Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why I don't think I'll be seeing 'Sex and the City 2'

To quote Roger Ebert: "Mothers, if you are reading, run this through your head. One little girl dips her hands in strawberry topping and plants two big handprints on your butt. You are on the cell to a girlfriend. How do you report this? You moan and wail out: 'My vintage Valentino!' Any mother who wears her vintage Valentino while making muffin topping with her kids should be hauled up before the Department of Children and Family Services."

No, that's not the reason I don't have any plans to see Sex and the City 2, though it is ridiculous. The short answer is that I think this franchise has become bad for women. For a rantier version of that answer, read on.

I don't know enough about the production history of the Sex and the City television series to know the exact machinations of why this happened, but it was evident to me as a sometimes viewer that the intent behind the show was changing. What started as a "slice of life" series, examining the daily lives of four wealthy white women living in Manhattan, enjoying casual sex and career, and pondering on relationships, was no longer. By the end of the series, what were maybe supposed to be allegories to different aspects inside of every woman, had become cloying caricatures. Charlotte, tightly-wound and with very low self-esteem. Samantha, sexually insatiable but secretly vulnerable. Miranda, career-driven and difficult to please. And Carrie, a screeching harpy with very little regard for anyone but herself.

When the series was adapted into a film in 2008, Michael Patrick King was holding the reins. He'd been writing for the show for seasons, but in transferring the characters to the big screen, he ratcheted up all of the quirks that made the show terrible. Numerous times, the show established that the four women were sisters, family, soul mates. They might find love with men - or not - but they would always be there for each other. In the film, only Carrie's problems elicit sympathy and sisterhood.

I sort of get the impression that King or whoever strongly dislikes women, and enjoys manipulating these terrible characters in such a way as to taunt female audiences, holding up a funhouse mirror to all of our perceived flaws. Melissa Silverstein of Women & Hollywood asks, "Why is it that gay men have become the purveyors of women's stories?" It's an interesting question, though probably not a hard and fast Hollywood rule. Silverstein is more forgiving to the SATC universe than I am, but she does view the characters as rooted in real problems that real women go through. Perhaps this is true, but there must be fair and entertaining ways to tell these stories without using terrible role models to make everyone feel horrible about themselves.

Now, I have to admit that two years ago when I saw the first film, I was far less critical of it. Read my review and laugh at how much has changed since then. It's true that what I once found funny and silly has just stuck in my craw as bad storytelling. I once enjoyed watching mid-run episodes of the series, but the older I get and the more I think about it, the less I want to watch this spectacle of media portrayal of women. So unless someone can convince me, I don't think I'll be seeing Sex and the City 2. And all of this is without even going into the minefield of insensitivity entered when the gang heads to the Middle East in couture, stilettos, and gold lamé turbans.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

You express everything I feel about Sex and the City. Dead on.