Monday, May 31, 2010

Sex and the Twenty-First Century

I don’t like when politics intrudes into my movies.
Because, as Goebbels said, “Whoever can conquer the street will one day conquer the state, for every form of power politics and any dictatorship-run state has its roots in the street.”
Politics + movies = propaganda.
Do they really think we do not know this? But maybe we don’t. What is the modern American paradigm if not opportunistic and manipulative? Is it possible to be consciously manipulated? The producers of “Sex and the City 2” think so. Watching this movie just confused me. I wasn’t sure if I should feel sorrier for Liza Minelli, women in burkas, or all of the American women they convinced to see this film, which they billed as some kind of contemporary look at women’s studies and gender roles.
Usually, propaganda in movies has to be somewhat concealed. This movie felt like a promotional piece put out by the Abu Dhabi tourism board. The characters make references to the “new Middle East” throughout the film, and seem intent on reminding us that they were traveling to “the future.” Then we have Aidan walking through the arches at the hotel reciting the names of the seven countries that make up the United Arab Emirates. Aidan wouldn’t know the seven countries, much less waste precious time with his long, lost love reciting them. And what’s with that plot twist anyway? How desperate were they for material? They make Aidan an international rug dealer, who just happens to be on the same street of the same market as Carrie, at the same time? And then she just happens to be pissed off at her husband and her bad book review, so she kisses Aidan and then runs back to her hotel room to call her husband and tell him. Manufactured drama isn’t drama at all. Drama only works when there’s a grain of truth in it.
Samantha also seemed to be drawn out of character, as if wanting to appeal to the large gay audience the series has developed over the years. She was hornier than ever, and in her menopausal haze, seemed to be too tired to even bother with the intelligent, yet provocative conversation for which she has become a fan favorite. Now, her conversation drifts pointedly to sex from the beginning. She utters lines like, “Are you a big boy?” as she grabs her date’s crotch in the middle of an Arab restaurant. He leaves visibly aroused, however, I fail to see how her cheap, to-the-point talk could have done anything other than make him laugh.
I understand the need for rapprochement with the Middle East, but do the producers of this movie really think they can do it with fashion? Carrie and her girls prance around the desert looking ridiculous. My guess is that the first movie was written shortly after the series ended, therefore keeping the continuity; whereas the sequel has completely lost its way, forgetting who all of these characters really are. Their lives are completely consumed by fashion. (Carrie walking through an Arab bazaar dressed in a tacky Dior getup, carrying a lorgnette? A lorgnette?) And, I’m sorry, but if you put a contemporary writer in the middle of the Middle East, she’s going to have something to write about. Carrie decides to mope about her marriage and a bad book review instead.
The women seem completely oblivious to their surroundings, and that is what makes this film so maddening. They laugh and point out the cute head scarves and the Burka bathingsuits, but they are too consumed with their own frivolity to take into account where they are and what they’re doing there. Even Samantha’s final showdown with the town elders is weak. Look how easily they escaped! Look how American capitalism can charm its way through your city, despite your laws and customs. The premise screams social critique, but the producers of “Sex and the City 2” missed that. They only cared about profits, maximizing profits amidst their newfound patrons. I went to see this movie for the ribald banter; the situations to which every woman can relate. Instead I got gratuitous pandering, which is the worst form of flattery.
So, next time (assuming there will be a next time), let’s see Samantha battling menopause, or facing her fears of getting old; let’s see Carrie questioning her marriage to Big; Miranda grappling with being a working mother; and Charlotte grappling with being a mother, but let’s see it in its natural setting, on the streets of New York, which is where it all began. Let’s tackle real women’s issues, the ones that prey on their self-esteem, and not just their rampant materialism. Better yet, maybe we should consider retiring this series once and for all. There’s nothing worse than an idea whose time has passed.

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