No Sex in a Far Away City

Alright, I’ve avoided writing this post for over a week now, but since I promised to watch and comment on Sex and the City 2, here goes. First off, I didn’t like it. And let me point out that show is my favorite TV series of all time. So, there’s no anti-SATC bias here.

Second, unfortunately, I was not proven wrong about the film, as I had hoped when I wrote about the publicity for the movie. I really wanted the film to be good, but the terrible movie posters, stupid previews and the coinciding publishing of the Carrie Diaries represent the hollow shell of the series that lives on in this new sequel, Sex and the City 2. (For more about this, read “Why Sex and the City Never Stood a Chance.”) After seeing the film over Memorial Day weekend it was clear that this movie was made to make money, not because there was more to say and do with the narrative of the series and those characters.

Aside from this very basic and critical flaw, why didn’t I like it?

To start, it wasn’t in the right setting. The Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte spend little, to no time in New York City during the film. What I enjoyed about SATC when it was on HBO, is how much it showed what life is like for women living in Manhattan. It was a gorgeous video fashion magazine in one of the most chic cities, complete with real hot spots where New Yorkers dine, sip on cocktails, meet people and wear designer clothes. And, it was characterized by how their friendships inform their decisions and perspectives.

Sex and the City 2 was not about urban living or a real woman’s experience. The film was all about escaping reality, which, yes, has its place in entertainment, but not in a narrative about four friends who aren’t afraid to tell the truth about themselves and their choices, which, in my opinion, is the point of the show. I mean, it’s one thing to showcase the fantasy of couture and a writer’s ability to have a closet full of it, but it’s entirely another to simply choose to ignore some of the hot topics facing women in our current economy, and world.

Being in Abu Dhabi ruined the film for me. It was too retro and weird for them to ignore some of the realities of being in a Middle Eastern country. They made it seem like a good vacation spot if you covered up (sort of) and didn’t have sex on a beach. Were they trying to promote tourism there? Yes, it’s luxurious, but at what price? I’m not talking about money, why would you encourage people to visit a place where women are oppressed and lack civil rights? I mean yeah, they ended up leaving, but only because they couldn’t afford the hotel room.

I completely agree with Aviva Dove-Viebahn‘s assessment of the film in her post on the Ms. Magazine Blog:

“The women coo over the city’s beauty, food and wealth, and over the generosity of their hosts and the individual town cars and personal butlers who cater to their every need. But glaring classism and conspicuous consumption notwithstanding, the most problematic aspect of this vacation narrative is that the film makes light of cultural differences, juxtaposing the lives of these ‘carefree’ American women with their veiled counterparts in a way that is, at worst, thoughtlessly colonialist and, at best, naïve.”

They lightly touch on the traditional roles women face in the scene when Carrie analyzes how a woman eats a french fries with a headscarf, but by the end of the movie when Samantha encounters trouble by the police for her outspoken and sexual behavior, they don burqas to successfully escape the mob of angry religious men in the market place. Was that necessary? What is this movie telling women? If it gets too difficult being a strong, independent and confident woman — and to defy traditions — you should return to convention to evade the challenging bits? That doesn’t sound right…

The other thing that was strange: there was little sex. This film seemed to focus on the absence of it, in fact. The characters talked about other people having sex, or how sex would be inappropriate for Samantha, Carrie, Anthony or Charlotte’s nanny. Yes, in the end, Samantha had sex on the hood of a car, but by that time, it seemed odd because the movie wasn’t about sex. For Carrie, it was all about wanting to have that rush of excitement with Big. And, when she didn’t get it anymore, she nearly slept with Aidan in Abu Dhabi. I mean, I know people actually have those sorts of infidelity problems, but there should have been a little more variety in story lines for the characters or the people they meet. They seemed to plug in those couple of things, but in essence it was more about traveling and opulence, rather than human connections and relationships.

There are two things I did like about the film. The fact that it opened with a gay wedding, given the current debate over same-sex marriage rights, and the conversation between Charlotte and Miranda about the challenges of motherhood. It seemed silly that these two never connected over their role as moms in the first film, so I was happy they finally got to it. The problem was, there were so many scenes in this film that counterbalanced the good ones for me (particularly anything involved with singing!), making me wonder how it ever made it to the big screen.

As for the fashion…I was unimpressed. Many of the outfits the women wore looked like last year’s Vogue threw up on them…it was all too much. Everyone else is paring down and simplifying — let’s see the ladies doing that in their own style, that would be interesting. I would have also liked to see a better mix of looks and economically and environmentally conscious clothing choices. At least Samantha carried this recycled material bag in one scene.

What also bothers me about this film is, if this were not titled SATC2, and it was a film about four older women who skip town to run around the desert in overpriced heels, acting like tourists, we wouldn’t even be talking about it. There are so many terrible movies made for women it wouldn’t even be on anyone’s radar. Why did they have to take one of the few good things written, filmed and created for women and miss the mark so much? This movie robbed the integrity of the iconic show in an attempt to make a ton of money. The show encouraged life long female friendships, self-expression, unique fashion, culture and the liberation of women in any role that she chooses. The movie fell short, despite it’s excessive run time.

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