The Things They Carried
by FERNANDA DIAZ
Sex and the City 2
dir. Michael Patrick King
The biggest, most worrisome problem with Sex and the City 2 has almost nothing to do with its worse-than-student-film progression of scenes or its hints of orientalism. Even after you count those grievances, the sequel is only slightly more ridiculous than the show could get sometimes, which makes the exaggerated backlash seem like tired sexist filler. Beyond that, the movie commits a more serious crime, onscreen and off: after a decade-long battle between the show's forces of good and evil, the movie declares a victor — and the dark side wins.
At one point in the new movie, Carrie gets a bad review from The New Yorker, a particularly painful blow, she says, since she's been "carrying the magazine in her purse" forever. It's about halfway in, but it cements (in an irony that was clearly lost on the writers) what had been obvious ever since before the movie's release. Despite Carrie's long years of observation and wit, the writers finished her and her friends off with gratuitous musical numbers sung in incredibly expensive overskirts and boring dialogue that disrespected the intellect of its "I'm here for the writing (and sure, the dresses are pretty)" fans. After the series' skillful merging of the Vogue and New Yorker mindset into one lifestyle, the movie version's New Yorker saw its surroundings and said enough.
You could tell decadence was coming to claim its title ever since those promotional sequel posters went up. Whereas original Carrie was fresh-faced and unafraid to show it — despite a lack of billboard-approved golden ratio — new Carrie's skin looked like it gold-plated itself in desperation. All around her, the pink rhinestones of promos past had been replaced by diamonds, and she was suddenly statuesque. Not only were we "not in Kansas anymore" (Bradshaw, via Oz), we were in an alternate future reality where past Carrie was fading by the minute (via Zemeckis/my fatigue). We all know Carrie would have vetoed the poster, so it made no sense that someone thought we'd all love it.
When the preview came out, with "Empire State of Mind" playing as if to overpower the sounds of a botched sequel, hope of any trace left of 'casual Carrie' worsened. After years of fighting the pull of consumer whoredom and ungraceful aging, it looked like the (not single) ladies had thrown their hands up. The once-iconic (and penniless) free spirit symbol had completed her transformation into a Real Housewife.
I was hardly unprepared for this endpoint. It's just hard not to be disappointed when you felt like the end result wasn't entirely inevitable. The beauty of Sex and the City, to me, was that it left a door open towards another route, The New Yorker bright side where hormone pills are not a requisite and everyone does their own hair and you don't need Louboutins to ride a camel.
For every fashionistard Manolo-seeker who watched the show, there were two simple girls appreciating the medium-quality puns, the openness about personal imperfections, all the hidden no-frills easter eggs. For all the visible labels, there were counterparts like the no-name restaurant that shaped the show or the Sunday morning no-makeup shots. Unfortunately, we less-frivolous viewers lost out in the final breakdown.
The weird thing about the movie is that it continues to entertain the notion of choosing to "make your own rules," even while eventually extinguishing it. Carrie's attempt to work with Big's proposal about days off is progressive; Miranda's fruitless efforts to teach the girls about Muslim culture are brave and more than many tourists will ever attempt. But then their grand statement is about how Muslim women also wear Vuitton and the end sees Carrie and Big back to normal and it all falls apart again.
It's interesting to note — in order to finally place some blame — those for whom Sex and the City meant the most. Despite its place in the cultural cult canon, the show did not spawn a typical autograph-seeking/crush-harboring type of uberfan.
Instead of decorating their dorm walls with posters of the foursome or turning into the target market for all of the actresses' films, devoted viewers of the show obsessed inwards — they started appropriating the main characters' names to differentiate the slight variations in their nevertheless superficial behavior and ordering the group's choice drink as proof of their own parallel urbanity. If only the show had never tried to reclaim its former glory at the multiplex (unsuccessfully, it seems post-Shrek), this towering ball of shrieks would not have turned into the defining legacy of an otherwise important show. If only.
Fernanda Diaz is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. She tumbls here.
"The Living Years" - Mike and the Mechanics (mp3)
"You Don't Know How It Feels" - Tom Petty (mp3)
"Forever Young" - Youth Group (mp3)