comes to depicting the diversity of modern life in New York City. That fact is something the show’s creator, Darren Star, says he’s aware of, but his response shows he still isn’t ready to fully address the issue.
When asked by The Hollywood Reporter about SATC’s failure to speak to the experiences of women of color and other marginalized groups, Star offered up a fairly bland reply: “That’s the one thing I probably would have liked to have done differently.”
It would be nice to see Star take a firmer stance on why the beloved show — which ran for six seasons on HBO before launching two feature films — had a nearly all-white, all-cisgender cast. But instead he said that maybe the show didn’t really need diversity. “Hopefully [the show] transcended that, but looking back, wow, that would have been another way to make it feel more groundbreaking.”
Star also fell back on the old defense that “things were different back then.” “The show is very much a product of it’s time… a time capsule,” he said. “You can only think about shows as representing the time that they are being made.”
As a woman of color, I can tell you the show absolutely did not transcend the fact that it had basically no Black, Latina, or Asian characters — or any character of color. The show ran from 1998 to 2004, an era where the non-Hispanic white population of New York fell from 43 percent in 1990 to just 35 percent in 2000. Still, only two people of color ever lasted more than one episode: Robert Leeds (Blair Underwood) and Maria Diega Reyes (Sônia Braga).
That doesn’t sound like an accurate “time capsule” of early 2000s New York to me. New Yorkers of color aren’t a new or novel thing, and when you have a show that erases them completely, there’s really no way to look past that.
This is far from the first time a TV show has had to address the fact that they failed to show people of color with full lives and personalities. Other New York-set shows like Friends, Seinfeld, and Girls have faced similar criticisms for their erasure of people of color in one of the most diverse cities on earth. It took Friends nine seasons, for instance, for one of its characters to get a Black love interest.
This isn’t even the first time people have specifically pointed out Sex and the City for having this problem.
While Star’s casts are admittedly a little more diverse now, his current show, Younger, and upcoming show Emily in Paris still have white leads and overwhelmingly white casts.Younger stars Sutton Foster, Hilary Duff, and Miriam Shor, while Emily in Paris features Lily Collins and Kate Walsh.
White people with power in Hollywood need to do better by people of color. It’s not enough to hem and haw about “probably” doing better; they have actually to model inclusion filling their shows with diverse actors.