Although repeatedly referred to as girls in the movie Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha should be referred to as women if you’re pulling punches; and middle-aged if you’re being truthful. Carrie appears unhappy in her seemingly loveless marriage with a very gaunt-looking Mr Big. Charlotte deals with the stress of being a married mother, with a full-time nanny, and a wealthy husband while not having to work. Shame. Miranda rediscovers how important her career is to her, something I thought we covered in every season? And a 52-year-old Samantha desperately fights off menopause with a dealer’s share of pills, creams and patches. They’re really just a midlife crisis motley crew.
While I laughed at a few of the gags and enjoyed the extravagant fashion-porn, I was left thinking: which one of these women am I? The reason the Sex and the City series was so successful was because every woman who watched it could identify with at least one of the characters and she could see her friends in the others. Apart from them growing older then the show’s original target audience, the lifestyles presented are so out of touch with the present economy that it seems more farce and fantasy, than humorous – but honest – commentary on women and relationships. This may be one of the reasons the location was changed to a far away, distant, exotic desert. But in moving the setting of the film they lost the fifth character – the dynamic, dirty and romantic streets of New York City. A city which had seen them grow and caused them heart ache; but ultimately kept them together.
The present economic situation makes Carrie and her friends’ lifestyles more insulting then entertaining. When the nineties were booming and the show was popular, the fabulous world that the characters inhabited was a far – but not impossible – stretch of the imagination. But now luxurious apartments, first class travel, $22,ooo-a-night hotels and big gay weddings (with swans) don’t even touch base with our reality. These women belonged in the nineties; and by the end of the movie I was wishing they had been left there. Maybe the film makers thought this too and realised that they had to try something new.
What Americans used to feel towards communism they now feel towards Islam. And it seems as though praying upon the fear and apprehension people feel towards Islam was the easiest way to make the audience feel like they still have something in common with these four aging women. As a result the majority of the film is spent juxtapositioning the four liberal, sexually independent, Western gals against the Islamic culture. The outcome is that although the differences between Islam and the West are constantly highlighted, they are never really developed or explored. Rather the writers relied on tired clichés and stereotypes ranging from burkinis to Islamic conservatism. And while the women occasionally comment on how oppressed Islamic women seem they aren’t given a chance to interact with them until the very end. What could have been an opportunity for meaningful, insightful and humorous dialogue between women of starkly different cultures ends disappointingly. When they drop their black burqas we expect to have a chance to see the women behind the clothes that have masked them through the whole movie. But instead the writers take the easy way out and suddenly Islamic women are just Western women hiding under a burqa.
Look, they even dress the same way! And read the same books! They really are just like us! Not really oppressed or subjected to patriarchy!
So the differences and stereotypes the film is premised on are easily dropped for a neat and sweet ending. And the four women are absolved from feeling any sort of guilt or remorse for gallivanting and partying in a city which doesn’t extend those same liberties to its women.
Hopefully this will be the last resurrection of the series. A true fan would be better off saving the money they would have spent on a ticket and starting a fund to buy the box set. Because the women we loved and related to can only be found there. Like the desert the film is set in; Sex and the City 2 is ultimately dry, foreign and something you want to escape from.