The good news? The long-awaited reboot of Sex and the City has finally landed. The bad news? Before the first episode of And Just Like That had even aired, the misogynistic chatter about the stars’ appearance – particularly that of Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie) and Kristin Davis (Charlotte) – had reached fever pitch.
It started way back in July, when Parker was photographed having lunch with her friend Andy Cohen in New York during a break from shooting the new series. Both of them had visibly grey hair (I know, I know, how is this even a story?). But the internet went into meltdown, picking apart Parker’s looks with a level of viciousness that was both infuriating and tediously predictable: the same old double standards aboutexpectations of women’s beauty as we age.
Rather splendidly, though, SJP hit back in an interview in the December edition of Vogue, calling out the chatter for what it really is: misogyny.
“There’s so much misogynist chatter in response to us that would never. Happen. About. A. Man. ‘Grey hair, grey hair, grey hair. Does she have grey hair?’ [Andy Cohen] has a full head of grey hair, and he’s exquisite. Why is it OK 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 OK with where we are, whether we choose to age naturally and not look perfect, or whether you do something if that makes you feel better.
“What am I going to do? Stop ageing? Disappear?”
I love Parker’s response to this bull****: telling it like it is. How else should we deal with ageing: just carry on pretending we’re not? No: the chatter demands a response.
Now it’s Kristin Davis’s turn. The trolls have turned on her after a Mail Online story headlined: “And just like that... Charlotte has a new face! SATC star Kristin Davis, 56, sparks plastic-surgery rumours as fans claim she looks ‘unrecognisable’ in new HBO spinoff trailer.”
I mean, where do we start unravelling this rubbish? Critics are calling her out for her “awful plastic surgery”, damning her for not ageing naturally while at the same time criticising Sarah Jessica Parker for having grey hair?
Oh, the irony! Women in midlife get work done and we’re fake, phoney, yet when we choose to age without tweaks, we’re letting ourselves go. Men, on the other hand, can go grey, get wrinkles and pack on the pounds and suddenly they’re “distinguished”. As women in midlife, we simply cannot win.
Davis has taken on her detractors, though, telling The Sunday Times Style how the criticism affected her: “I feel angry and I don’t want to feel angry all the time, so I don’t look at it, I just know it’s there… But I also feel – I’m going to be blunt – I feel, like, ‘F*** you. F*** you people, like, come over here and do it better.’ Like, what are you doing?”
I applaud her honesty here. Body image is something she’s been talking about for a long time, telling AOL in 2018: “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say that [beauty standards] don’t concern me or that I don’t think about them… It’s been a stressful thing for me over time and hard to get enough self-worth where I can be, like, ‘I’m just gonna look however I’m gonna look on screen.’”
She’s been brave enough to be open about her struggles with self-esteem, so how must she feel seeing the debate unfold, not just about whether she has had work done, but how successful it was?
Regardless of whether or not Davis has had plastic surgery, or SJP dyes her hair, a woman’s appearance should not be up for public discussion in this way. Aren’t there more important things happening in the world to debate? Why does it even matter that Parker has grey roots? What’s the story here?
The great thing about And Just Like That – and yes, I know it’s a fiction, but still – is that it’s showing us the lives of fiftysomething women can be fabulous. We have stories to tell, just like everyone else.
The show’s executive producer Michael Patrick King put it neatly: “When we announced And Just Like That, there were a lot of positive reactions, but one bitchy response online was people sharing pictures of the Golden Girls.
“And I was, like, ‘Wow, so it’s either you’re 35, or you’re retired and living in Florida. There’s a missing chapter here.”
Women like Sarah Jessica Parker and Kristin Davis are filling in that missing chapter. They’re actors, storytellers, so why the hell should their wrinkles – or lack of them – enter into the debate?