by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
June 3, 2010
SEX AND THE SICKIE
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- If you want to see the line between sexism and misogyny skid into a puddle of sheer nuttiness, read some of the reviews of the new film "Sex and the City 2."
"Some of these people make my skin crawl," wrote revered film critic Roger Ebert. "The characters... are flyweight bubbleheads living in a world which rarely requires three sentences in a row."
"The film is an epic eyesore," wrote David Edelstein in New York magazine.
".... This deadly, brainless exercise in pointless tedium is dedicated to the screeching audacity of delusional self-importance that convinces these people the whole world is waiting desperately to watch two hours and 25 minutes of platform heels, fake orgasms and preposterous clothes," wrote Rex Reed in the New York Observer.
"It's not often a horror film reaches into the depths of my soul, grabs my heart and shatters it into a billion terrified pieces," wrote Phil Villarreal in OK Magazine.
The critics on the Web site Rotten Tomatoes gave it a positive rating of 16 percent.
Yet I saw "SATC 2" the day it opened, at a 4 p.m. screening in Hadley, Mass. and I laughed, I sighed, I was a little bit aroused, I was a little bit bored, and, mostly, I was entertained. Wasn't that the point? As the overwhelmingly female audience filed out, I heard many women saying, "I loved it."
So what's the big deal?
It's as if "Dirty Harry," "Die Hard" and "Transformer" had never been made. Or "Rambo" and the "Rocky" series. Or any other boob-and-testosterone loaded summer action flick.
If testosterone can fuel a summer movie, what's wrong with a little estrogen doing it every now and then?
I'm not saying that "SATC 2" is will rival "Citizen Kane" or "Casablanca" in the record books. It offers an over-the-top gay wedding with Liza Minelli singing a Beyonce song off-key, Morocco posing as Abu Dhabi, some dreadful social commentary and really distressing interior decor.
But it's not a positive spin on the life of Adolf Hitler, either.
It simply continues the story of four distinctly different female characters that many women have come to know and care about through 94 episodes of television and one film. These women have histories, strengths and flaws, complete story lines and, yes, probably the worst clothing on record since "Dynasty." (If we're voting on the worst of the worst, I pick Samantha's red dress with the rhinestone sea urchins on the shoulders.)
So why are the critics so especially virulent about this movie? One writer theorized that the "SATC" hysteria is based on the characters' ages.
"(It) says something about the way we look at elderly women in modern American society," wrote Alex Balk on The Awl. "We would prefer that, if we must indeed be subject to their representation in popular culture, they be confined to small supporting roles in which they play spinster older sisters or embittered, loveless career women. The idea that we are not only supposed to pretend that the shriveled harridans we see on the screen might still engage in the act of sexual intercourse but that we are supposed to celebrate their enjoyment of such defies both credulity and good taste."
Well, I've learned - to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw - that sex is wasted on the young, who seem to believe it involves stripper poles and six-pack abs.
They should pay more attention to Helen Mirren, Vanessa Redgrave and Judi Dench. They should watch mature actresses on screen and revel in their accomplishment and sexuality. Hell, watch "The Golden Girls" on television spin it for a laugh. Most of us are going to get old; it's nice to know there's life - elegant, sophisticated life - after 60.
A man I know said that the "SATC" characters were "repulsive." "Is this what women are?" he asked.
And then I thought of Sir Sidney Poitier.
As one of the first black leading men, Poitier could never just be a handsome male actor. Whether he was playing a college professor or a criminal on a chain gang, he had to represent everyone in his race - male and female. It was never fair.
In the same way, the "SATC" girls - Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte -do not represent all women everywhere. They're not what all women are, or what all women want. (Six-inch heels? Sex on a beach? Give me a break.) They certainly don't represent me.
I like to think of them as similar to those 1930s movies featuring a conflict between a wild girl and a good girl. You know the wild girl is going to come to a bad end, but you identify with her anyway because she's exciting and somewhat real. In fact, she's somewhat like you. The bad ending is the price you pay for being able to identify with someone on the screen.
I identify with bits of each of these "SATC" characters - the writer in Carrie who struggles with power, the endless innocence of Charlotte, the sexuality of Samantha, and the way Miranda always thinks with her head and winds up blindsided by her heart.
Also, like these women, I have an abiding love for my female friends - the ones who make me laugh and get me through the difficult parts of my life.
A movie with four women at the center is a rare, rare thing and should be respected despite its flaws.
"SATC 2" is entertainment. Love it, like it, leave it or lump it, but for heaven's sake, everybody, please calm down.
Joyce Marcel (joycemarcel.com) is a journalist and columnist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.