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.

Magazines: All the Single Ladies.

 

I’m in the process of shopping around a freelance article on Coupledom VS. Singledom. Partly because I actually believe in the benefits of flying solo, and partly to make myself feel better as a long-term single!

But reading Georgia Clark’s article in Sunday Life this weekend was just what I needed to hear. Or see. You know what I mean.

She quotes the poster-girl for single life, Carrie Bradshaw (God help us all!), who once said, “Being single used to mean that nobody wanted you. Now it means you’re pretty sexy and you’re taking your time deciding how you want your life to be and who you want to spend it with.” Wise words indeed.

But Clark raises another very interesting and valid point: what makes someone’s single status gossip fodder for everyone they know?

She writes:

“We know that when you tell us we must be too smart, or too funny, or even too damn attractive for most men—to the point it sends them running screaming in fear—you are trying to flatter us.

“But the majority of such comments are rooted in the assumption that there’s something wrong with us. We’re too picky. We’re too independent. We’re not out there enough. Or we’re out there too much—we need to relax and let it happen. We’re not doing that. We’re not letting it happen.

“You know what? There’s nothing wrong with us. Actually, we’re just fine.”

Personally, I think long-term singles make the coupled up, or the perpetually-boyfriended (jumping from one boyfriend to the next), nervous. We’re not “normal”, according to someone’s warped idea of what constitutes “normal”. We don’t conform to societal norms, and quite frankly, we’ve got more important things going on in our lives than who’s going to keep us warm at night. I keep my own damn self warm at night!

But if you really want to get back at those who seem so invested in your personal (read: love) life, why don’t you try what Clark suggests:

“So while single people may not have a partner, this means we have time to excel in other areas: pursuing our dream job, hobby or bod. (Anecdotally, it seems that singles hit the treadmill more often than their coupled-up counterparts.)

“If you’re still convinced that our singledom needs to be constantly referenced and lamented, imagine this: svelte Liz joins you at lunch, and in the whisper of a co-conspirator says, ‘I just don’t know why you’re a little pudgy.’ Her brunette head shakes in disbelief. ‘You just don’t seem like a size 14. So, really, when do you think you’ll lose those few extra kilos?’ You glance nervously at the Kit Kat in your hand and stutter out, shocked, that you don’t know.

“‘Don’t worry,’ Liz says, patting your hand gently. ‘It’ll probably happen when you least expect it.’”

Cruel, but oh so effective!

Related: My Name’s Scarlett, And I’m a Fat-Shamer.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Flavorwire celebrates the Chinese New Year with “40 Culturally Relevant Rabbits”.

Ryan Gosling as feminist icon?

Jennifer Aniston controversially embraces her inner Lolita for Allure.

Speaking of… The allure of Mormon housewife blogs.

Chad Woody on “The Oprahverse”:

“This gets at my perennial problem with Oprah. She’s all about the self-determined destiny. This comes from hanging out constantly with celebrities, the cultural lottery winners of the world, and asking them about their origins and beliefs. Sure, some of them say they were lucky in some way, but what Oprah really digs for is that little gold nugget of ego in everyone that says, “I did it my way, and I always knew I would!” But success woven from big dreams is an easy pattern to discern if you’re only interviewing winners…”

While I don’t agree with Erica Bartle’s comments—I believe that Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was “born this way” as Lady Gaga, and everything she does is an extension of herself—the girl with the satchel raises some interesting points about not needing “an alter ego when you’re happy with who you really are”.

Also at GWAS, Bartle laments the demise of The Saturday Age’s A2 supplement in favour of “the more generic Fairfax Life & Style moniker). I feel your pain :(.

“Why I (Really, Seriously, Truly) Hate Carrie Bradshaw”:

“…If I ever saw a woman dressed like that either here in the city, or anywhere else in the world, I’d throw a Twinkie at them, tell them to take a long look in the mirror and eat a damn carb for a change. Yes, I keep Twinkies on me for such occasions… Carrie once threw a Big Mac at Big, so throwing things have been all the rage ever since, right?”

Not only do strong women get branded “the bitch” for knowing what they want and standing up for themselves (if I can be so cavalier, I consider myself a strong woman who is often called “bitch”), but apparently it’s hardest for us to find equally as strong, if not stronger, men in the dating market. Woe is us.

Some more thoughts from Sarah Wilson:

“… Men aren’t happy because they’re not being real men. They’re denied the opportunity to pursue, to go after the woman they reckon is perfect for them. That’s because they’re being pursued by women. Why? Cos everything is out of whack (women are used to chasing things and get impatient when men don’t approach, but also because the men aren’t pursuing… cos they don’t have to… and it goes around and around). And so men feel emasculated by this. Because men are meant to be the hunters.  The peacocks who do dances and display their prowess to women, to earn female trust and affection. Since the cost of partnering is higher for women, they must be fussier and sit back and weigh up their options. This is a biological imperative.”

In a similar vein, “The Sexual Cost of Female Success”:

“…What’s important is getting women to question every decision they make on the grounds of what insecure men might potentially think about it, men you’d never want to date anyway because their insecurities would make the relationship hell. And, more importantly, because you’re not physically attracted to them—something no amount of data or bullshit studies on the internet will ever change. Yes, women are ruining everything by not planning their lives expressly according to men’s biological clocks and wishes.”

Gender Agenda and Melinda Tankard-Reist get their wordplay on in the fight against Kanye West’s Monster video.

Can everyone get over Michelle Obama’s clothing choices already?:

“Michelle Obama is a Princeton and Harvard-educated lawyer and former executive at the University of Chicago Hospitals system who happens to dress pretty well and be married to the president of the United States of America. But what are the stories about her that have dominated the media? They’re not about her skills, her experience, her mind, or even about her almost disgustingly uncontroversial pet issue, fighting childhood obesity. The Michelle Obama News is about whether her eyebrows are ‘angry.’ Whether her clothes mark her as a ‘new Marie Antoinette’… [or a] ‘new Jackie Kennedy.’”

The straight guy’s guide to Glee.

In response to Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s “Hardcore”, Tana Ganeva debunks “The Anti-Male, Anti-Sex Falsehoods That Rule Discussions About Porn and Sexuality”.

Shut up, Mark Latham!

I disagree with most of Miranda Devine’s views in “Buying a Baby—Not a Pair of Shoes”, but one thing’s for sure: Nicole Kidman’s surrogacy is one contentious issue.

The secret diary of a call girl.

The private lives of Pippa Lee public people.

The dating game according to the ladies of the Jersey Shore.

“The Baby-Sitters Club: Where Are They Now?”

Image via Sassi Sam.

Let Them Eat Cupcakes.

 

Not to be confused with “Let Them Eat Cake… And Wear Headbands”, which I wrote earlier this week, this excerpt comes from Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York’s “King Kong & Cupcakes” by Jeremiah Moss:

“Cupcakes are just a symbol for the shiny Bloomberg-ized, Carrie Bradshaw-defined boutique city New York is turning into. I grey up during the 1970s, when the old New York‘King Kong’s New York’ if you likewas still very much in evidence, and would be well into the ’90s. Like you, I’ve watched, often in horror, and particularly over the last decade, as the city has been transformed into something nearly unrecognisable and sadly lacking in character.

“I certainly have nothing against the cupcakes themselves. Shortly after I handed this cartoon in, I tried a Magnolia cupcake for the first time. It was good. I suppose I could have written ‘Twas Marc Jacobs killed the beast’, but cupcakes was funnier, and it won’t get me sued.

“… But to answer your question about how New York being overrun with cupcake shops, and the (designer) baggage that goes along with them, can kill a 25-foot-tall ape, it is in much the same way that ‘beauty’ did him inby breaking his heart.

“Is that too corny? OK, then he slipped on a goddamn cupcake.”

Related: Let Them Eat Cake… And Wear Headbands.

Elsewhere: [Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York] King Kong & Cupcakes.