Woke or cultural appropriation? No, it’s “cultural appreciation”. Confusing times, isn’t it?
Carrie Bradshaw decked up for Diwali. Photo: sarah.j.p.bradshaw/Instagram
And Just Like That… it’s Diwali. Carrie Bradshaw has a new gal-pal, her real estate agent Seema Patel (played by British actress Sarita Choudhury). Not only has Ms Bradshaw bought an apartment from the latter, she is getting rather close to her. And Just Like That… Ms Bradshaw is going to celebrate the Festival of Light with an Indian family in episode six of AJLT, titled—what else?—‘Diwali’. But before that, soul mate Seema took her to “my Soho” in Manhattan for sari-shopping. In the unnamed store, no sari was seen (we certainly did not see one), but Ms Patel said “sari” twice: “I’ll buy a stunning sari” and “let’s get you a sari”. Neither woman touched a sari; neither is shown leaving the store with a purchase of one.
(Okay, truth now: we did watch AJLT, even when we said we would not. The temptation to see how blah it would turn out is too great to resist.)
And then Ms Bradshaw is, 21 minutes (and a consultation with a facelift doctor) later, all dressed and ready to go celebrate Diwali somewhere in Queens. She emerges from her part-time home, a Brownstown on the Upper East Side, decked out in a long-sleeved choli and a full-skirted lehenga! Did Ms Patel not say, in “my Soho” that her friend should get a sari? Or were we mistaken (could not be bothered to rewind)? As she arranges her outfit outside the front door to her block, it is clear Ms Bradshaw is not wearing a sari, but a skirt, the lehenga, usually ankle-length—hers seems to be sweeping the floor. It is hard to imagine that fashion-mad Carrie Bradshaw did not know what she was wearing, exactly.
A supposed sari shop in Soho, but the women are flanking a set of choli and lehenga. Photo: Netflix
To be sure, she did let on that she knew little (or nothing?) about Indian dress and Indian festive seasons. She told Ms Patel shortly after entering the “sari shop” (she did later call it that): “Okay, these clothes, this holiday, I need to know everything about it (sic)”. As it turns out, she learnt nothing about them. When she was told to purchase a sari to go to the party, she asked with 2021-proper caution, “Is that allowed?” The buying? Sure! But, Ms Patel replied confidently, “You’re wearing it to a traditional celebration at my family home. That’s not cultural appropriation; that’s cultural appreciation”. It’s in the Borough of Queens, not the Republic of India! The wearing of ethnic clothes (let’s not talk about the blooming mohawk on her hair!) not related to the ethnicity of the wearer is not inappropriate adoption for as long one is given approval by a single person from that ethnic group, an entire diaspora? Or is it more lax in New York?
In this episode of AJLT, directed by cast member Cynthia Nixon, Carrie Bradshaw reminds us that “15 years” have passed. And in her mid-50s, she has an Indian friend and learning about Diwali for, both the first time. It is unfathomable that, in all these years, from the time they met (let’s go back further), the three women have so few Asian friends when New York is such a plural society, with Asians constituting the highest total Asian population of any US city. Sure, Charlotte York has an adopted Chinese daughter, Lily, but she is largely a peripheral character. Sex and the City, while progressive at the time of its broadcast, did not really have a sterling reputation when it came to embracing diversity. And Just Like That playing catch up is, regrettably, just that.