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.

mary-kate & ashley new york minute

Is there such a thing as a bad Olsen twin movie? [Rookie]

Chris Brown, R. Kelly, Surfer Blood… What are we willing to overlook in order to enjoy pop culture? [Grantland]

How many times will you see your parents before they die? [See Your Folks]

“Bindi Irwin: Feminist Warrior?” [MamaMia] 

In defence of Sex & the City. [The New Yorker]

And, furthermore, in defence of Miranda Hobbes. [Women & Hollywood]

Why women in sport matter. [Lip Mag]

How to ask about someone’s ethnicity the right way. [Jezebel]

Image via Ask Your Feet.

TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Blame it on the Alcohol” Episode.

 

Blame it on the alcohol, indeed.

This week’s episode deals with McKinley High’s Alcohol Awareness Week, after Principal Figgins exclaims that there have been six alcohol-related suspensions in the past week due to the alcopop phenomenon and pop music promoting the consumption of alcohol.

So what better time for Finn and Puck to convince Rachel to have an unsupervised party at her house, right?

Body shots, Brittany getting her kit off, karaoke and spin the bottle ensue, creating a drunken love triangle between Rachel, Kurt and Blaine, where someone is bound to get hurt. And you can’t blame that on the alcohol.

In my experience, people don’t do things drunk that they don’t already want to do sober. It gives them liquid courage, if you will. Which, funnily enough, is what “Blame it on the Alcohol” is all about. Who knew that listening to Jamie Foxx would pay off?

But “the alcoholic teen-vomit fetishist” (Sue’s words, not mine!) Mr. Shuester doesn’t approve of their rendition of the song, so instead they perform “Tik and also Tok, by Key dollar sign Ha,” as Principal Figgins introduces it at the school assembly. And that’s so much better how?

But for all their seemingly sexual acceptance (Kurt, Blaine, Brittany and Santana and their “scissoring”), Kurt’s comment about bisexuality made me question how accepting the show really is:

“‘Bisexual’ is a term gay guys in high school use when they wanna hold hands with girls and feel like a normal person for a change.”

Sounds a bit like Miranda’s reasoning that bisexuality is a blanket term for guys who turn out to be gay and girls who turn out to be straight, thus explaining the man-drought, on Sex & the City.

But it wouldn’t be the first time Glee’s ostracised their characters and potential audience members who may identify with them.

Related: How to Make a Woman Fall in Love With You, Glee Style.

Glee “Silly Love Songs” Review.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Furt” Episode.

The (Belated) Underlying Message in Glee’s “Never Been Kissed” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Duets” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Grilled Cheesus” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Britney/Brittany” Episode.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Glee: New Directions’ Alcohol-Fuelled Bisexual Awakening.

[Jezebel] Glee: Everyone’s Duetting It (Except Kurt).

[Jezebel] Why Glee Still Needs to Work on Diversity.

Images via YouTube.