Thursday, May 27, 2010

A note on Sex & the City 2. And feminism.


I have only watched a few episodes of this legendary series, but I've now seen both the movies mainly due to Kathy's prodding, and I find I suddenly have a lot to say about it. When it comes to how guys roll their eyes over this show, let me just say: Eh, whatever. When I worked my short stint at Blockbuster, the first movie came out on DVD, and I cannot tell you how many guys pooped their pants just seeing it on the shelves. As soon as they walked in the store, they would practically yell, "I'M NOT HERE TO RENT THAT GAY SEX AND THE CITY MOVIE, OKAY" and I would be like, um, okay. If by chance they WERE renting it, or were with their wife/girlfriend who was renting it, they would also trip all over themselves in their passionate desire to let me know that they wanted to have nothing to do with it. Like, uh. Okay. Whatever. But what I've come to have a problem with is all the ladies out there who roll their eyes at the four little words. And I used to be one of them.

I was never a fan of the show previously because, as a person who's never even worn makeup for crying out loud except during proms in high school when my mom made me, after watching just a few minutes of all the extravagant shopping, all the fancy parties and all that shoe fanfare, I would--guess what--roll my eyes and say, yeah, okay, enough of that crap. Also, can they really never take the subway? Who can afford these apartments in New York City and take a freaking cab every five minutes and buy these $10 drinks every night? And while we're at it, yeah, I really feel sorry for you Carrie Bradshaw, that you get to spend your life in your pajamas writing crappy whiney columns for a living and then going to glamorous parties at night.

But here's the thing: I've grown up a little. And I watched the movies. And there are the obvious truths: that the show is not about all that, it's really about the friendships, and it's really even more just a love letter to New York City. But...yeah, you know, it is a lot about that other stuff, too. The froofy dresses and big hats and crazy get-ups, the shopping, the extravagance. The sex. And I think I've realized that I'm enough of a real feminist now to say: hell yeah, that's feminism. Fashion is feminism. It is saying, I am sexy and strong and creative and proud, just as much as wearing tuxes and screwing gender norms and the patriarchal hierarchy is. It may not be what I'm into, but for many women, it is, and it is empowering and beautiful. Oh, and it's also fun. This was really spelled out for me when I watched an interview with the director, Michael Patrick King, on the Daily Show the other night. When Jon Stewart was asking why the Middle East for the setting of this film, he said something roughly like this, "We thought, what is the most extravagant place we can think of to take all the women in America right now who are struggling and can't go there themselves? Let's go to Abu Dhabi!" I realized, okay, it doesn't matter if Carrie Bradshaw's life is completely unrealistic. What matters is all the ladies in America who watch her, the old women who giggle at every sex reference, who ooh and ahh over the fashion and for an hour or two feel just as luxurious and female as those ladies on the screen. All those ladies in America are, in a small but still meaningful way, being liberated. If you think for some reason that the image of women Sex & the City portrays is demeaning to women, you are just playing into stereotypes and limiting women yourself. Feminists can be lawyers and businesswomen, they can be dykes and they can be straight, they can be happy homemakers and stay at home moms, and they can also spend a truly ridiculous amount of money on one pair of designer strappy sandles, if they want to, and that doesn't make them any less of a feminist than any other women. It just took me awhile to realize that.

Listen, I won't give away any plot points or anything for those people who do like it, but there is one scene near the end of the film where Samantha, distraught and tired after being harassed in the Middle East for her outwardly sexy ways, is struggling to pick up the contents of her bag which have fallen on the street, while being surrounded by a gaggle of angry and offended Middle Eastern men. Eventually she starts shoving her condoms in their faces, yelling, "Yes, okay, yes! I like sex! I LIKE SEX! I LIKE SEX!" Regardless of the fine line of respecting cultural norms or not, it was pretty much one of the best things I've ever seen. Throughout the whole Abu Dahbi part there were strong themes of international female empathy and solidarity, and feeling strong and sexy no matter what's covering your face. Then let's talk about how Carrie and Big don't want to have kids. And it's like, okay, and good. I don't know if I can think of another couple in movies or TV that have that stance, not because they can't have babies and are all emotionally distraught over it, and not because they are angry about the nuclear family prototype, it's just "not for them." And it's fine. And let's just briefly mention another obvious: they are old, okay. They are old, and sexy, and it's awesome.

The relationship storylines can be dramatic, other than Miranda's character which is clearly the best one they can all get kind of annoying at times, but from the little I've seen, there is empowerment all over the place here. If you're a guy and don't get it, whatever, it's not for you anyway. If you're a girl and you don't get it, see the movies. If you're an eye-rolling girl who watches the movies and still don't get it, well, we're all welcome to our opinions. But it's my opinion that you're probably trying too hard to prove yourself right.

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