Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Not So Sexy Anymore

I'm going to see the Sex and the City movie. It's one of those things. It's not that I'm dying to see it, not that I expect it will be great, it's not that I think it's worth the $10+. I'm going because, I guess, it's one of those "events" things, though I'm really looking forward to seeing a bunch of friends I don't see that often.

I was (am) a big fan of the television show. I wrote a paper focusing on the season finale, and then retooled it a year later for a conference that I ended up submitting something else to. And when the first movie came out, I was super excited, and I went with a big group of girls, and we laughed and gasped and took it all in. It wasn't until later, on rewatch, without the audience and the expectations, that I realized that the film truly was not good.

I've seen the trailer for the sequel. There's not much to it. I've seen the ads, and the critiques with the photoshopped arms, legs, and hips. I kind of dread where the story will go, but I had that feeling when the movie was over--where else can they go? Women's lives, at least in story form, seem to follow the same trajectory of men and kids, and I didn't want to see Carrie pregnant. But what else will they do? I lamented to a friend, and we bitched. I don't want the movies to be part of my memory of the series.

Neither does Hadley Freeman, who posted her own response to the movies (Spoilers):

But the truth is, the show was fantastic: smart, funny, warm and wise, a far cry from the "middle-aged women having embarrassing sex with various unsuitable partners" cliche that the above writer used. It was about four smart women, three of whom had no interest in getting married. Candace Bushnell's original book on which the show was based was good, but the show was great.

But unlike in the films, that's not all there was, and that wasn't all the characters cared about. What elevated the show way above the normal chickflick tat, and way above the films, was that it had genuine emotional truth. It sang with lines that you knew had come from real life ("How can I have this baby? I barely had time to schedule this abortion" being quite possibly my all-time favourite) and plots that went beyond the limiting convention of cliche. Samantha's breast cancer, for example, showed not only how scary and sad cancer (obviously) is, but also how boring, sweaty and plain inconvenient it is, too.
My thesis in my Sex and the City paper was that the show was so successful because it stuck to this emotional truth. The movie, despite trying for it with Miranda's storyline, completely missed the mark. The men were barely involved, and when they were, they were out of character. The movie was just plain bad; there was nothing there, and spent too much time on things no one cared out (Mexico) and drew out what was unnecessary (Big and Carrie's roller coaster wedding).

There's been a lot written how the show increasingly focused on fashion and the "luxe life" in its later years, especially in the movies. Michael Patrick King, as a response to both the recession and the first movie, has purposely made the sequel light and airy, with the escapist trip to Abu Dhabi the centerpiece of this theme. Yes, it made it easier to shoot, and was different. But it was also a big "huh? ...ok" for the audience.

The fashion was fun, sometimes. But I always maintained it wasn't about that for true fans--they connected to the emotional issues the show brought up, the questions, no matter how serious or frivolous. They could connect to the women's tribulations, no matter what their actual lives were like.

Hopefully I will enjoy the movie, and it won't be a total waste. But I wonder: Do all women's entertainments have to be this way? Do they have to be like Eat Pray Love, an escapist journey, a fantasy that most of us won't be able to experience?

1 comment:

John said...

Welcome to the realm of fanboy/fangirldom, where you often have to completely write off later attempts to cash in on your favorite franchises because they so completely lack what made the original great (e.g.: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Transformers, and countless others.)

It's possible that the reason the movie was subpar is the extremely limited amount of screen time compared to a television series. When you only have two hours, studios tend to chuck things like character development in favor of more visually exciting beats, since they believe that a movie should be nothing more than the producers jangling a very shiny and expensive set of keys in front of the audience for two hours.