Charlotte's Quest For Black Friends Pokes Holes In AJLT's Diversity Efforts
The fourth episode of And Just Like That has arrived, and diversity (or lack thereof) is a major plot line. Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) gets anxious when she realises Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker) and her husband Herbert (Chris Jackson) would be the only Black couple at her dinner. “The Wexleys can not be the only Black couple at the dinner! They’re going to think we have no Black friends,” Charlotte tells Harry Goldenblatt (Evan Handler) after she realises the flaws in their guest list. This may seem obvious, but if Charlotte could only think of one Black couple to invite, it’s safe to say she doesn’t have any Black friends.
Things continue to get cringier. Charlotte invites her Indian neighbours, Shelly and David Jenkins, who she doesn’t usually interact with, and her PTA enemy Deirdra and her husband Geoff because they’re Black. Ultimately, she has to cancel the dinner only to get an invite to Lisa’s family dinner. The invite causes Charlotte to spiral about her knowledge of Black culture 101. “Lisa and Herbert run in an eclectic and diverse crowd, but right now, everyone is talking about Black literature. You read the article I sent you, right?” Charlotte asks Harry during a weird prep session to feel comfortable around Black people. She adds, “It is unacceptable that we do not have a more diverse friendship circle.” Remember, these women have lived in New York City for decades just to discover this.
“It is unacceptable that we do not have a more diverse friendship circle.”
It feels like with episode four, AJLT writers tried to craft a cheeky response to the original franchise criticism for not having more diverse characters for a show set in such a multicultural city. Or perhaps it was supposed to reflect the reality of some white Upper East Side families. (IRL, Davis has two Black children). But, it just ended up being hard to watch as a person of colour. I would never want to fill someone’s diversity quota – and if we’re speaking honestly, that is how the introduction of the women of colour felt. Indian realtor Seema Patel (Sarita Choudhury) is in charge of selling Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment (Sarah Jessica Parker), and they become close friends in the episode. Similarly, Miranda Hobbs (Cynthia Nixon) gets dinner with her Black professor Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), sparking a friendship that seems forced until they talk about the universal experience of having children. Once Miranda left being woke behind, it just felt so much more real. The episode felt like they were trying to jam in all of the POC at once.
The DEI feel of episode four takes away from the excitement of the diversity efforts promised in the reboot. “First of all, everything we ever did on Sex and the City in the writing room was sort of based on our own personal experiences and knowledge and life,” showrunner and executive producer Michael Patrick King recently told POPSUGAR in response to the criticism. “When we knew we were bringing in people of colour, the first thing I knew we were going to do, we’re bringing in writers of colour, so that they could also do what we did for those other white ladies. But now, do with new characters and their lives and their expressions. And not just any writers of colosex and thur, but specific people that have specific points of view.” But writers should also not solely brought in as tokens to write the storylines of the new POC characters. They write across the storyboard to ensure a diverse mindset is at the core of even the white characters, as King explained.
I’m happy the efforts were there, but it’s not enough. As a viewer, I don’t want to go on this journey as Charlotte becomes more “woke.” It centers her as a white woman in a conversation about diversity. We’ll see how the season continues, but I’m not too hopeful.