Recent nostalgia is having a moment, first with the 2002-set Lady Bird racking up Oscar nominations and now with the TV adaptation of the novel Sweetbitter on Starz taking place in 2006. The half-hour series documents the life of a young woman who moves to New York at a time not too unlike right now, but different enough that you may mourn the years gone by. The early '00s references in Sweetbitter are subtle reminders of the decade past. Mild spoilers for the premiere.
"I feel like I was allowed to make mistakes and be messy in a way that the youths are no longer able to since everything is documented on our phones and kind of glossed for social media," says actor Caitlin FitzGerald, who plays Simone, in a press junket interview with Bustle. She actually waited tables in New York at that time, just like her character. "We were... it felt really free at that time in the city," she continues.
After the first table read, the cast started Googling major events from 2006, according to Daniyar, who plays Sasha. While the show's setting doesn't seem that long ago, this was a year before the first iPhone. Most cell phones flipped open. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was barely a gleam in Samuel L. Jackson's eye. Everyone thought Heroes was gonna be the next big thing. Jack Johnson was writing songs for Curious George. Life was a highway back then and hips did not lie.
"[The show is] still modern," adds Eden Epsetein, who plays Ari. "I wouldn't call it a period piece by any means. There was less accountability, I think. Talking about the #MeToo movement, the rules were different [for men and women in the workplace]. The behavior, unfortunately, was just as bad but there wasn't a platform to talk about it yet."
So while the show doesn't delve headfirst or pointedly into workplace harassment, it's there in the background, and Epstein also adds that the Sweetbitter is able to be a "sensory awakening in a time when people aren't yet kind of dulled" by technology. There are pros and cons to the time period, which make for a compelling story.
Here are some of the references from the pilot episode alone that will make you nostalgic for a time you didn't realize you could feel nostalgic for.
Get ready for a lot of shell tanks, a fashion trend that hasn't 100 percent gone away, but has definitely evolved a bit. Actually, one striking thing about Sweetbitter is that clothing styles haven't changed that dramatically in the past 12 years — though possibly that's because trends are bouncing back to this era and before. Still, every now and then one of the characters will have a throwback look, so keep an eye out.
Also, using a printer. Well, using a 2D printer. The main character, Tess (though if the book is any indication you won't hear that name for a while), not only pounds the literal pavement on her job search rather than applying online, but she prints out Mapquest directions to tell her where to go. Remember, it wasn't until 2009 that The Lonely Island's breakout hit "Lazy Sunday" declared Google Maps to be the best at finding the dopest route.
By 2018, Williamsburg is too expensive for true starving artists and newcomers without independent wealth. But Tess is getting in on the ground up of what would be, for a brief shining hipster moment, the new Alphabet City.
Not only does Tess use one, but she uses one in a computer cafe. Those have all but been replaced by coffee shops with outlets to charge your smart phone. Because almost everyone has a laptop in their pocket.
These aren't completely obsolete as a technology, but have you been to NYC recently? We got weird Black Mirror monoliths now.
Sweetbitter is a show of its time, so expect to see many more subtle nods to the mid-'00s as the series goes on.