Sex and the Shitty.

Disclaimer: The below represents my own thoughts. It is not my intention to direct this post at any person or group of people. If you can present an argument to challenge me, I will take the time to absorb it and reflect upon it. My main aim is to use objective criticism to draw attention to what others may have missed. The feature film Sex and the City 2 was my first exposure to the franchise.

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I watched Sex and the City 2 last night. It’s a film which presents itself as a statement. Unfortunately, that statement is, quite frankly, offensive. It encapsulates everything I believe to be wrong with the way human society has developed. To praise this film would, in my view be akin to supporting some of the greatest atrocities in recent history. The representation of Islam, and of capitalism are the two points to which I take the most offence. But there are other minority groups who’s plight is pierced by the stiletto heel of the film makers’ agenda setting propaganda machine.

At the outset of the film, we are lulled into a belief that it might be driven by a somewhat progressive ideology. We’re at a gay wedding. Yet it feels like pure tokenism as stereotype after stereotype rolls out. As the film makers have obviously come to the conclusion that all gay men are promiscuous, one of the grooms is allowed to cheat on his husband. As they’ve also drawn the conclusion that all gay men are flamboyant and extravagant the wedding ceremony comprises a chorus of male singers belting out show tunes beneath sequined top hats. Oh, and did I mention the ceremony was presided over by Liza Minnelli?

To me this is simply reinforcing a dangerously parochial view of homosexuality. It’s a common recurrence in media representations of gays that they can only be accepted (read tolerated) if they can be the spectacle. If they can be the entertainment. The butt of jokes. The sideshow of a some sort of widescreen, self-obsessed carnival.

But the film makers aren’t satisfied with shoe-boxing only one minority. They have a responsibility to satisfy America’s xenophobic fear of the other. What better place to do that than the Middle East. Of the four women who travel to the UAE bankrolled by a wealthy sheikh, only one makes an attempt to learn some token Arabic phrases and familiarise herself with local customs. In many places, she is ridiculed for doing so, often in a self-deprecating way which makes the whole thing so painful as there is actually sub-plot in which the same character attempts to gain equality at her Manhattan law firm. She’s willing to put so much effort into getting her employers to take her seriously, yet she lets her closest friends insult her.

The adage “when in Rome, do as the Romans” has led me through many successful sojourns through foreign countries. Needless to say, this is far from the philosophy adopted by the travelling New Yorkers. Samantha, the character responsible for securing the trip in the first place, and who stands the most to benefit by the business meeting with the hotel owner to discuss publicity in the West, seems to be the one who takes the most advantage and causes the most offence. This culminates in a scene where she screams “fuck you”, “bite me” and pulls fingers at a crowd of Muslims on their way to prayer. This, I might add, happens after she’s been arrested for fornicating in a public place. The threat of imprisonment obviously not strong enough to deter her manic diatribes of hate and intolerance.

Samantha is the epitome of the “American” as viewed from an Eastern perspective. It is no wonder why there is such contempt for the West in this part of the world. That anyone could either identify with, or admire Samantha’s poisonous worldview is quite simply beyond me. I thought we had grown through this as a society. Anyone familiar with Martin Luther, or John Locke?

Another thing that bugs me about Samantha is her futile obsession with youthfulness. I’m not quite sure when or how it happened, but sometime in recent history, it was collectively decided that young, skinny white people were the ideal of beauty. Women now grow up believing that expensive pharmaceuticals and supplements are necessary ingredients in the cocktail of social acceptance. Insecure women are preyed on by massive, faceless corporations with atrocious histories of pollution, corruption and the suppression of critical medical research and development into meaningful fields of science. Western society revolves around the market. A market which means we have a cure for wrinkles because shallow, insecure women can afford to pay for it. Those suffering illness in third world counties cannot afford basic medicines; so in most cases these are denied of them.

Discussion of the market brings me to what I believe to be the biggest failure of the film. I was quite simply disgusted to find that after the biggest financial crisis in their generation. The protagonists of this film had yet to realise that the materialistic society they live for is crippling the planet: economically, socially, and environmentally. This film suggests that happiness comes hand in hand with material possessions. They extravagant gifts bought, the astonishment at the fact that footwear can be bought for $20, the awe at the decadence of 7 star accommodation all encourages hungry consumption. Worst of all though, it promotes it to an audience who can not hope to attain it, yet who are encouraged to recreate it. This is the audience of expectation. The expectation that they can have what they want, when they want, and more over, feel entitled to it. They fund it through credit that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. And very few voices are telling them it’s unsustainable. The overwhelming media voice is one of encouragement.

Then the film makers have the audacity to rub “Mr Big” in our faces. A big-shot Wall Street type with a corner office and rather remarkably, heaps of cash. Weren’t people like him the greedy, neo-liberal middle men responsible for the downfall of some of the world’s biggest economies. The sort of people who wiped billions off the value of investments held by the sorts of people turning up to watch the film. The man even keeps two apartments with the logic being that “you’d be mad to put a place on the market in the last two years” – This message broadcast to literally millions who have been forced to refinance mortgages or worse, sell their properties at negative equity. The tenacity of it all is really quite breathtaking.

I don’t think there is a single redeeming quality in Sex and the City 2. It’s pure commercialism, covered in sequins. It’s a monument to greed, to obnoxiousness and to xenophobia. But it will gross millions. Because this is what we have collectively decided to do to our only world.

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