HBO’s Sex and the City celebrated its 20th anniversary last week, and for many women, the show broke new ground. Watching a show that discussed sex and relationships in real, unfiltered ways started a cultural movement that continues to this day.
But the show had its issues. To borrow from Basketball Wives star Tami Roman, “Let’s get into it.”
Full disclosure: I love the show. I’ve seen the entire series at least three times. And I plan on watching it three or more times in the future. So, yes, I am a stan. But I’m also aware of some of the show’s flaws, one of them being that Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis), four white women, hardly interacted with people of color…in New York City.
So when they tried to do a “black episode” in season three, it went left, and Sundra Oakley, one of the actresses in that episode, recently spoke to Vanity Fair magazine about it.
“Samantha only slept with one black guy in the whole range of the show, in New York City? O.K., sure,” she told the mag.
In the episode titled, “No Ifs, Ands or Butts,” Oakley plays a young chef who’s black brother, a record executive, starts dating Samantha. At first, Oakley’s character is cool with Samantha until she finds out that the two are an item. She becomes the reason the two break up when she tells Samantha that she doesn’t want her brother dating white women because “It’s a black thing!”
Not only was that a shallow statement, but it was written by two white men – Darren Star and Michael Patrick King. No black person even talks like that, which goes to show you how important it is to have black writers, something that was very rare on a white-centered show.
And for Oakley, looking back at that episode after many years, she wonders why the first black representation on that show had to be that way.
“When I was looking at it through the lens of 20-years-ago Sundra, I was happy to have this job and work on this fabulous show,” she told Vanity Fair. “[But] even a few years later . . . it’s like, oh man, why did it have to be that way? Why couldn’t it have been a different story?”
Sex and the City attempted to not be so tone deaf when they brought in another black character played by Blair Underwood. But according to Cynthia Nixon, she and the other three main actresses lobbied hard for him to be cast. In season six, Underwood played a sports physician who dates Miranda. In his five-episode arc, he just gets to be a guy, not a black guy, which was refreshing.
Cattrall has even suggested that a Black American or Latin American actress replace her on any future iterations of the show. Whether that’s a real possibility remains to be seen, but I have to give props to the ladies for using their power and voice to advocate for more inclusiveness.
For Oakley, she speaks very highly of the main actresses. It’s just that the show, after six seasons and two films, still can’t get it right when it comes to representing people of color. But she sees a bittersweet silver lining.
“That’s the beauty of us as black women,” Oakley said. “We’ve had to learn how to walk in their world. They never had to learn how to walk in ours.”
Renese spends her early mornings writing, her days securing insurance for TV shows, and her in-betweens blogging about the silliness and seriousness of life on her blog. Follow Renese on Twitter: @reneseford
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