Over the last several days the reviews for Sex and the City 2 have been rolling in, and not surprisingly they have been scathing with a side of mean. I stopped reading them when I saw the word “leathery” describe the women’s skin.
I actually think that people really get off on beating up on this film, and I can’t decide whether it’s because a gay man has made a pretty gay film that is for women, or because the film is for and about women that’s going to make a ton of money and no one gives a shit if a single straight guy goes and sees it.
But I am not in the haters camp. I actually really liked the film. I’m not going to tell you that it is not over the top. It is and then some. At times it borders on camp. But then so does Glee and I love that too.
I knew what I was getting into so I went along with the ride.
I write on this blog a lot about how I want to see real women onscreen. Now I’m not going to pretend the four rich white women in NY whose shoe and clothing budgets could feed a small country have anything to do with my everyday life. They don’t. I don’t even like the clothes (which felt too much this time) and I couldn’t walk even two steps in any of those shoes.
But that’s missing the point. Underneath those frocks each woman is a composite of the real women in this country and the issues that we all deal with in our everyday lives.
Like Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) who worked her way up the legal ladder who has a new boss who literally puts his hand in her face and silences her when she is speaking in a meeting and thinks it’s ok. Like Charlotte (Kristin Davis) who spent the entire series pining for a family and that family has turned out to be a nightmare of non stop crying. Like Samantha (Kim Cattrall) doing everything she can to stave off aging. And like Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) who is trying to figure out how to navigate marriage — and not having kids — in a world where having kids is just the norm.
I have to say I was very nervous about the whole middle east part of the movie from the trailer. I just didn’t get it. But what writer/director Michael Patrick King does is plop these four liberated women in the supposed “new” middle east, and what they discover very quickly is that there is nothing new about it when it comes to women. The storyline in the middle east is mostly Samantha’s and it shows how a woman who has embraced her sexuality and freedom in the west is shamed for wanting that same liberation in the middle east. Samantha actually gets detained for kissing a hot Danish businessman on the beach and while she is humiliated and loses her business opportunity all the while suffering from hot flashes in 90 degree heat, we see no consequences for the man she was kissing.
The movie brought to mind some issues I have been thinking about lately. Why is it that gay men have become the purveyors of women’s stories? Is there something more comfortable about a gay man telling women’s stories than women doing it ourselves? Is it easier for Hollywood executives to write the check to a man for an obscene amount of money that they would never do for a woman? It made me think about Mamma Mia, a movie written and directed by women. That movie has made over a half a billion worldwide. We know there are tons of Abba songs out there, yet no noise about a sequel. Just makes me wonder.
When watching Sex and the City 2 I thought that a woman would never have made this movie. She could never get away with it. It’s not only a female fantasy, but it’s a gay male fantasy of women — that we all wear couture and three inch heels to take out the garbage. Because it is a movie it has lost some of the bite of the series and I also think that the series benefited from having women’s voices as part of the writing. They kept it grounded in some semblance of reality.
But this movie is not a hard look at reality. It’s a summer escape movie just like all the movies that blow shit up. You don’t think that guys who go see Iron Man have any expectation of becoming like Iron Man (except in their fantasies), just like I don’t expect to ever be able to fit in or wear a versace skirt. Women know this is not real, in fact 76% of the people (mostly women) who took a survey on fandango.com look at the film as a “great escape.”
But while it is an escapist movie, it is one that occasionally has some zingers about how women are treated in our culture. I can’t seriously complain at a movie that could introduce a new group of people to Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman” which the ladies belted out in a karaoke bar in Abu Dhabi. Bring on the versace t-shirts.