Monday, May 31, 2010

No Sex in This City

When I saw the first “Sex and the City” movie, I had perhaps only seen about six or seven episodes of the show. Not enough to call myself a fan or to recognize the name Carrie Bradshaw and all it symbolized. However, the buzz about the movie and rumors about Carrie finally getting the one thing she wanted more than all the Manolos at Bergdorf Goodman was enough for me to get a ticket and head down to the pictures with an old buddy from college.

I will admit that the movie was a visual treat. The fashion was splendid, the music was delightful and the plot was interesting. For all the climaxes and lows, the movie ends with Samantha as horny as when the pilot was shot, Charlotte enjoying matrimonial bliss, Miranda climbing the corporate ladder at her firm and Carrie still in pursuit of the elusive Big. I left the movie theatre entertained, mostly by the fashion, although I’ll admit the plot played a role in the euphoria I was floating in. But besides the labels and love theme of the movie, there was an underlying theme of pursuing dreams and searching for and finding happily ever after. After all, isn’t that what movies are supposed to challenge us to do?

Serendipitously, I was loaned the entire “Sex and the City” box set right on the heels of the release of “Sex and the City 2.” I’ve watched the series in the daytime, late into the night, on the weekends. I’ve watched a couple of episodes over. I have had to hit the pause button at several junctures to fully wrap my head around the outrageous yet funny episodes in the lives of Carrie and the girls. I am still plowing slowly in the frothiness that is the box set, having only made it to I believe episode five of season four. Slowly, it’s all making sense, as I’m able to put pieces of the puzzle together. Any honest woman will admit that you can’t watch either of the movies or episodes of the show without the realization that these women mirror some of their idiosyncrasies, fears, and who knows, their wild sex lives?

But seriously, watching the box set, I kept on asking myself, are there women out there who really live like Charlotte, Miranda, Carrie and Samantha? And Samantha? Are there really women who have multiple one-night stands? Women who sleep with bartenders, random movie stars, guys in dark, dingy clubs with bad haircuts? Do these women really exist somewhere out there or are they just the musing of Michael Patrick King and Darren Star? After all, let’s be honest, both King and Star are openly gay, so is it fair to assume that these women don’t exist, but that King and Star want to believe they do?

Having not been a fan when the show aired on HBO, I’ve been left to wonder if the show was only a poor attempt at mimicking the culture of single thirty somethings or if the show was the perfect paradigm of what women should aspire to. It would be nice to have Michael Buble’s “Call Me Irresponsible” playing in the background every time the show came on because that’s the only tag for the behavior that was constantly paraded on the show. Irresponsibility at its finest. Sexual irresponsibility.

Sure, the show starts of with condom-carrying Carrie, but it’s not until one of the final episodes of Season three that any mention is made of the possible risks of unprotected sex after Samantha is forced to get tested by one of her cheap f@$#s, as she calls them. Still, in season four, unprotected sex is what gets Miranda pregnant for a boyfriend she’s long broken up with and who has in the space of their separation been with other women.

If there’s anything I have learned about American culture, it’s that Americans are quick to somehow believe that the people in the television box somehow set the standard of what acceptable behavior is. Look at what the O.C did to American teenagers. The foolishness still hasn’t stopped. It’s still going strong with the cast of “The Hills” and “The City.” What young person has not wished they were Lauren Conrad for a day? Let’s not talk about our favorite guidos and guidettes either. So I can only imagine the effect of “Sex and the City” on a horde of impressionable twenty and thirty somethings across this great country.

With “Sex and the City 2,” the quartet picked up from where they left off. Carrie finally is married to Big and has embarked on the task of furnishing their apartment, and lavishly so. I’ll call the furniture in their apartment the highlight of the movie. Samantha is still on the circuit sleeping with everything that uses a urinal, Miranda and Steve are still couple, while Charlotte is mothering two children. The movie begins with a wedding, that of Stanford to Anthony. The wedding is very gay, replete with a gay men’s glee club, white swans, and of course Liza Minnelli who reprises the spirit of Sasha Fierce in a very lousy rendition of “Single Ladies.”

The movie has no central plot, but rather skirmishes around with a plethora of plots. Samantha lands a promising public relations job that takes her and her friends to Abu Dhabi as guests of a very deep-pocketed client. In Abu Dhabi, they are spoiled with lavish gifts and lodged in a very expensive hotel where they each have a personal butler and a chauffeured car. The trip is a welcome break for Charlotte who is struggling with being a mother and for Miranda who just quit her position as senior partner at her firm.

In between desert safaris, poolside parties and shopping trips at the souk, Carrie runs into Aidan an old flame, and agrees to go to dinner with him, where they exchange a kiss. She goes ahead to tell Big who is angered by her behavior. I sensed some memory loss on Big’s part, because, the initial break-up between Carrie and Aidan occurred because Carrie cheated on Aidan with Big while Big was married to Natasha. As is typical with Samantha, she is caught having relations with a stranger on the beach and as a result, the free services they were given were cut and they were left with the option of staying on in Abu Dhabi at their own expense.

The supposed Abu Dhabi location and Islam are fodder for pushing the envelope, and the movie skirted with the topic of women’s rights. In a sense, the notion that American women are not fully free despite the so-called freedom we are supposed to have was discussed. But in a larger sense, the finger pointing was at Middle Eastern culture. The idea of wearing burqas and other such garments were parodied. I doubt that the movie and all it represents will humor Muslim clerics. First, it included sex scenes, the kinds that made the show a hit with a lot of fans and also, it made the mistake of shaming Muslim culture on a very public stage.

An interesting issue that the movie raised was the issue of migrant workers. Carrie’s assigned butler was a migrant worker from India who was only able to afford to make four trips home in a year to visit his family. Visiting Dubai two years ago, I was pained by the number of Indian and other South East Asian migrant workers that dotted the entire city. They worked long tortuous hours in service and labor-intensive jobs, building hotels they will never be able to afford and selling jewelry they will never sport. Nonetheless, it seems that the government of the UAE has some sort of migrant worker initiative in place. The United States might want to adopt a similar program or at least one that will make the antagonists in Washington and Arizona happy. Having witch-hunts aimed at illegal immigrants will not get very far and the sooner this realization is embraced the better.

The movie ends with Carrie returning back to an upset but humbled Big, who realizes his vows trump Carrie’s indiscretions. And of course, sexually liberated Samantha who wants the entire UAE to know that she has sex continues her relations with her very hot companion. In all the movie lacked in many aspects and tried too hard to live up to the supposed idea of “Sex and the City.”