It is known by many as the best Instagram post of all time. Not Beyoncé’s Boticelli shoot, or Britney’s meandering essay about getting locked in her bathroom, or some abomination of Caroline Calloway’s, but the time in 2018 when Kim Cattrall, who’d just lost her brother, posted, in large, thick letters, screenshotted, the words: “I don’t need your love or support at this tragic time, @sarahjessicaparker”.
The context, of course, is the much-mythologised “feud” in which Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker were involved in the six years of filming Sex and the City (which ran on HBO from 1998 to 2004), and of which the details have never been formally confirmed by either party. Parker has always denied that there were any issues between the two women on set – yet Cattrall’s post told a very different story. She wrote “how cruel you really were then and now” of Parker in the caption, and told her to “stop exploiting our tragedy to restore your ‘nice girl’ persona”.
So when the makers of Sex and the City returned with a spin-off, And Just Like That…, in 2021, it was no surprise that Cattrall did not feature. Her character, Samantha Jones, was written out, having “moved to London”, appearing only in a text conversation with Carrie (Parker) towards the end. Cattrall said she was not contacted in relation to the series and found out it was happening through social media, like the rest of us.
However, shockingly, it has just been announced that Cattrall will reprise her role as Samantha in the second season of And Just Like That…, which will be released on HBO Max later this month. She will appear in one scene in the final episode in a phone conversation with Carrie – and filming it did not involve her being in contact with a single member of the cast.
This may not seem like seismic news to those outside the Sex and the City fandom – but the crowd has gone wild. Besides, Cattrall has in recent years become something of a mainstream cultural icon.
Part of this is related to her role in the original show – we love Cattrall because she reminds us of the character we know so well. Sex and the City was a revolutionary depiction of sexually liberated single women, and Samantha was the most independent, promiscuous and outrageous of them all (“I’m dating a man with the funkiest tasting spunk,” she says quizzically at the opening of one scene over brunch, causing straight-laced Charlotte (Kristen Davis) to storm out). She is resolutely self-sufficient and undisturbed by what people think of her. “I will not be judged by you or society,” she says after Carrie catches her performing oral sex on the doorman. “I will wear whatever and blow whomever I want as long as I can breathe – and kneel”.
Cattrall sparkled in her rendition of Samantha: she was the funniest actor in the show, with an ever-present drag-queen drawl, arched eyebrow and sexy strut that made all her scenes feel light and warm. Parker, on the other hand – originally a child Broadway star – acted Carrie straight: it is rumoured that Cattrall’s ability to steal every scene was the original source of tension, and that Parker formed an on-set clique excluding Cattrall because of her jealousy.
In a way, Cattrall’s recent behaviour recalls Samantha’s. Her refusal to engage with Parker following the hurt she says Parker caused her, and her general lack of interest in reprising the role, is reminiscent of Samantha and her dispassionate attitude, which manifested in her ability to have sex “like a man” (without emotion) but also in her overall outlook.
Outside of Sex and the City, this attitude is very 2023. Cattrall’s now infamous comment in an interview with The Guardian that “I don’t want to be in a situation for even an hour where I’m not enjoying myself” (the screenshot of which has been shared thousands of times) sums up a moral code by which many people now live. Self-care, little treats, setting boundaries, ironic declarations of “chaos”: all these habits, which are constantly referenced on social media, are signifiers of a way of life that prioritises the pursuit of pleasure over, say, duty or security. This is understandable when the economic and environmental futures are uncertain and hopes of stability for young people are not forthcoming; the idea of an existence anchored to anything beyond the present moment is, for many, simply not realistic. The urge to carpe the diem and try not to think too much about anything has, of course, only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Samantha, albeit operating in the slightly less terrifying late 1990s, exhibited this mindset herself with her hedonism and sexuality, preferring immediate pleasure to long-term romance (“Tell a man ‘I hate you’, you have the best sex of your life. Tell him ‘I love you’, you’ll probably never see him again”). Most of all, she held her ground, and refused to be swayed by other people’s opinions of her. “If I worried what every bitch in New York was saying about me,” she once famously said, “I’d never leave the house.”
We attribute the same glamour to Cattrall’s actions because they have the same tenor of joyous independence: she does not deign to speak to colleagues she loathes, and she does the minimum amount of work for what we can assume is the maximum amount of cash, as suggested by the brevity of her And Just Like That… appearance. And so, like Samantha, Cattrall is a hedonist and a realist all at once – and we love her for it.