Are the days of rich bad boys over? Season 2 of And Just Like That… is over toxic love interests – Screen Shot
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Are the days of rich bad boys over? Season 2 of And Just Like That… is over toxic love interests

When promotional pictures of And Just Like That… season two began to circulate, fans were bowled over by the snaps of Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Carrie Bradshaw walking side by side with none other than OG ex-boyfriend Aiden Shaw played by actor John Corbett. And while we don’t know much about the potential plot line between Bradshaw and Shaw, I couldn’t help but wonder, are the days of rich bad boys officially over?

The spin-off is of course based on the original iconic show Sex and the City, which earned millions by promoting the archetype of a wealthy and established man who, while insanely toxic, was pined over by Bradshaw in almost every episode.

From the emotionally abusive Mr Big who loved to string along the New York Star columnist and treat her like a piece of excrement on his designer shoe, to the affluent politician who broke up with her because she wasn’t comfortable fulfilling his sexual fantasies, these characters were truly the blueprint for emotionally unavailable crypto boys.

On the other hand, we had Shaw, a middle-class furniture designer who not only adored Bradshaw but consistently treated her right and fixed her bathroom. It’s the little things, right? Naturally, this all came to a crashing conclusion after the writer cheated on him and then swerved any potential future nuptials.

And it wasn’t only the fans that shipped Bradshaw and Shaw—confusing, I know. In season four episode 18, Miranda exclaimed: “Big and Carrie were never supposed to be together! If she was gonna wind up with anyone, it was Aidan!”

So, the question is: Did Bradshaw’s romantic decisions and inclinations ultimately impact a whole generation of heterosexual women? Were we as young girls taught to go from one well-off toxic man to another, all in the name of love, sex, and chemistry? Well, the answer is hell yes.

You only have to scroll through 2000s Netflix to find a flood of shows with narratives championing the female protagonist and the unhealthy yet somehow charming boy. Take Gossip Girl for example. Of course Blair Waldorf ended up with New York deviant Chuck Bass. How could sweet but meek and mild Dan Humphrey ever compete?

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I have to wonder if this is why my own current crush is someone who’s opening a club in London and has multiple women throwing themselves at him. On the surface, he practically mirrors the classic Bass/Mr Big trope. Moreover, is this why I almost cheated on and then subsequently dumped that one partner who worshipped the ground I walked on when I was nineteen?

It’s definitely giving Rory from Gilmore Girls energy. I mean, Dean was nothing to write home about, but he was definitely not as emotionally erratic and unavailable as the angsty Jess. And don’t even get me started on the high-key pretentious Logan.

So, is And Just Like That… now attempting to somehow rewrite history by pairing Bradshaw with a much healthier past lover? And, if that’s the case, is it actually going to heal a generation of women who were programmed to pick problematic men like Mr Big?

Is it really enough to now do a 360 and try to convince the viewers that nice men like Shaw are actually the partners who’ll make your life more worthwhile? Or is it just another marketing scheme from the producers, who’re now trying to capitalise on how much the fans loved Bradshaw and Shaw together?

It should also be noted that Mr Big’s plot line was always going to tail off after multiple women came out with sexual assault allegations against actor Chris North. In other words, it wasn’t the biggest stretch that the writers needed to bring back a different love interest for season two.

As for me, I’ve now muted my crush’s Instagram Stories and while it was painful, I knew it was the right call—better save myself from the heartbreak now rather than later. And while I might now be suffering from withdrawal symptoms, similar to how Bradshaw felt when she tried to quit smoking for Shaw’s benefit, I hope my longing has subsided by the time And Just Like That… season two premieres.

M3GAN: A living meme that the wider movie industry should take very seriously

After months of waiting, the moment had finally arrived: I was sitting in the cinema, about to watch M3GAN for the first time.

The new science fiction horror film is a collaboration between legendary horror producers James Wan and Jason Blum and screenwriter Akela Cooper, who brought us 2021’s psychotic parasitic-twin epic Malignant. I’d love to tell you that the production company, the film’s screenwriter or perhaps its director, Gerard Johnstone, were why I felt like I simply had to see it. But that would be a lie, like the ones killer AI bot M3GAN quickly programmed herself to tell.

The real answer is much more simple: I did it for the memes.

Ever since the first M3GAN trailer dropped in October 2022, the film has been a living meme. After catching their first glimpse of M3GAN, Gay Twitter quickly gave the doll queer icon status. “She is serving,” “she ate,” “she is mother,” “the new IT girl”—you name it, it’s been said. Before the movie had even hit the theatres, I had seen more self-made fan-cam videos for this murderous doll than I could have wished for.

As a gay man who spends more time online than is recommended, it felt like watching M3GAN was my gay civic duty. After all, she’s a triple threat—she can sing, dance and kill—with a strong Real Housewives energy. It’s no surprise then that publications from Vox to Out and Them have all attempted to unpack M3GAN’s queer appeal.

More broadly, though, the American science fiction horror film says a lot about the role memes and social media have played in its promotion and the fandom that has resulted from it.

Speaking to Vulture, Get Out sensation and M3GAN’s star and executive producer Allison Williams—who plays Gemma, a roboticist at Seattle toy company Funki, who creates the doll—said that the team behind the film weren’t always sure whether they had struck the right balance between funny and scary. Before Williams even got to watch the film in the cinema with fans and see their reactions, it was when she came across the countless memes online that she thought: “We can go home, our job is done.”

There is a clear contrast in how M3GAN’s character is perceived by fans, compared to in the movie. Part of the reason why she is so ‘memeable’ to the audience is because, in the world we see her inhabit on-screen, she is taken completely seriously. She isn’t seen as remotely fabulous. To her inventors, she’s just a toy. But to fans? She’s so much more.

The memeability of M3GAN isn’t something that those behind the film have passively watched from the sidelines. In fact, the promo has leaned into M3GAN’s status as a darling of the internet. After the #m3gandance picked up traction on TikTok—with currently 226.7 million views generated—real-life stunts began to follow.

Groups dressed as a squad of M3GAN dolls posted videos from the New York City subways, shocked pedestrians outside Radio City Music Hall, and danced at the top of the Empire State Building. At the movie’s premiere, M3GAN lookalikes danced to Taylor Swift and, in Los Angeles, another M3GAN group performed their scary dance at a football game. In the film, M3GAN’s goal is killing. But in the wild, her goal is to go viral.

When I interviewed Williams about the film for GQ, she told me a key part of M3GAN’s success so far has been that the movie is roughly what audiences expect it to be. “It all depends on what the audience is coming into the theatre prepared to experience,” she said. “And audiences have been coming into M3GAN prepared to have fun and be scared.” Memes have been a major part of crafting that perception.

The fun irreverence of M3GAN, which seems tailor-made for platforms like Twitter and TikTok where—politics aside, of course—there can often be a distinct lack of seriousness. This is visible in the film’s carefully chosen release dates. It came to UK theatres on Friday 13 January, having been released in the US on a now-even-scarier date: 6 January.

The timing of the film hitting theatres might also be driving its memability. We’re in the middle of awards season, when most films are branding themselves as inherently ‘serious’ and spoken about in gushing, artistic terms. For Oscar contenders, becoming a meme might be seen to take away from their overall message or ability to be considered ‘high art’.

But upending these binary and restrictive notions is in the horror genre’s DNA. Against a backdrop of awards season, the shameless silliness and fun of M3GAN feels like a welcome (and slightly naughty) release.

Yes, the M3GAN memes are hilarious. But they’re more than that: they tell a story about how memes have become the new ‘word of mouth’—a vital part of promoting a film, creating buzz and preparing the audience for what they’re about to see. The movie and its promo have both been crafted for the new digital landscape, where social media users have just as much power as critics. Despite its unapologetic hilarity, M3GAN is a digital success story that the wider industry should take very seriously.