TV review

Why is ‘And Just Like That’ so obsessed with degrading Steve?

The Daily Beast

January 31, 2022

Of the many strange things about “Sex and the City” sequel “And Just Like That,” one of the grossest is the demolition job the writers have done on Miranda’s lovely husband.

What has happened to the goofy, lovable Steve Brady (David Eigenberg)? What are the And Just Like That writers and producers doing to Sex and the City’s sweetest long-standing male character, and can their mission of vicious personal destruction end right now? On behalf of Steve fans everywhere, a plea: Can they please restore Steve to his former easygoing hotness, or at the very least render him as a functioning, thinking adult, just for basic dignity’s sake?

We can but hope. Conceivably, in its final first season episode later this week, the show could continue its gradual upward trajectory of the last couple of episodes and continue being bearable as opposed to the TV equivalent of having major dental surgery without anesthetic. Conceivably, Steve could stop being relentlessly diminished, infantilized, and mistreated as he has been for the last nine episodes.

But maybe we Steve fans should not hold our breaths. Andy Cohen asked Cynthia Nixon, who plays Miranda, on Watch What Happens Live last Thursday if she understood why people were so upset at how Steve was being treated in the Sex and the City sequel. “I do, but I have to say that that’s the thing about breakups. Oftentimes there is one person making the breakup happen, and other person is reluctant. But I have to say that person who is reluctant is pretty miserable too, and they’re just not admitting it.”

That answer tellingly disregards Steve in its framing. If Steve is indeed miserable in his marriage to Miranda, why hasn’t that discontent been shown? It is true Miranda insists she has been unhappy for a long time, and has mapped that discontent on to her husband, who seems mostly baffled when she does so. The scriptwriters have barely given him any space to express any feelings, bar to seem utterly confused about what Miranda is doing, and where it has come from. The reasoning seems to be: This is all about Miranda, and Steve can just be given emotions without any reasoning required. This is nonsense. He is a partner in the marriage and deserves so much more.

Cohen had a rather brilliant follow-up, referencing the couple’s recent sex scene, as initiated and abruptly ended by Miranda (of course, why should Steve have any say here!). Given how long they had been married, didn’t Steve know how to finger, Cohen asked, after Miranda terminated the encounter after some apparent digital fumbling on her husband’s part.

“I think it’s been a while,” Nixon replied, laughing.

Men occupy a strange position in the Sex and the City universe. They are rightly secondary to the show’s female leads but, in a show that mostly fails the Bechdel test, they are central to nearly every story of romantic trial and misadventure.

In the first go-round, Steve was the show’s secret male delight. Big and Aidan were the two flawed oxen battling for Carrie; high-society Trey and his terrifying mother occupied much of Charlotte’s time, until lovely divorce lawyer Harry came along. Now, only Harry and Steve survive (after Big’s death by Peloton and Aidan’s continued non-presence).

This season, Harry too has been a shrugging, depleted foil for Charlotte, most memorable for an extended argument about mansplaining and apologies following a tennis match and one of their children seeing Charlotte blow him in the bathroom (his schlong on brief display).

Steve, ever since the show’s early years, has been a specialist fan concern. Back in the ’90s and 2000s’ original incarnation of the show, Steve fans would find each other with delighted surprise, like finding the coolest spot while everyone else was at the big, fancy place around the corner. Steve fans saw it, and called it early. We knew.

He had the best body (Steve playing basketball in sleeveless T-shirts was the hottest thing on television), the cutest hair (now a still-hot close-cropped tufty silver), and—as a couple—he and Miranda were the couple to root for. There is no cuter reconciliation than Steve and Miranda in the laundry room, holding Brady’s double-meaning “1” candle, and Magda the housekeeper’s all-knowing happy smile to see them reunited. They also seemed the most appreciably real and nearest to Planet Earth, away from the glossier hunks the other women enjoyed.

Sex and the City would often have you shouting at the TV set, and never louder than when Miranda informed Steve WHO WAS NAKED IN BED that she was bored in their rural honeymoon idyll and wished to return to the city. This was insane. In bed was sweet, kind, hunky Steve, with an ass as perfectly perkily domed as two scoops of sorbet, and Miranda wanted to leave? Was she mad? Did she not know what she had on tap for the weekend? Such ingratitude.

The narrative knot at the heart of the Miranda-Steve relationship is an intriguing one: It has been consistently been about money and power, and Miranda having more of it than Steve. First, he bridled when she bought him a suit. At other moments she became a proxy carer, as when Steve got testicular cancer and lost a ball. It seems the writers cannot get over this and have extrapolated from it a consistent de-personing and de-powering of Steve from it. Miranda has at other times wondered if Steve was enough for her, and Steve has felt as if he wasn’t—and made some kind of peace with the power imbalance. He loves her, it really is that simple, or has seemed to be up to now.

In one of the Sex and the City films, Steve cheated on Miranda, but they figured it out and reunited on the Brooklyn Bridge. And now Steve is what? Steve, as that film made clear, is mere plot device, and the lack of care in the drawing of him in And Just Like That has not gone unnoticed by fans.

Over seven episodes, we watched Miranda make clear she was deeply unhappy in her marriage, and have an affair with Che Diaz. We have watched her confront alcohol dependency. Steve, until episode 7, was completely unknowing of any of this. We saw him in the first episode reveal he was 60 percent deaf in one ear, and 40 percent in the other (Eigenberg suffers from partial hearing loss too). We saw him draw son Brady and Miranda close after Big’s death. We saw him act scatty at the new layout of the farmers’ market—wearing a perfect jeans and tight jean jacket combo. We saw him clumsily finger Miranda.

Then, in episode 8, Miranda’s declaration that their marriage was over was first made into a needlessly mocking bit about Steve having to find his hearing aids in order to hear having his world blown to smithereens.

The scene, at least, stayed true to Steve, who was utterly dumbfounded about the sudden announcement of the end of what he thought was a stable marriage. What was “enough” for him in his marriage to Miranda was not enough for her—fed up with the “TV, little dessert bowls, and little sectional couch.” He was finally given a speech, a moving one, about always being the one “hanging in there” for their marriage.

What Miranda hated was married life, Steve said. He was too old to rally for them again, he added, just before Miranda told him she had met someone, to which Steve crumpled. To be clear: This is not a piece arguing Miranda should stay in a marriage she is fundamentally unhappy in, but rather Steve being a feature of this show long enough to matter more in a storyline about his marriage.

In the most recent episode, after he rescued Carrie’s wedding ring from the sink, Steve asked about Che, Miranda’s new love interest. Carrie gently suggested he might find someone eventually. Steve looked down at his wedding ring. “Never coming off,” he said more than once.

However the situation resolves, the show has done Steve wrong by making his role and participation in his marriage and the show an afterthought. Steve not only has no power or not say, he has nearly no presence. How can you make the end of Miranda’s marriage central to your show, and make her longtime husband out to be an almost non-verbal, ignorant bystander, when he is absolutely committed to that relationship? Surely that would be a fertile seam for drama?

There is one episode of season 1 left, and another season of And Just Like That being planned. Maybe Steve’s part, his reason for being, will be given more consideration. But in the meantime, with him being so disregarded and lessened, his fans are here for him, dressed in tribute white T-shirts and loose flannel shirts. You sit on that sectional, Steve. You eat your ice cream, lose your hearing aids behind the cushion, watch some sports, love your family, and look adorable. The And Just Like That writers may have given up on you. Your devoted fans have not.