In my time as a film critic I've seen war dramas wherein men's souls are torn apart along with their bodies; I've seen slasher films that revel in the dismembering, flaying, and gutting of human beings; and I've seen historic epics that plumb the depths of mankind's brutality. But I don't know if I've ever seen anything quite so horrifying as Sex and the City 2.
Let's dispense with the least offensive feature of this film first: It's rated R for language, sexual content, and nudity. None of these are used to any purpose higher than pre-teens at a sleepover. Boys and girls have different parts. Let's use funny words to describe them, point at them, and giggle.
But these scenes hardly make up the film's most cringe-worthy moments. No, those are reserved first for the supposed problems protagonist Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) is facing. You see, after her millionaire true love marries her, buys her an enormous Manhattan apartment, and lets her decorate it with $15,000 couches, she discovers that he wants to settle into domestic life and watch television on said couch. Carrie still wants to walk the red carpet, go to trendy restaurants, and generally be admired out on the town. "Is this because I'm a b**** wife who nags you?" Carrie asks Big when he confesses he'd like some time away from her. Ummmm, yes.
The rest of the worst comes when the four girlfriends travel to Abu Dhabi for a week's vacation at an opulent hotel. If their consumerism is unattractive in New York, the world capital of consumerism, imagine how ugly it is in the Middle East. "Twenty dollars for shoes?!" Carrie gushes, incredulous at the cheap prices at the street market (apparently she's never visited Payless, Target, or even a Macy's sale).
Making no effort to respect cultural sensitivities, the girls strut their loud, low-cut designer dresses down the sand dunes and cap off the spectacle with a karaoke rendition of "I Am Woman." Apparently this is supposed to be a nod to the feminism that the series is famous for-because nothing says American liberty so much as dressing and acting like prostitutes when the women around you are wearing burqas.
The road trip wraps up with Muslim clerics pelting a half-naked Samantha (Kim Cattrall) in the street with her own condoms. (I'm not usually one to defend Muslim clerics, but trust me, she had it coming.) She's saved when a group of local women spirit the girls away to a secret room and reveal that under all their black cloth they are wearing Christian Dior. Awww, and we thought underground Christians identifying each other through the ichthys was inspiring.
I found the television show disturbing from a cultural point of view, what with its emphasis on serving self as a pathway to fulfillment. But it had moments of authenticity mixed in with the trite feminine fantasies. Expensive shoes, powerful men, and somehow rising to the top of the professional heap while spending most of your time shopping and lunching are fun spectacles, but they're not enough to build an army of fiercely loyal fans. There must be some grain, however small, of truth amongst the lies to do that.
Here, even those specks have been swept away by a whirlwind of deceit that includes old chestnuts-like sleeping with every guy you meet is empowering-and comforting new lies-like being a woman in your 40s whose entire life is focused on gratifying your ego through outward trappings doesn't make you pathetic. (Oh, and I should also add, when you cheat on your husband he will see that it's really his fault and buy you an enormous diamond.)
Two-and-a-half years ago, in an amazing moment of prescience, WORLD blogger Harrison Scott Key wondered what would follow Sex and the City-Sex and the Angry Middle-aged Adolescent? Wow. I wonder if screenwriter and director Michael Patrick King saw Key's tongue-in-cheek post and mistook it for a suggestion. Because angry-not to mention garish, condescending, and ignorant-middle-aged adolescents are exactly what we've gotten with Sex and the City 2.
Email Megan Basham