The people vs. Miranda Hobbes, et. al.
NOTE: This blog post contains spoilers for the first season of “And Just Like That” on HBO.
Like most women who were alive in the late 90s, I watched a lot of “Sex And The City” on HBO. The show ran from 1998 to 2004, and I watched every episode, most of them two or three times. The women in that show reflected exactly where I was, and where most of my friends were, in their lives – dating, working, and generally trying to figure out how to make it to the next day without a major meltdown.
We didn't dress like those women, but honestly no one really dressed like they did.
When “And Just Like That” was announced, I was thrilled. These women had felt like friends, and I looked forward to catching up with them. I tried to ignore the hype and the buzz around the show, the rumors and the guesses, the leaked photos and the noise. I just wanted to experience it for myself.
I really enjoyed the series. But judging from online reactions and articles out there, I seem to be in the minority.
The biggest complaint seemed to be that the tone of AJLT was different from SATC. It was not as fun, it was not lighthearted, it was sad. After all, in episode one, we learn that Miranda is probably drinking too much, Charlotte is fighting with her teenage daughters, Stanford and Anthony are fighting with each other, and Samantha has bailed on the friendships for London. It seems like only Carrie is happy, married to Big and living large on the Upper West Side.
Until she isn’t.
Big – who is at least ten years older than Carrie – dies of a heart attack. It’s devastating to watch.
There was a lot of push back on the story line – after all these years of happiness, after all the years chasing Big and finally marrying him, Carrie gets her heart broken because he dies. She’s a widow in her 50s.
While I know they are all fictional characters, and this didn’t actually happen, it does happen all too often in real life. In our 50s, our friends and family and loved ones do die. We – me, my friends, and these characters as well as the actresses who play them – are of an age where really bad shit happens on a pretty regular basis. I’m 51, almost 52, and have already lost three friends who were my age, two to breast cancer and one to ALS. I lost a friend from elementary and high school a few years ago to cancer. My mom died when she was 49. My father is suffering from end-stage dementia.
Life is not all rosy at this age.
What the producers have done is create a realistic look at what happens when you get older. Maybe that’s not sitting well with some people, and it certainly doesn’t seem like the fantasy world that was SATC, but it really resonated with me. See? I’m not alone. You can wear all the designer clothes you want; death comes for everyone at some point.
The biggest outrage of the AJLT crowd has been the story line of one Miranda Hobbes. In the SATC series, she was an uptight lawyer, concerned with climbing the ladder to partner in her firm, and making a big impression. She was also extremely judgmental, belittled her friends for their decisions if they didn’t align with her image of them (remember the whole don’t-go-to-Paris thing?), and really was quite an asshole. She was my least favorite of the four women. Sometimes I wondered why they kept her around.
In AJLT, Miranda changes. Wait, “changes” seems like too small a word to use here.
She quits her cushy job. She quits her marriage. She even quits her (assumed by us and maybe her) sexual identity as a cis-gendered straight woman.
There are so many articles written about the audience’s reaction to these changes. How could she? How could she leave Steve? How could she want a woman now, she’s been straight all these years? How could she do this to us? And so many of these articles were written by women (and some men) who were not in their 50s and could have no idea what living life as a woman of that age was really like.
The fact is Miranda’s abrupt changes were probably not that abrupt. She’s been living her entire life – more than 50 years – according to the rules set up by someone, somewhere. They weren’t her rules, but she lived by them. And one day she decided she’d had enough.
I quit my job two years ago this past December with ZERO PLANS. I had a vague idea of being a freelance writer but wasn’t 100% sure. What I knew for sure was this – I couldn’t keep going on the path I was on. I would die.
When women hit their 50s, most of us stop and think, is this it? If I’m half-way, or even ¾ of the way through my life, how do I want to live the rest of it? We have all been given a playbook, by society and our parents, and most of us have been living by those rules. I know I was. And it was so very stifling.
The rules set out for me went against everything I knew I was, but I crammed all those feelings down in order to fit in, and go with the flow, and make as few waves as possible. Every now and then, they would explode, and I would get grounded as a teen, or written up by HR (once for insubordination, much to my chagrin and the thrill of my friend John Brown) for shooting my mouth off and telling the hard truth at some inopportune moment.
Honestly, bosses and parents feel like there is never a good moment to express how one really feels.
For most bosses, I was probably a terrible employee, because I should never have been an employee. I’m terrible at it. I can be good at playing politics, and playing the corporate games, but I LOATHE it and will eventually explode under the pressure of playing that part.
I’m working hard to shuck all of the rules laid out for me, and find my own way, my original purpose in life. I love writing, and I love working for myself. I miss regular paychecks sometimes, but not enough to go back to work full time again. I thought I would hate the financials of running my own business, but I’m excited about learning tax law and how to save just the right amount, and pay quarterly taxes on time, and negotiate rates, and send invoices. I love all of it, and I wouldn’t trade my life right now for anything.
It was scary, and it was unexpected, and if my father didn’t have dementia he would have been shocked and appalled when I quit my job. If my mother were alive, she would have been worried about what people would have thought when I started wearing more boots and less girly clothes.
Or maybe in their 70s they would have realized that everyone needs to be true to themselves, even fictional characters like Miranda Hobbes.
In 99% of the episodes of SATC, Miranda does not seem happy. Even when she marries Steve, or had Brady, she doesn’t seem 100% convinced this is the thing that will make her happy.
But in AJLT, once she met Che, made her decisions to leave Steve and follow her heart, she seemed happy. Really, truly happy. Is that why everyone is complaining? Are we women in our 40s and 50s and 60s supposed to just take what the world has to offer and be gracious? Are we supposed to be quiet and soft and accommodating because that’s easier for everyone else? And are we supposed to stay the way we’ve always been because it’s comfortable for those around us, even if it is slowly and surely killing our spirits?
I’ve got news for you – we are not going to be any of those things. When you turn 40, you lose most of the fucks you have to give, and when you turn 50, they are completely gone. Other people’s opinions of you are none of your business, and I have never cared less about them than I do now.
And while she’s fictional, Miranda’s storyline represents so much of what goes on in the lives of women of a certain age. The age of kicking ass.
So go ahead and write your articles condemning Miranda for her life choices.
I assure you she does not give one teeny, tiny shit what you think.