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See: Sex and the City 2

2010/06/01

I just saw the film Sex and the City 2, and I have not had more fun in a theatre since M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening. The film is 2.5 hours of pure laugh-out-loud terrible. It deliberately avoids any sense of character development or conflict or message and instead rejoices in showcasing opulence and ostentation. On top of that, there are problematic depictions of race, class, colonization, heteronormativity, sex, and excess. Numerous other commentators have already decried SATC2 as inappropriate rich-girl porn, and so I’ll do my best to avoid that line of thought, but really, ignoring the celebration of excess while talking about talking about this film is to ignore 95% of its content. And since this is one of those films in which you know exactly how it’s going to end before you buy your ticket, I’m not going to attempt to be vague about any plot points that come up. So consider that your spoiler alert.

While it may be overreaching to claim there is any sort of unifying theme to SATC2, the idea of what makes a ‘normal’ relationship is arguably the  big question the women seem to be facing. Except for Samantha who is rarely facing anything but a headboard. Miranda and Charlotte struggle with their career and child rearing, respectively, while Carrie deals with the idea of her husband taking a 2 day vacation off from the burden of living with here every week. No one is content, and so a trip to Abu Dhabi (“the NEW Middle East!”) with Samantha on a PR excursion seems to be the solution. After what Sarah Jessica Parker calls a “caper”, the women find peace doing almost exactly what they were doing before; now they just feel empowered doing it. Miranda is still a lawyer, but now she’s in a law firm that is ‘progressive’ (they have meetings on a rooftop patio, and there’s two different people of colour on staff). Charlotte, thanks to having a full-time nanny, is able to take time off from her kids in Carrie’s old apartment, reading magazines and sipping tea. Carrie’s conflict is resolved most disturbingly, with her on her knees in front of Mr. Big, begging his forgiveness and being forced to repeat a set of marriage vows he’s written for her. She finally is willing to relinquish her own last name to take his, signifying the complete dismantling of her pre-marriage identity, which of course brings her happiness. Samantha basically just has sex under some fireworks, which is probably the least misogynistic ending of them all, which says a lot about the movie in general. I was a bit shocked, however, at how passive Samantha is during the actual sexual act; for a character so sexually aggressive and liberated, all she does is lay back and spout relatively uninspired grunts. I guess she’s positioned so that the camera can objectify her male lovers (we get a lot of male buttock), but considering her entire character is built around sex, you’d think it would be a bit more interesting.   

There’s too much to write about, really. The whole film was scene after scene of stale dialogue, false dilemmas, and pointlessness, backgrounded by extravagance. Every scene began with a panning shot of the fabulousness of the set: every room, poolside bar, and desert sand dune was resplendent with furniture, fashion, and food.  I’m still not sure why the dining table in the women’s hotel room had twenty extra chairs at it. There was an attempt at psuedo-feminism at the halfway point: they sing a karaoke version of “I am woman” in a bar, which prompts every other women present to join in. Carrie makes the ‘deep’ comment that burqas and niqabs worn by Muslim women are an attempt to silence them, which is simultaneously simplistic feminism made for easy empowerment and culturally relative. The main conflict of the last hour of the film is based entirely on the women’s resistance to flying coach: they go to extreme lengths to ensure they don’t have to flyback to New York in anything but ultra-first class. We are, of course, meant to worry that they won’t. SATC2 seems to have overstepped the line between making the women fabulous and letting us care about them; they are so rich and so successful that their problems are completely unrelatable. 

But my main issue with the film was how is dealt with nonreproductivity. Big and Carrie are happily childless, their life epitomized by Carrie’s phrase “We are two adults with no kids. We have the freedom to design our own lives”. As a non-breeder myself, I am all for choosing not to reproduce, but SATC2 implies that there is only one path for happy childless couples: excess. Because she has no children, Carrie can afford two apartments, Manolo Blahniks, and couches that inexplicably take two and half months to procure. I’ve heard many times that couples without children are essentially selfish, and it would be hard to argue that point if your only case study was Big and Carrie. There are many good reasons not to have children (Earth is already overpopulated, additional strain on natural resources, you simply don’t want them), but Carrie hasn’t thought of any of them. It appears that the freedom to design your own life, means for Carrie, quite literally, that your life should be full of designer goods.

Sex and the City 2 is a behemoth of a movie. It’s long, it’s epic, and will probably make millions upon millions of dollars. I recommend seeing it, not because it’s good but because it’s utterly fascinating in its multiple shortcomings. I know there’s already many, many fans defending the film’s right to be escapist fluff, but I can’t help but feeling they’ve just been seduced into passive consumption. For example, one blog on Sexandthecitymovie.org, an info/fan website  manages to find the film a “fantasy of empowerment” (they must have closed their eyes during the ending or mistaken owning Versace’s newest Spring line with female economic equality). Side note, the actress’ bios on the same site link to askmen.com’s profiles of them, which rates them on two parameters: sexiness and success. Truly empowering.  

Go see the film, it’s already too late to have any negative impact on its box office by boycotting it, and have a few laughs at its expense. trust me, you won’t be alone. When I went there was a small contingent of audience members really buying into the movie, but far larger was the rest of us, enjoying it for totally different reasons. The movie itself will make you cringe, but hopefully you’ll be refreshed at seeing how many people are unwilling to passively consume easy feminism, colonialist humour, and object-driven empowerment.

 

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