…and so last night, I got around to seeing Sex and The City 2, the movie. I went, accompanied by my friend Liz, with a heavy heart. The reviews had been so dreadful, so unremittingly full of bile, that I was almost convinced I would have to walk out half-way through, or at least, be weeping quietly at the end after witnessing the death of a great phenomenon in a car-crash of a film. But bugger me! (as Samantha must have said on several occasions) I enjoyed it! Not only was it pleasurable on the lovely superficial level that SATC was always pleasurable, but it had touching moments, and seriousness, and big stuff too.
So, am I a shallow idiot for coming out of that movie feeling good? No, I bloody well am not. I am just as educated and thoughtful and politicised as I ever was. The problem is with those critics, and all of the public they have carried along in their bitter, joyless wake.
Why did broadsheet newspapers, and News Review (the places I witnessed SATC’s grave being dug) send along such a preponderance of men to see the film? And some crusty old ones, and very cynical younger ones to boot. Though I’m not too keen on too much gender specificity in art, it has to be acknowledged that it is women, and possibly gay men, who have been the main constituency for SATC. This is fine. There are plenty of thrillers and action films/dramas to satisfy straight men. SATC the series was a place for an orgy of female sympathy, a place for modern women of the Western World (and perhaps others too) to hear a collection of jolly characters discuss sex and relationships in an interesting and humorous way. Blokes find women’s endless fascination with relationships and emotions tedious. This show was not FOR them (though I would challenge your average straight geezer not to learn some good stuff about how to get on better with laydeez if he took a peek). What else do men find boring? Women’s clothes and shopping. The other half of what SATC is about. It’s so OBVIOUS that men are going to find SATC mystifying and yawn-inducing. Those editors/producers sent men to review the movie because either: A.They were stupid. B. They realised, very belatedly, that SATC was an important phenomenon, so they’d better send some ‘serious’ chaps to take a look at it. C. They wanted some men to stoke up the fires of the Sex War by pouring scorn all over an iconic product of female culture.
I know it wasn’t just men who reviewed it. Plenty of women too were sniffy. But what’s wrong with you, sisters? Were you afraid of looking like you lacked intellect alongside your male peers? Were you so hidebound by PC considerations that you saw offensiveness where there is none? Or was it a combination of both? FEMALE JOURNO: Oh dear, what shall I say about SATC 2? I sensed the male journos in the audience at the preview screening really hated it. I can’t be seen to be fluffy and air-headed. I will join in with them in slagging it off, and my way in will be to criticise its portrayal of the Middle-East and of Muslim women and how it lauds capitalism. That’ll make me sound clever…phew!
So many words have been written about the content of the film, I am loathe to repeat them. Also, I don’t want to spoil what will be a nice treat should you care to go and see it. But on the issue of the portrayal of Abu Dhabi and its citizens, I can only say that I thought it was fair and realistic. Our four heroines dealt with an alien culture in the way that many of us curious Western travellers would: at times fascinated, at times confused or clumsy, and do you know what? I think it was almost radical in being able to make jokes about hijabs and burquas in contrast to the over-serious and worried discussions that are otherwise going on in the West. The revelation, in a scene near the end, that Muslim women might have a lot more in common with Western women than we usually suppose was treated in a light comedic way, but its underlying point (that all women have to go through menopause, and are interested in grooming) brings women together under the skin.
And the conspicuous consumption? The set-up was that Samantha gets a free holiday with her mates, on condition that she plug the hotel (a normal practice in the world of PR) belonging to a stinking rich Arab sheikh. The latter is probably one of the only people in a recession-hit world who could enable our jolly heroines to have a no-expense spared knees-up. Oh, how distasteful, the journalists tut, to show such debauchery at such a time. THIS IS NOT A KEN LOACH FILM! Its aesthetic is about escapism, you total and complete plonkers. There IS lip-service paid to the recession in a couple of comments made by Carrie, but then we, the non-cynical SATC audience, are allowed to wallow in some yummy, wildly camp visual excess and don’t have to come out of the cinema wanting to slit our wrists.
Another key element of the content is, of course, the women’s relationships with their men. Three of them are now married, one still single. The critics have moaned that the ‘girls’ are selling out in partnering up. Excuse me? These are women in their 40’s and 50’s, two of them have kids. There’s nothing weird about (three of) them being partnered up at this stage in their lives. It’s probably completely representative to have 3 out of 4 in that state. Where their stories are truthful and developing is that our heroines (and not the ‘vulgar bitches’ that a certain male journalist calls them) are having quandaries in their love lives, and address some married women’s problems, not least the universal one of maintaining the ‘sparkle’ when you settle down with the dream-guy who turns out to be more like Homer (Simpson) than Heathcliff.
There is rich and poignant material in the wives’ dilemmas, particularly for Carrie and Charlotte. Miranda’s story brings up some good feminist stuff about the way women are treated at work. Samantha hilariously deals with the menopause, and yet again, in her totally outrageous way, shows a broad loving wild sex. What’s not to love?
My heart goes out to the actors of SATC for receiving such a pasting for the movie. It seems clear to me that their hearts were in precisely the right place. It’s come to something when I feel I’m sticking my neck out for defending such a film, and that I run the risk of losing artistic credibility. Well, balls to all that. It’s a sweet film, a fun film, a pro-woman (but not anti-man) film. I’M A FAN! (Mamma Mia, however, can go rot in hell).