Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sex and the City 2

Unlike everyone else, I don't hate Sex and the City 2. This may be because unlike everyone else, I had seen nothing of the series or SATC1 before I went to see it. Forget about low or no expectations, I was blissfully unaware of what expectations it might have been appropriate to have. A New Yorker cartoon a few issues ago suggested that there were four possible ways of reviewing anything: good in a good way, bad in a bad way, good in a bad way, and bad in a good way. SATC2 falls into that last category, and it's revealing of professional critics' general cantankerousness, that none of them (or at least none of the ones I've read) have managed to extract anything of value from the film. Liza Minnelli's rendition of Beyonce's Single Ladies - only slightly less shocking than, say, finding your grandmother karaoke to Lady GaGa - ALONE makes this film unmissable. On a more serious note, the hyperdefensive postcolonials have pounced on the numerous orientalist stereotypes that the film trades on, failing to recognise the ways in which the film critiques those stereotypes in its own inimitably frothy style. Thus, even as the four girls are horrified at burqa-clad women having to lift their veils to eat french fries, Miranda is realising that her misogynistic boss who lifts his hand to stop her from speaking at meetings has trouble dealing with successful women. Carrie is literally told to shut up by a scathing (fictional) New Yorker review of her latest book, accompanied by a caricature of herself with her mouth taped shut. In these silly and blindingly obvious ways, for the first time (maybe?!), American pop culture has finally internalised the critique that third world feminists and feminists of colour have long made of white western feminism: that in its eagerness to rescue brown women from brown men halfway across the world and its superior self-positioning with respect to those women whom it unremittingly sees as victims, it misses the universality of patriarchy and its distinct manifestations in their own cultures. Indeed, far from rescuing brown women, the SATC crew are themselves rescued by brown women from an ugly confrontation featuring Samantha, condoms and lots of angry brown men. Whisked away into the privacy of female only space, C, S, C & M learn that upper-class brown women are not very different from them in the clothes that they wear or - in a wonderful moment parodying Reading Lolita in Tehran - the self-help books that they read. In a sly move, perhaps betraying the extent to which poststructuralist feminist valorations of resistance have permeated the zeitgeist, the film ends up endorsing the burqa as a device of cunning, under cover of which the feisty foursome escape the angry mob incensed by Samantha's libido. If you are a socialist feminist, there is not much in this movie for you - barring Miranda and Charlotte's one sentence incredulous admiration for women who succeed in juggling work and family without the aid of expensive childcare. But then, to expect more from a story set in the professional classes of Manhattan would be - how should I put this - stupid. To understand the disappointment of critics and SATC fans alike, I am now working my way through the series, thanks to a box-set loaned to me by N&D. Now that's what I call research.

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