‘And Just Like That’s’ Handling of LTW’s Pregnancy Is a New Low

‘And Just Like That’s’ Handling of LTW’s Pregnancy Is a New Low

Note: the following article contains spoilers about this week’s episode of And Just Like That.

I’ve been merrily hate-watching And Just Like That since its inception, feebly accepting that once-beloved characters are now shells of themselves and that Aidan, he of leather twine necklace notoriety, would ever wear that jacket. Its latest episode, however, transgressed from inane to insulting for its handling—mishandling—of Lisa Todd Wexley’s pregnancy.

In the dwindling moments of last week’s installment, the conflicted AJLT fandom learned that LTW (the resplendent Ari Nicole Parker)—established documentarian and certified-hot Upper East Side private school mom—was pregnant. This week’s episode reveals that Lisa is understandably devastated by this development: She already has three school-age children that her husband barely helps with, including a teen old enough to have sex with his girlfriend at the Mandarin Oriental, and PBS just decided to make a 10-part series of her documentary. (“They’re Ken-Burns-ing you,” Miranda quips.)

LTW tearfully unloads her baby news while perusing vintage Italian glassware with Charlotte.“How did this happen?” Lisa laments. “I thought I moved out of Babyville.” What she says next feels gutting: “Goddammit, I thought it was finally my time.”

For a fleeting moment, AJLT actually won with its relatively-little-seen depiction of a happily married mother’s unhappiness about expecting. That’s real. As a 41-year-old mother of two, I’ve been part of countless similar conversations with friends. Being married and being a mom does not mean that every pregnancy is welcome, for so many reasons. But then, just as quickly, the show drops the dramatic ball.

And Just Like That, a series that’s clunkily and brazenly obsessed with so-called wokeness, proceeds to pretend abortion isn’t an option for Lisa, a woman of extreme privilege in New York, a state where it’s still legal and protected. “Lisa, I think you can do this,” is Charlotte’s immediate reply, with absolutely no acknowledgment of the fact that Lisa could very well choose not to. We all know Charlotte is historically a Pollyanna, but she’s also a loyal friend on a series supposedly all about female friendship, who probably voted for Hillary and carted her kids to the Women’s March. Would she not even gently remind Lisa that she could opt to end a pregnancy that’s making her utterly miserable?

LTW’s husband, Herbert (Christopher Jackson, a.k.a forever Hamilton’s George Washington) is similarly Victorian. Later, as Lisa tosses and turns in bed, raging that Herbert failed to get a vasectomy years ago, his first impulse is to densely suggest that Lisa is a supermom who can persevere through a geriatric pregnancy and raise a fourth child she doesn’t want through the power of sheer will. “Lis, you can do this,” Herbert patronizes. “If anyone can, you can.”

At this point, my rage is roiling right alongside LTW’s—but, alas, it gets worse! Someone—Herbert—finally awakens to the modern era and brings up abortion, but so maddeningly coyly that neither he nor Lisa breathes the word. “Should we be having the other discussion?” Herbert asks.

The other discussion? Not to overthink the sociopolitical implications of a Max reboot, but why is a show with its roots in going there dancing around not only the word but the topic, especially after Roe v. Wade was overturned and the right to abortion is so urgent? Why is And Just Like That rolling back Sex and the City’s own progressive treatment of abortion in season four—in 2001—when Miranda, then newly pregnant with Brady after having pity-sex with Steve, declares over brunch that she’s getting an abortion? Carrie and Samantha simply support her decision and frankly share their own past abortions (two in Samantha’s case) without descending into melodrama or suggestions that the experience was life-altering or traumatizing, as it’s often depicted. Miranda chooses to keep the pregnancy and goes on to have Brady, but that kind of normalizing conversation was what made Sex and the City special and borderline radical for its time, even in the face of other now-glaring shortcomings around race and inclusion.

More than two decades later, And Just Like That misses an opportunity to continue depicting the diversity of the abortion experience. According to Centers for Disease Control data, 60% of women who have abortions are already mothers. Why not show that? Instead, Lisa tells Herbert that she won’t end a pregnancy she’s clearly conflicted about: “I thought about it, but I can’t,” she says in still more veiled language. “I mean, I’m really grateful that I have that option, but”—she shakes her head—“I just need to wrap my head around this new reality.”

Anyone with a womb has the right to be ambivalent about a pregnancy and choose—choose being the operative word—to keep it anyway. But And Just Like That doesn’t want to saddle Lisa with a newborn any more than the character does. The truly lame and retrograde twist is how the show goes about resolving that: Instead of Lisa opting to get an abortion, she’s freed from pregnancy via an all-too-convenient middle-of-the-night miscarriage, a TV trope as old as time, and one typically employed when either the creatives or the execs (or both) don’t have the courage to tackle termination head-on. 

I’m left to wonder what the point even was of Lisa’s pregnancy scare, though the better question might be: Why am I so mad about it? Because I am an original Sex and the City-head and VHS boxed-set owner who believes the show was progressive for its time, particularly as it related to sex and female pleasure and singlehood and celebrating alternative life choices in contrast to traditional expectations for women—and this iteration falls woefully, maddeningly, short of that standard. And Just Like That is billed as a “a new chapter” of Sex and the City, but there’s really nothing new about it.

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