This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
This week’s And Just Like That… freakout.
A very good show for you to binge.
The song of the year.
Thank You For Being a Friend, Carrie Bradshaw???
It has come to the attention of the internet—few things in this world are more harrowing—that the characters in And Just Like That…, HBO Max’s sequel series to Sex and the City, are the same age as the women in The Golden Girls were when that comedy first launched.
People are freaking weird about age. Some are paranoid about it. Some are terrified of it. There are those who are performatively proud in a way that suggests they’re actually quite panicked and insecure. We regret, we worry, we wax nostalgic about the past. We get confused by what’s happening to our bodies as we get older. Everyone has a different, typically extreme relationship to age. But there’s one thing that unites us all when it comes to it: We judge.
Is the internet’s shock and awe that Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw and Bea Arthur’s Dorothy Zbornak are both supposed to be around 55 because Carrie and the girls on And Just Like That… don’t seem like they’d be that old, or is it because it’s hard to believe that our cherished cheesecake-loving lanai loungers could be that young? Neither answer reflects particularly well on you, folks!
This isn’t the first time this kind of hysteria has erupted. There was the time Jennifer Lopez wore a glittering body suit and climbed to the top of a pole to do a jaw-dropping stripper routine during a Super Bowl halftime show performance that was nothing short of an Olympian feat of athleticism—and people pointed out that the entertainer was the same age that Rue McClanahan’s Golden Girls character, Blanche, was at the start of the series: 50.
In some ways, I think we all read into cues that the Golden Girls were somehow older when the series aired. Some of the performers were older than their characters; Arthur and Betty White were both 63 when the show began. They had gray hair and a more matronly style, and they had relocated, like so many people do in their sunset years, to South Florida. Then there’s the fact that Hollywood had never put four vibrant female characters in their fifties on TV before, let alone lent them the dignity of vibrant lives and personalities. Seeing them together was such a shock to audiences that they immediately aged them by assumption.
So, it’s interesting that the characters in And Just Like That… are far more obsessive about aging than the Golden Girls ever were. It’s the value of the show, especially considering we got to know these women at the most, as accepted by society, “fabulous” point of their lives—as hot, successful, sexual women in their thirties. I love that the show explores how they adjust, often uncomfortably, to this new way they’re looked at and treated by the world—not to mention how they view and judge themselves. That some fans seem to be so put off by seeing these characters in that context… well, that’s the point.
In this week’s episode [WARNING: some spoilers ahead], Carrie gets ma’am’d. The hot young It Girl neighbor downstairs—the new Carrie Bradshaw if you will, a bruising realization—drops the slur. It happens again, by a handsome male model, the kind she might have once dated, who happens to be naked with his dick flopping around.
She flails between trying to come off as cool and hip, so as not to seem like the wet blanket Old Lady when they stay up all night blasting music, and embracing her new life and the ways in which it makes her happy: for example, walking around the block wearing a housedress, a scarf around her head, oversized sunglasses, and rubber gloves to smoke without getting the smell in her apartment and on her clothes.
Like in every episode, the characters respond to a handful of other aging fire alarms. Carrie and Miranda can’t get over their surprise that Charlotte “still” gives Harry blow jobs. “Is he dying?” “Is it his birthday?”
And most poignantly, if painfully, Miranda and Steve arrive at a crossroads when it comes to what they want from their lives. “We’re 55, Steve. That’s not old. You want 30 more years of this?” Miranda asks him. Steve? Forgiving the fact that this series seems hell-bent on characterizing him as the oldest man who has ever lived, he makes a salient point: They’re not old, but the point they’ve reached after so many years together, that stasis, should be satisfying. It’s what they deserve: “That’s life.”
Listen, few people are more obsessed with their age and aging than me. I’m aware that the preoccupation is constant, and likely insufferable. I bring it up to friends. To coworkers. To celebrities I interview. I am [age redacted] but I act like if a movie were to be made about my life right now, Bob Newhart would be cast to play me.
I think that’s what’s behind so much of this AJLT/Golden Girls discourse. People today aren’t cast off by society as viciously as they were 35 years ago when the series was airing. But what once might have been the utopian ideal for the present—aging gracefully—has evolved into something else entirely, something arguably toxic, and something that I think AJLT captures so well: aging stressfully.
Have You Watched Sex Lives of College Girls Yet?
The Sex Lives of College Girls is a show that actually came out around Thanksgiving. It might come as a surprise that, when there are 559 original scripted series (as in, not reality TV, not docuseries, not sports, not old shows that are new to streaming services), we don’t always get around to watching everything as soon as it comes out. That’s the case with this HBO Max gem that we binged over the holiday weekend after hearing ecstatic word of mouth from a lot of people.
Depending on my mood, I go back and forth between thinking that the title is ghastly or that it’s brilliant. It reads like a VHS you would see advertised in a porny late-night infomercial on cable in the late ’90s. Sure, it is factually correct. The series, created by Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble, does explore the ways in which four freshmen at an elite New England college navigate their new independence and freedom, their sexuality and desires, and their place in an evolving and complicated world. So yes, technically, their sex lives. But also so much more.
In that regard, the titillating bait-and-switch of the title, as off-putting as it might be for some, is exactly the point. It’s commenting on the way these young women are often reduced and exploited in pop culture, and challenging the audience to view their sexuality as healthy, emotional, and beautiful instead of a Girls Gone Wild stereotype—and when it sometimes is like that, that’s OK, too!
Beyond the title, these are richly drawn characters with relatable issues, some of the snappiest dialogue on TV—rich in pop-culture references, in the Kaling way—and nuanced takes on the modern anxieties of the college experience as cultures adjust to a new era of, forgive me for using the word, “wokeness.”
Anyway, if you happen to have time amidst the 558 other options there are to watch, I highly recommend this series.
I Only Want to Talk About Bruno
It’s early yet, but there is one indisputable choice for the song of the year. The bop of 2022. Nay, the jam of our lifetime. It’s unfathomable that any new track, regardless of what rumored music Beyoncé, Rihanna, or Kelly Clarkson may or may not put out this year, will top the sheer genius of this one.
The track from the recent film is somewhat of a phenomenon already, with TikTok users embracing the clip, the song surging to the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100—the first to do so since “Let It Go” from Frozen—and its popularity leading the charge for the Encanto soundtrack to do the unthinkable: unseat Adele from the top of the charts.
More, it has not left my head for one single second since the first time I heard it. I don’t so much “walk” anymore as I slink down the sidewalk shimmying my shoulders in time to the chorus’ “no, no, no…” And because of that, I was delighted by this clip of dancers—as in real-life human ones—performing the choreography that was then animated in the film, a captivating look at the creative process behind one of the year’s most delightful pieces of entertainment.
It’s the Vibe of the Moment
“Listen, I’m too old, too tired and too talented for any of that shit.” - Succession star Brian Cox in a recent Deadline interview when asked if he’s concerned about talking candidly about his life, and also me when I am asked to wake up and/or do any task.
What to watch this week:
The Gilded Age: As if “Christine Baranski does Downton Abbey” wasn’t going to get an endorsement. (Mon. on HBO)
As We See it: If you’re concerned about where to turn to weep openly now that This Is Us is ending, here’s your answer. (Fri. on Amazon)
Ozark: Ozark is back! Tell your dads! (Fri. on Netflix)
What to skip this week:
The King’s Daughter: Sometimes a movie comes out, and you’re like, oh, this is a movie coming out. Who knew? (Fri. in theaters)