The Problem with Sex & the City 2.

sex and the city 2 carrie book review

I’ve been thinking and wanting to write about Sex & the City 2 for quite some time, but I was never sure of the right angle to take. Having just rewatched the whole series, culminating in the arguably ill-fated films, I think I’m ready to dip my toe in the shark-infested waters that surround Sex & the City 2.

SATC2 picks up where the first film left off: the franchise’s ascent into affluence but its decent of integrity. And where better to splash some new money than the “new” Middle East: Abu Dhabi.

I stand by the series and even the first movie, but Carrie and the girls are pressing my loyalty with their Arabian adventure. Samantha throwing condoms around the souk in an effort to assert her empowerment (a sentiment I don’t disagree with, but can we please respect multiculturalism?) followed by some covered Muslim women revealing their gaudy designer garb under their abayas and hijabs because FASHUN = the end of gender inequality could certainly have been omitted from the second cinematic outing and it still would have been a semi-palatable film. While these antics blatantly show how out of touch SATC has become, the girls’ ignorance is echoed throughout the film when Charlotte gets sucked into having “the Forbidden Experience” (purchasing black market designer wares) and questions what the call to prayer means. You’d think that before jetting off to the land of “desert moons, Scheherazade and magic carpets” women who are as free as they are would be a little more in touch with the culture and what’s expected of them there. Smart Traveller, hello?!

What I do like about the Middle Eastern flair of the film, though, is the thematic parallels between women wearing veils to silence their voices and the question of whether Carrie, after five books and countless “I couldn’t help but wonder”’s (literally; I lost count after about ten when I rewatched the series. Repetition, much?!), should shut up.

This seems to be the consensus, as New York magazine’s review of her latest book, I Do! Do I?, is titled “The Vow of Silence”. And in the accompanying illustration, Carrie is drawn with tape across her mouth, to echo the silencing of their Middle Eastern counterparts: “It’s like they don’t want them to have a voice,” Carrie observes. Synergy!

The concept of women’s voices is echoed elsewhere in the films’ storylines, with Miranda quitting her job because her misogynist boss didn’t respect her “strong female voice”, and Charlotte blaming Samantha for “open[ing] her big mouth” about her hot, braless nanny being a distraction for Harry.

Looking back on enlightenment of the series, it makes me sad that the insight into women’s lives, sex and otherwise, that it was so famous for has been completely erased from Sex & the City 2 in the name of capitalism and cultural insensitivity.

Related: In Defence of Sex & the City.

In Defence of Sex & the City.

carrie-and-the-girls-baseball

Earlier this year there was somewhat of a resurgence of appreciation for the art of SexSex & the City, that is.

In the wake of the death of Sopranos star James Gandolfini and the culmination of decade-defining Breaking Bad, the apparent age of the anti-hero is upon us. The Sopranos was no doubt a watershed moment for cable network HBO, but what about another HBO show that aired six months prior and also elucidated a generation: Sex & the City?

TV critic Emily Nussbaum was thinking along the same lines when she wrote her own defence of the series earlier this year for The New Yorker. A sample:

“But Sex and the City, too, was once one of HBO’s flagship shows. It was the peer of The Sopranos, albeit in a different tone and in a different milieu, deconstructing a different genre. Mob shows, cop shows, cowboy shows—those are formulas with gravitas. Sex and the City, in contrast, was pigeonholed as a sitcom. In fact, it was a bold riff on the romantic comedy: the show wrestled with the limits of that pink-tinted genre for almost its entire run. In the end, it gave in. Yet until that last-minute stumble it was sharp, iconoclastic television. High-feminine instead of fetishistically masculine, glittery rather than gritty, and daring in its conception of character, Sex and the City was a brilliant and, in certain ways, radical show. It also originated the unacknowledged first female anti-hero on television: ladies and gentlemen, Carrie Bradshaw.”

Carrie Bradshaw—like the anti-heroine Hannah in the apparent anti-SATC of this generation, Lena Dunham’s Girls—is not someone to look up to. She’s mind-numbingly selfish (“This can’t be the day I was broken up with by a Post-It!” No, Carrie, it was the day your friend Charlotte got engaged. But, by Charlotte’s own admission, it would be her second marriage so it’s not that important, right?); lives in a rent-controlled pre-war brownstone on the “gated island for the wealthy”, as Nussbaum puts it, apparently paid for by a $400-a-week-if-she’s-lucky-freelance-gig; and cheated on Aidan with Big. (In the ill-fated second movie, Carrie then cheats on Big with Aidan.)

While Carrie may not be a wholly identifiable character, the friendships she shares with Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte certainly are. Carrie is obviously everyone’s best friend who is asked to be maid of honour at their weddings and pick them up from the hospital when they’re sick, but the dynamics between the other women are interesting. Samantha and Charlotte can certainly clash over their differing ideologies on sex and relationships—the season three episode, “Frenemies”, perfectly illustrated the virgin-whore dichotomy between the two, but I love the maternal side Samantha shows around Charlotte, supporting her in “The Baby Shower” when she discovers the mum-to-be stole her future daughter’s name. I most strongly identify with Miranda, who often clashes with Carrie due to her whimsical attitude about things like money and men. For example, when Carrie reveals she’s going to lunch with Big after countless heartbreak in the season three finale, Miranda becomes exasperated at Carrie’s masochism and storms out of a vintage store they were shopping at. On the other side of the coin, Carrie disapproves of Miranda unquestioningly cutting ties with Steve for cheating on her in the original movie.

And let’s not forget the ground SATC broke in terms of women and talking about sex and TV. Looking back on it now, some of the attitudes the girls share about gender (Samantha’s treatment of the transgendered sex workers outside her apartment), sexuality (Miranda comments that bisexuality isn’t a valid orientation because the women end up with men and the men end up with men) and sex work (when everyone finds out Stanford’s boyfriend, Marcus, was a sex worker); but, at that time, can you recall many other shows that were so open and frank about sex and how women feel about it?

So while the show might be called Sex & the City—and let’s be clear, there’s a hell of a lot of it!—it’s very much about women and friendships in New York City.

Elsewhere: [The New Yorker] Difficult Women.

Image via Musings of the Girl Who Was Death.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

carrie bradshaw writing

Was Sex & the City all in Carrie’s head? [Salon]

Follow the parody Twitter account, Sex & the City 3, by the same author. (While you’re at it, follow me, and stay tuned for some more SATC musings.)

Playboy: thanks for the memories (SFW). [Daily Life]

Bleak, but inspiring: “Freelancing & the Mythical Work/Life Balance.” [This Ain't Livin']

Why do they hate us? Christos Tsiolkas on Australia’s asylum seeker problem. [The Monthly]

Femen from the perspective of its activists (NSWF). [Vice]

I reviewed Domestic Warfare at Gasworks Arts Park as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival for TheatrePress.

Image via I’m Charming You.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

From the trailer, I never would have guessed Tyler Perry’s Temptation was a veritable hotbed of sex (and STIs), race and gender politics in the worst way. This article comes with a massive spoiler alert, but it made me want to see the movie so much more, if only to be completely horrified by it. [Jezebel]

Pro-cunnilingus lyrics in rap music. Fascinating! [The Pantograph Punch]

Beyonce finally admits she’s a feminist… she guesses. [Jezebel]

Fat-shaming on Australian TV. [TheVine]

Clementine Ford on “Reverse Damselling”, in which women seek to tame bad boys. [Daily Life] 

From one extreme to the other: a few weeks ago outrage erupted over a mother’s declaration that Victoria’s Secret was “a right of passage” for her young daughter. Now, the pendulum has swung in the other direction, and anti-child sexualisation activists have come out against VS’s Pink! line in what could be deemed as a bit of an overreaction. [Jezebel] 

Does Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson prove we’re living in a post-racial society, at least when it comes to his film roles? [Shadow & Act] 

The best way to get a shot of positive body image is to get yourself to the beach and take a look around at all the normal people. [MamaMia] 

The psychology of the original Carrie Bradshaw, Candace Bushnell, Sex & the City and The Carrie Diaries. [Daily Beast]

A substantive breakdown of exactly what feminism is and how it doesn’t mean man-hating. Well worth a read. [Jezebel] 

TV: The Carrie Diaries — “Mumbling Incoherently Does Not Mean She’s ‘Into It’.”

the carrie diaries fright night larrissa passed out

Last week the female anatomy and empowerment were addressed, and this week The Carrie Diaries was all about the disenfranchisement possession of the female anatomy can sometimes beget.

It was Halloween, and Carrie took Walt to another one of Larissa’s fabulous parties in the city. (How these 16-year-olds manage to club- and party-hop without any mention of fake IDs is beyond me.) Carrie met a hot young writer for her bible, Interview magazine, and ditched Larissa and Walt for him, who both happened to be high on ecstasy and LSD. Later, while Carrie was tending to a strung out Larissa, her crush, Bennett,  was cruising Walt, who flipped out and left the party for the streets of New York. When Carrie left Larissa passed out on a bed that doubled as a coat rack (isn’t that the beginning of an episode of Law & Order: SVU…?) to get back to flirting, she finds out that Walt’s gone missing. Carrie admonishes Bennett for letting her friend go missing, when she was the one who left him at a party in the city whilst he was high for the first time. Whilst Carrie’s stressing out about one friend going missing, the other is getting molested while she’s unconscious by a guy in a lion costume. Carrie employs her newfound feminism to tell the extra from the cast of Cats that “mumbling incoherently does not mean she’s into it” and that being unconscious is not an invitation for sexual advances.

The Cowardly Lion calls her what all feminists have been labelled at one point or another, a killjoy, and Bennett tells Carrie that “Larissa got herself into this mess” by taking drugs. After smoothing things over, Carrie entrusts victim-blaming Bennett to watch over Larissa while she takes to the streets to look for Walt. You’d think someone as small-minded as Bennett would insist she stay indoors while he heroically braves the parasites of the city to find her friend, lest she bring on a sexual assault herself. But Carrie just tells him not to “take advantage of her while she’s passed out” to which Bennett replies, “She’s not my type.” You mean unconscious women aren’t sexually attractive to him? There may be hope for Bennett yet—oh wait, he was insinuating that women in general aren’t his type, not just passed out ones. Nevermind…

Related: The Carrie Diaries—Vagina Monologues.

Image via Ch131.

TV: The Carrie Diaries — Vagina Monologues.

carrie diaries read before use vagina

The Carrie Diaries, Fox8’s new series based on Candace Bushnell’s Sex & the City prequel publication of the same name, was not a show I had high hopes for. Maybe that’s why I like it so much!

It’s successfully carved out a niche for itself that’s very separate from the HBO series that made Carrie Bradshaw famous, and even though it’s set in the ’80s, it’s so relatable it could be unfolding in the present day. Unlike Rock of Ages, for example, which was so distracting in its bid to recreate the ’80s, The Carrie Diaries just gets the fashion, hair and music so right.

Not only that, but last night’s episode, “Read Before Use”, really tapped into the essence of Carrie and Sex.

Carrie and Mouse attend an art exhibition in the city with Larissa in which former porn star Monica Penny displays her vagina for a penny in what Larissa calls a reclamation of her power. When it’s Carrie’s turn to place a penny in the jar and view her vagina, Monica takes a liking to the young ingénue and tells her never to let a man make decisions for her and to own her power. This, of course, means Carrie should take to Monica’s throne and show her own vagina.

Being underage but still faking it masterfully, Carrie declines, which leads Larissa to tell her that she’s not the girl she thought she was. Larissa thought Carrie would one day be on a billboard or “on the side of a bus”, in a throwback (forward?) to SATC and Carrie’s column promo. Carrie, exhibiting shades of feminism, tells Larissa it’s her choice not to show her vagina, and asks if that isn’t a form of power, too?

For a show that’s aimed primarily at the high school set, you have to applaud it for using the word vagina more than many other cable television shows. In using “vagina” so unashamedly and weaving the politics of choice and power into the fabric of the episode so seamlessly, “Read Before Use” was like feminism in training for the show’s young viewers. Let’s hope they keep it up.

Image via YouTube.

On the (Rest of the) Net Comes a Day Early—Easter Edition.

Happy Easter to all Early Bird readers. See you on the flipside (that’s Tuesday!).

On Megan Fox’s old nose. [Jezebel]

Gala Darling is going without TV for a month. Could you do it?

Kate Spencer responds to an insulting op-ed in the New York Post about women who move to New York City only being interested in an image-based, money-obsessed Sex & the City lifestyle. But it’s the Post, what do we expect? [The Frisky]

Still with SATC, five things Carrie Bradshaw failed to mention about NYC. [Bailey Powell]

Is the blowjob dead? [Jezebel]

Sharing your miscarriage on Facebook: do or don’t? [Jezebel]

The racist reactions to The Hunger Games. [Jezebel]

How to be a woman girl. [Jezebel]

Rachel Hills on asexuality. [The Atlantic]

Queensland’s new Premier, Campbell Newman, vetoes the state’s Literary Awards, in the Year of Reading and in a time when 1 in 5 Indigenous children are illiterate. This is why you don’t vote Liberal. [Courier Mail]

How an article about how hard it is to be a beautiful-looking woman written by an average-looking woman entices readers to hate troll. [Jezebel]

Fat-shaming Jessica Simpson for gaining weight during pregnancy. [Jezebel]

Clementine Ford unpacks the widespread need for other people to tell women what they should and shouldn’t be wearing. [Daily Life]

Image via Ask Men.