Sex and the City 2
Allow me to save you $8. Here is the plot of Sex and the City 2: Four privileged white women take a break from relentlessly moaning about their privileged lives to go on an Orientalist fantasy excursion to Abu Dhabi, where they are each assigned a brown servant to wait on them as they maraud through the country, dressed like assholes, exoticizing people, mocking culture, flouting religious custom, and on occasion, “saving” the natives with their American liberation and largess.
SATC was always only about a certain type of woman, despite attempts to make Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte into everywoman. But the friendships between the protagonists felt universal. And as cartoonish as the individual characters could be, I saw pieces of them in the women around me, if not in myself.
Then I got older. So have the characters in SATC, but the franchise’s male creators aren’t quite sure what to do with women over forty. And so they have taken four flawed but generally likable women and made them repugnant.
Charlotte’s chirpy childishness—always a little icky—seems gross coming from a twice-married woman with two children. Carrie’s self-centered flakiness and drama-whoring is exhausting. Samantha and Miranda are unrecognizable—Sam having gone from an independent woman in charge of her sexuality to a desperate caricature fighting to hold on to her youth (Note: Chris Noth, who plays Mr. Big, is two years older than Kim Cattrall, who plays Samantha. Interesting that Samantha is portrayed as fading, while Big still gets to be…well…Mr. Big) while Miranda quits her job because the new partner at the firm is a sexist jerk. No fight. She simply gives up, which seems completely out of character.
SATC was never as feminist as it was made out to be, but now it seems as un-empowering and pandering as a those pink “girl” computers by Dell. And when the fearsome foursome arrive in the Middle East, privilege, racism, and ignorance meet in an unholy trifecta. Here is what we learn:
All you need to know about Arab countries, you have already learned in Aladdin. If you have a Jewish married name, do not use it on a trip to Abu Dhabi. In an Arab country, be sure to wear expensive clothing reminiscent of the aforementioned cartoon. (Two words: gold harem pants.) Arab men are either frightening crazy-eyed religious fundamentalists or hot menservants. (By the way, it is not at all creepy to accept the services of said hot, brown menservants, and if one such manservant is gay... jackpot! Two new accessories for the price of one! Refer to him as Paula Abdul.)
No woman ever follows the tenets of Islam by choice; all women who wear abaya or niqab are oppressed and secretly want to be white, wealthy, American women who wear revealing couture. Arab women who are not oppressed may be bellydancers in Western-style nightclubs. It is feminist to travel to Muslim countries and expose yourself, simulate fellatio on a hookah, grab a man’s penis in a restaurant, and possibly have sex on a public beach. If you are trying to communicate in an Arab country and cannot find the right words, saying “lalalalalala” will get your point across.
Now, I am sure there are those who will say that I am thinking too deeply about a movie that is meant to be a bit of fluff. For you, I will share that SATC 2’s problems are not all about the portrayal of women, privilege, race or religion. Before any of those things pricked my nerves, I was already sighing at the films stilted dialogue, awkward group dynamic, hackneyed situations, and corny jokes that beg for a sitcom laugh track. And then there was the spectacle of seeing Liza Minelli performing “Single Ladies.” Yes, Liza with a “z” sings Beyonce with a “B.”