Ever since I saw Sex and the City 2 a week ago, I’ve been struggling to figure out what to say in this blog post. I’m a huge fan of the series, and (I won’t even try to link here, because there are so many people who disagree/agree with this statement) I do believe that it had a sense of feminism to it, from the way it portrayed strong female friendships to the way that it worked to normalize women’s sexual needs. But the first movie seemed overblown and excessive to me, and I found this to be even worse. Not just because the plot seemed to be missing, but also because I left feeling that its attempt at feminism was somewhat…offensive.
Take, for example, the portrayal of Muslim women as completely oppressed. In one scene, Carrie and the others stare (somewhat creepily) at a woman in a niqab (she is completely covered up), marveling at how she manages to eat a French fry and at how she has no freedom. Now, there are a lot of issues for women in the Muslim world—such as not being allowed to drive on public roads in Saudi Arabia. But, as this article in Salon points out, not once do the female protagonists try to engage Muslim women in conversation on these issues. The only interactions we see are at the end, when a group of Muslim women help them to run away from an angry mob of men—kind, certainly, but somewhat unrealistic. Having actual discussions with Muslim women about their society and their religious world and choices, or at least about their fashion or something would have given those women a voice, exactly what Carrie is complaining that they don’t have.
Similarly, singing “I am Woman” on karaoke and having the entire room (full of Arab men, belly-dancers, etc.) join in seems nice, but a weird juxtaposition to the extreme oppression portrayed throughout the rest of the movie. That’s another theme that runs throughout the movie—contradictions. On one hand, Samantha, as usual, demands that women be allowed to express themselves sexually by proudly holding up packs of condoms in the souk to prove that women do, in fact, have sex; this could be seen as quite the attempt at feminism. However, for me, at least, feminism also has comes hand in hand with some kind of respect. A respect of women, their bodies, and their wishes, but also a respect of other people at the same time. And while personally, I am glad to live in a country where women can wear low-cut shirts without feeling out of place or inciting a mob, going to a country where women are expected to dress modestly and blatantly doing the opposite is, well, rude. Yes, she was suffering through the hot flashes of menopause, I know, and had her medicines taken away by the government. But respect is still respect, and the other three women seemed to be able to deal with not covering up completely while still acting with more respect.
I have a lot more to say about this movie. I chose to write about respect and religion because I think it relates to from the rib and the way that Judaism also struggles to balance respect for people’s beliefs with more modern ideas. But, briefly another topic, here is an interesting defense of the movie for allowing women to complain about how hard marriage is, for allowing women to talk about not always loving the responsibilities of parenting, and for what it is—a movie about luxury. I found the consumerism and blatant excess to be much, much too much, but I knew that it would be going into the movie, and I even knew that from watching the series, so I think it is something to get past. I also do agree that the movie did provide for some interesting female dialogue—some dialogue that would have been better served had it been in a different movie.
I knew I would go see this movie, and if there’s a third one, I’ll see it again. That’s the kind of fan I am. But I miss the series and the way that I walked away from each episode thinking that while these women had problems to deal with (because that’s life), they also knew how to take care of themselves and each other. This time, I walked away feeling that the characters who I had grown to love were kind of pathetic. And that is a sad feeling to have.
PS: Did no one else find it weird that the solution to Carrie’s cheating was to give her an engagement ring two years after their wedding? Because the trials of marriage, love, and commitment can be solved by having a man put his mark on a woman with a sparkly ring…?
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