Emily Rems has already done the job here of explaining why all the Sex and the City haters need to get a grip, but that’s not what swayed me to go see this. Maybe because I was expecting to hate it, or maybe because I was in an opening night audience full of women shouting things at the screen like, “damn, girl, work that dress.” Or, “oh no she dih-n’t!” But when the credits rolled, I wasn’t ready for it to be over. This was particularly surprising since one of the more massive complaints (by the masses of male reviewers) is that this thing is overlong. Unlike most men I know however (including male reviewers I’ve had the occasion to know more intimately), I can last more than two hours. That’s right, this is two hours of pure, unadulterated female porn. Seriously, the shoes alone coulda kept me in my chair for another half hour. And I hate to shop. And I didn’t even bother seeing SATC 1. My interest in seeing this–as a woman who has lived in Qatar (right next door to the film’s fictional setting), and Tunisia (near where this was actually shot)–was in seeing its depiction of women.
Of all the places the producers could’ve picked to set this film they chose the United Arab Emirates, a land known for is its excesses and lack of regard for human rights. Sure, our Fab Four are all about the fantasy, but this seemed like a pretty sad choice to me. Were they really managing to craft a movie that was both anti-feminist and anti-Muslim? I couldn’t have been more wrong. And yet, early reviews seem to be getting it wronger.
“SATC 2 is at once proudly feminist and blatantly anti-Muslim, which means that it might confound liberal viewers,” writes Stephen Farber in The Hollywood Reporter.
I hate seeing the phrase “proudly feminist” bandied about in this way, implying that a belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes is naturally shameful. The bigger concern was that these characters would embrace their vacationland while blithely ignoring the inequities. Not so. They even hinted at the plight of the guest workers. And while it is unfortunate there is not a female Muslim character for the gals to bounce their reactions off of, this is in fact totally accurate. It’s quite difficult to get inside those enclaves, and we have Miranda on hand to explain the behavioral oddities and call for respecting the culture. That didn’t make it any less deeply satisfying to hear Samantha scream about getting “the fuck out of Abu Dhabi, now!” For one, it’s completely in keeping with her character. More importantly, it gets right at the heart of the problem.
The power of this culture comes from the fact that these laws are not to be questioned. (Interestingly, Muslim clerics constantly issue fatwas meant to interpret Quranic edicts but more often confuse and contradict, but that’s another posting.) In my experience, the women can be just as savage in tearing down women who do not follow dress codes. There is a definite movement, also hinted at here, to defy the long-standing traditions, and the women there will continue on in their way and achieve their own version of equity. It’s the suggestion that the criticism is the problem that I find to be the real crisis. It is so much easier to deny. Ignore. Not stand out. But that’s not these ladies style. And that’s why, even with my sourpuss attitude, I totes loved it. Considering the criticisms seeping out, I love it even more.
Oh, there will be blood. I, for one, cannot wait.