Review of Sex and the City 2

Well I finally saw it. Tonight we got all dolled up and, after numerous bevvies at the Melting Pot (btw, you can get movie tix there for just $7), the Girls and I went to see Sex and the City 2.

Now, I had extremely low expectations for this movie. I mean, Samantha’s 52, all the other characters are married, and it takes place in Abu Dhabi of all places.

Yet, somehow it worked. It was a bit surreal (a pantsless Liza Monelli covering Beyonce…what?!) and futuristic (I half expected Guinan to serve them drinks on their first class flight to the UAE), but in a weird way it totally worked for me.

Perhaps it seemed cohesive because it follows one of comedy’s oldest narratives: a bunch of people go through a forest/wormhole/fairy-infested locale and emerge with a new perspective on their “real” lives. SATC2 riffs on this age-old convention, diverging from pure comedic form by starting with a wedding and having a cast of pre-married middle-aged heroines.

Another thing I liked about this movie, and have always loved about the show, is that it pays homage to us “regular” people living in the “real world”. From Carrie’s 125th Street ghetto gold to a night in watching Zorro with Aidan to, in this movie, all the women who don’t have full time nannies, SATC winks at the viewer and frankly acknowledges its own fantasy.

Even though they clearly don’t now, you get the sense these characters, probably circa 1987, might once have done normal things like wear jellies (Carrie), cram for exams (Miranda), work at an ice cream shop (Samantha), and… Well, Charlotte probably didn’t ever do anything normal since she was obviously born with a platinum spoon in her mouth.

Also–dare I say it?–I kinda liked the whole Middle East thing. Using Samantha’s invitation to work on a PR campaign for the “new” Middle East to effectively turn the whole movie into a meta-PR campaign for the new Middle East was unexpected.*

Though admittedly one-dimensional, SATC2’s foray into the Middle East will probably do more to change American women’s perception of this area than all the good journalism and historical tomes on this area’s turbulent history put together.

Who knew the Middle East could be so glamorous? The girls are magically relatable in designer desert clothes. Even Charlotte, who spurned the culinary fare at a five-star Mexican resort in SATC1, can eat the food in Abu Dhabi.

It takes about two hours, but Abu Dhabi starts to seem more real than the Mid-East we’re familiar with. You know, the war-torn one we’re all sick of hearing about and/or the e-mail forwarded, seven-star Dubai hotel one that was never quite believable? Let’s not kid ourselves here, people: both are just marketing campaigns–one successful and perpetrated the American media; the other less so and perpetuated by bored office workers.

SATC2 explores Mid-East gender issues primarily through the foibles of mid-menopausal Samantha, a character viewers know to take with a grain of salt. This is entirely consistent with the show which, through Samantha, irreverently took on cancer and Catholicism–in a single episode, no less.

True, the movie comments on Muslim conservatism and gender fundamentalism in a simplistic, potentially irritating, slapstick-y way. But let’s face facts, an in-depth, multi-voiced treatise on non-Western gender politics really is outside SATC’s scope.

Like many other issues SATC has addressed over the years, each archetypal character offers their own unique perspective on Abu Dhabi’s gender politics and culture: Carrie falls in love with the faithful devotion her Indian butler has for his wife, who he can only see a few times a year. Miranda sees a complex social system deserving of respect, sensitivity, and accommodation.

Samantha of course sees a lot of Puritanical rules, but she manages to find that everywhere except NYC’s notorious Meatpacking District. The last time we see Charlotte, SATC’s most traditional character, she is chillaxing with a simply enormous cup of tea in Carrie’s old apartment–the implicit comment being that an Upper West Side apartment and the “new Middle East” are commensurate escapes from one’s hectic New York life.

For me, far more shocking than Samantha’s hormonal outburst to fundamentalist Muslim clerics, was the film’s praise for traditional values. SATC2 prizes fidelity and commitment, upholds matrimony, and even cautions against promiscuity–at least in religiously conservative Muslim countries. After a decade of pushing the envelope in the complete opposite direction, SATC shocks us by lauding tradition and being open-minded enough to portray a range of traditional, conservative values.

Despite this 180, the movie stays true to the brand, reminding us that for women everywhere, fashion can be a subversive statement that undercuts the status quo, as well as an escape from the banality of daily life. You should probably go see it, and I should probably go to bed.

*Interestingly, we see Smith only a handful of times, mostly dressed in army fatigues in a poster for a movie produced by two men from the Middle East.

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I'm a smart, sassy, globally-mobile freelance writer, content creator, brand journalist and nonprofit storyteller. The world is my office. Email me to find out more.
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