Sex and the, er, Abu Dhabi
SATC2 is nigh upon us, opening in the US tomorrow. Already the soundtrack is out in stores, the HBO shop is selling relevant memento items, and swarovski crystal is advertising champagne toasting flutes like those Big holds in his very own hands. If I sound jaded others are less so. The facebook group has 1.7 million fans and women have apparently (according to reports) block-booked seats in the opening shows. Tomorrow, it seems, the city will be awash with women stalking the streets in stilettos as part of SATC2 celebrations.
Yesterday I paused in mid-town to take a closer look at a huge SATC poster pinned up in the entrance to an indoor car park. I’d heard the women’s faces are so stretched and airbrushed that they look barely human. Up close it’s true: Carrie’s eyes bear an alien hood of makeup, she’s wild-looking, whirling her transparent skirt and has her mouth open for no particular reason. Also odd is Samantha: with doe-eyed blond innocence she looks as though she could be at a high school prom, even though the film, and real life, puts her somewhere in the age-range of fifty.
The film looks dire. Watching the trailer I was appalled to see the trip-to-foreignland (aka Abu Dhabi) twist, which is the movie-plot version of what lazy primary-school students write when they don’t know how to finish essays. “Then I woke up and realized it was a dream.”
Reviewers have rightly called out the naive orientalism of the Abu Dhabi journey. Nick McGeehan pointed out the UAE’s appalling record on women’s rights in the Guardian, sadly crying, “Carrie, this is wrong”! Hadley Freeman put it best: “Not since 1942’s Arabian Nights has orientalism been portrayed so unironically. All Middle Eastern men are shot in a sparkly light with jingly jangly music just in case you didn’t get that these dusky people are exotic and different. Even leaving aside the question of why anyone would go on holiday to Abu Dhabi, everyone who has ever watched a TV show knows that the first rule is: don’t take characters out of their usual environment.”
Several outlets have had men review the film as if part of a cruel experiment. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw gives it one star (“boring”); David Edelstein dubs it “depressing” at NYMag; for Andrew O’Hehir at Salon, it’s an “endless nightmare.” It’s intriguing that the Guardian and Salon have both male and female journalists assess the film. We rarely get a specifically female take on “bromance” movies or sci-fi. Something about SATC makes it so gendered that one person’s panning is not enough.
Meanwhile at least one US critic — and yes, a woman — has attempted a defence. Heather Havrileskey calls it “cathartic” and says female friendship is important. She makes the fair point that “Any movie that women choose to see in droves will immediately be written off as silly.” But when she argues “The truth is that there just aren’t that many smart, fun stories about women friends to choose from — others have tried, and mostly failed. It’s no small feat to tackle the female psyche,” I have to disagree. What about Kissing Jessica Stein? What about the Sex and the City series? Is it any easier, by the way, to write about the complex psyches of men, or of people in general?
Michael Patrick King’s the culprit; he wrote and directed SATC2. When George Eliot wrote “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists” in 1856 she lamented the “particular quality of silliness that predominates in them–the frothy, the prosy, the pious, or the pedantic.” SATC2 is certainly a silly frothy film about ladies; we can take some comfort in the knowledge that it’s been penned by a man.
Last night I went to see a five-woman comedy show called Powersuits at the Upright Citizens Brigate Theater. I realized I’ve never seen women do comedy before. Andrea Rosen, Giulia Rozzi, Brooke Van Poppelen and Arden Myrinwomen were all in their early thirties, while the headline act, Janeane Garofalo, was a bit older and had been in Reality Bites. They contradicted the stereotypical notion I discovered I held, that comediennes are either dorky or dowdy: they were gloriously glamorous, as well as witty and fun.
There certainly are smart sassy sexy New York women out there. The thing is seems there’s no evidence of them in SATC2.
PS. I accept, I haven’t seen the film, but I have watched the trailer. If it’s good, I promise I’ll recant.
PPS. The New York Times has a gentle, fair review plus lots of clips. Take a look.