Monday 10 December 2018

Online grief hijacking is part of SATC spat

Death brought a seemingly long-brewing 'Sex and the City' spat online and on view to everyone, writes Sarah Caden

TENSIONS: Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker in ‘happier’ days
TENSIONS: Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker in ‘happier’ days

Sarah Caden

There was a time, in a situation that combined no-love-lost and a bereavement, that a card would be sent, politely expressing sympathy, and that would have been that. It might well have been the case that the said card was received, scoffed at as insincere and thrown in the bin, but that would have been the end of it.

No response required. No response given. No hard feelings made adamantine by being aired over the internet, for millions to read and rake over and render all involved a little red-faced.

Animosity just isn't what it used to be.

Last week, when actress Sarah Jessica Parker sent her former Sex and the City co-star Kim Cattrall a tweet of condolence, she may have got more than she bargained for in return.

Cattrall's brother, Chris had died, following days of being missing and appeals to locate him. Cattrall had appealed on Instagram for his safe return and it was on social media, too, that she announced his death. Subsequently, she thanked - online, obviously - her "fans, friend and [Sex and the City] colleagues for their outpouring of support". It was all very typically 21st-Century, RIP-tweeting, it seems, until Sarah Jessica Parker joined in.

It didn't go down well with Cattrall. "I don't need your love and support at this tragic time @sarahjessicaparker," Cattrall tweeted in response to the reaching-out of SJP. And that wasn't all. She posted an image of that message on Instagram and wrote under it: "My mom asked me today, 'When will that @sarahjessicaparker, that hypocrite, leave you alone?' Your continuous reaching out is a painful reminder of how cruel you really were then and now. Let me make this VERY clear…You are not my family. You are not my friend. So I'm writing to tell you one last time to stop exploiting our tragedy in order to restore your 'nice girl' image."

As if that wasn't enough, Cattrall then included a link to 2017 New York Post article, 'Inside the Mean Girls Culture that Destroyed Sex and the City'.

Oh, dear. And oh, ouch.

It's not like the ill will between Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker comes as a surprise. When the irritating, hey-girls Sex and the City was still in production, the tension between the two actresses was already rumoured to be high. Cattrall, it has always been said, was irked by Parker's queen-bee status and believed the show should have a structure like Friends, instead, with everyone on equal pay and equal billing.

They kept the show on the road, however, and even kept the smiles plastered on to their faces for two SATC films. It all came to the surface last year, however, when SJP said she was "disappointed" that there would not be a third film.

She said there was a great script in place and she felt sad for the fans and the stars who were committed to it. Instantly, there was an issue about Kim Cattrall and "demands" that were the obstacle to an update on how this gang of facile friends were getting on.

Cattrall was livid. Neither she nor Chris Noth - Mr Big, the most disinterested love interest in the world - had ever been on board. They'd made no bones about it and she resented what she considered the emotionally manipulative and villain-making manner in which SJP had made this non-announcement. The New York Post's 'mean girls' article was borne out of this spat.

The catty carry-on of "Mean Girls", however, with its old-school 2004 methods of taking on your enemies has nothing on what can be achieved in the age of social media. There's no escaping an enemy's wrath when one can fire off missiles and missives any time of day or night and it's not a case of pouring poison into one person's ear, but airing it to millions of followers.

This latest exchange between Cattrall and Parker doesn't only shine a light on how a row can escalate on social media, though. It also highlights how utterly bizarrely we now conduct ourselves around death.

Grief that was once discreet and dignified and personal is now a communal activity conducted online, made meaningless as strangers muscle in on the loss of people they never met. To ignore a death by failing to post an RIP or comment on how sad it is - no kidding - is to be considered rude and lacking in fellow feeling. And to be "devastated" is de rigueur, regardless of one intimacy, or lack thereof, with the deceased.

There's so much emotion online, in fact, that it cancels itself out and starts to sound like one big phoney-fest. Which may be exactly how SJP's expression of love and support sounded to Kim Cattrall last week.

After Cattrall lashed out, as they say, at SJP, the latter went on record to say she was "heartbroken" by it. She has also said that there is no fight. She wasn't sinking to the level of a slanging match, and there were some who came to her defence, including former SATC producer and friend of SJP, Andy Cohen, who said on his radio show that "there's only one person fighting here".

In this situation, in relation to the rejected condolences, it kind of makes sense to portray the disharmony that way. The history between these women might be more complicated, but in this circumstance, Cattrall is the one who has come out fighting and, funnily enough, Parker's 'nice girl' position is a little bit boosted.

But Cattrall, in the real world, away from the high and even artificial emotion of the online world, has suffered a real tragedy, an actual human loss. She's grieving, probably angry, and as anyone who has grieved will testify, in turmoil. In that turmoil, perhaps, has come an honest response to online over-emoting as she basically told a non-friend to stop talking rubbish.

The real sting, though, was that Cattrall accused Parker of courting popularity with her outpouring of apparently false sympathy. Which could be said of a lot of online piggybacking on the grief of others. For true sincerity, maybe it's time to go back to the old Mass card.

Sunday Independent

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