Circa 2001, I began a personal love affair with the life and times of Carrie Bradshaw & Co. (Thanks for the ripped DVDs, Hemant!) Even though I dreamed of working as a writer at a magazine one day, my idealistic 17 year-old self knew that an Upper East Side walk-in closet filled with Manolos and DVF wrap dresses on a freelancer’s budget was fairy tale and legend. Fantasy aside, the show was woven with glistening truthful threads on relationships, men, dating, love, female sexuality, self-image, self-esteem, oh yeah, and sex. I would credit the show for encouraging me to own and assert my needs and desires: a gratifying sex life, a meaningful, successful career and true love. Oh yeah, and to someday also be a mom. Thanks to SATC, women nation-wide discovered or were reminded that these needs didn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Word on the street is that the Sex & the City franchise has lost its “sparkle.” That with the big screen sequel that hit theaters last week, it’s no longer empowering—
it’s just saggy, sad and filled with wrinkly, menopausal women “pumped full of Botox and hormones.” One friend told me that it was a monumental fail. Another said that she wished for those two hours of her life back.
It appears that many of these haters fall into several categories. (Warning: A few spoilers ahead.)
-They are menopause-misogynists, set out to bash the film if only because it is carried (no, no pun intended here) by successful, sexy women who happen to be well over 35. These critics are having a field day picking apart how the cast looks so friggin’ old and by default, of course, unattractive. When they make Oceans 113, no one’s going to say anything about George Clooney looking like the Cryptkeeper, but SATC2 is fair game. As Jezebel puts it, “It’s rare to see a writer attack a male lead with this kind of vitriol. Does the “leatheriness” of her skin really make the movie that much more unbearable?” Oh yeah, bear in mind that the Men-Hate-SJP factor also plays a role in this catty free-for-all.
–They jumped on the hater bandwagon and drew the conclusion that the film sucked well before the credits rolled. Case in point: Newsweek‘s review decided to go with the popular argument that the flick turned the original series’ the feminist vibe totally backasswards: “The characters go from trailblazers to conformists, suddenly telling us that work and child-rearing actually don’
t mix…” False. Yes, in the beginning, we see Miranda quit her job…and leave behind a boss who is chauvinistic and abusive. I was completely empowered by that plot point, because being a feminist means being able to say, “I deserve better!” in the work place. That’s exactly what happens here. At the end of the film, our favorite attorney is working for an employer who appreciates her, and she’s incredibly happy.
-They weren’t fans in the first place. I’ve always been ahead of myself in the maturity department, but I’m starting to feel like I can relate more to 52 year-old Samantha, shown slathering estrogenic yams on her inner arm, than to some of the tween, teen and even college-aged viewers who are flocking to the theaters to see the big screen versions of Sex. Yep, some of them (like my 21 year-old sister) watched the series on DVD or TBS. And they get it. (Well, the TBS viewers get like 85% of it.) But, there are a ton of them who have only seen the films… Of course, lots o’ critics for big media outlets are straight, likely old, white men, who never cared for the show in the first place either. In other words, if you haven’t been aboard the Sex ship for 12 years, you aren’t emotionally invested in the plights of Carrie/Charlotte/Miranda/Samantha and simply do not get it. Much like Twilight, this is a flick made for fans.
–They’re mistaking SATC2 for a documentary about women in NYC. Like this great review on Women & Hollywood says: “This movie is not a hard look at reality. It’s a summer escape movie just like all the movies that blow shit up. You don’t think that guys who go see Iron Man have any expectation of becoming like Iron Man (except in their fantasies), just like I don’t expect to ever be able to fit in or wear a Versace skirt. Women know this is not real, in fact 76% of the people (mostly women) who took a survey on fandango.com look at the film as a “great escape.”
It’s true. The beauty of the series and its audience was that we loved the friendship among the four leading ladies, and we loved the web of whimsy and reality that the show wove. Yes, there’s escapism and fantasy galore: a first-class “magic carpet ride” to Abu Dhabi (as played by Morocco), a romantic run-in with an ex halfway around the globe, as always over-the-top fashion, a gay wedding featuring Liza Minelli… (All brought to you via creator Michael Patrick King, who said he wanted to take his audience on a vacation you maybe can’t afford right now.) OK, OK, and there are also somewhat cringe-inducing antics, puns and questionable stereotypes. But there were threads of truth, too. Carrie recalls, “I was this girl running around New York City like a crazy person, looking for love…” and I actually teared up. That was me too! When Miranda and Charlotte talk about how hard it is to be a mom, I’ll bet plenty of my pals-who-are-also-mamas can relate! (At least that’s the impression I get from their sleepy Facebook statuses.) When, in the middle of a crowded marketplace in the Middle East, Samantha scrambles to pick up a spilled purse full of condoms, and screams, “YES, I have sex!” the audience I was sitting in leapt up, roared and applauded. Seems to me that a flick that brings women together to celebrate their sexuality and friendships will never really fail. In fact, sign me up for round 3.
Further reading that falls in the non-haters camp here.