Dear God, No: 'Sex And The City 3' Could Be In The Cards

by Jessica Kiang
April 6, 2010 11:25 AM
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So even though “Sex And The City 2placed third behind “Shrek Forever After” and “Prince of Persia” on last week's pitiful Memorial Day weekend (the lowest box-office MD weekend in seventeen years), and took less in five days than its predecessor did in three — that’s no reason to suggest there won’t be a third installment.

In fact, Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., says "Personally, I’d love to see [a third film]. We’re sitting back and watching what happens.”

By “watching what happens,” what he really means is “going to keep the damn thing in cinemas until it has turned enough of a profit to be deemed a hit.” “I'm looking at five weeks of summer where I feel I have the competitive advantage to maximize the revenue of the movie,” said Fellman, who admits the opening weekend was slower than expected but later states with sinister assurance, “The girls are going to go.” Aside from the ick factor of a presumably middle-aged man referring to mostly middle-aged women as “girls,” this is notable because for all WB felt certain of a instantaneous hit, they’re now having to switch to a longer-term strategy. Not only that, but it seems insiders are baffled as to why the ladies didn’t show up in droves this time, and in their struggle to account for it, reveal more than they might want to about their attitudes towards female audiences.

Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com, “suspects negative word of mouth through social networks may also have hurt the movie beyond the critical trashing it took” because, he says “women trust each other.” Really? No shit. Of course word of mouth plays a huge role — doesn’t it always, whether the mouths are pretty and be-lipsticked or taciturn and surrounded by stubble?

How is “women trust each other” a thing worth saying unless you regard women as some exotic alien species whose every behavior, no matter how obvious, is noteworthy? Unfortunately that's close to the truth of it for many Hollywood businesspeople who seem to look at ‘women’ the way white-coated scientists might look into a petrie dish filled with monocellular proteins: “Good lord, they’re forming bonds of trust, and, look at that, using social media... that’s not what we expected, harrumph harrumph.” Add to this Dergarabedian’s equally incisive analysis that “it turns out Memorial Day weekend was much more family-oriented" and boom! we’ve an explanation for SATC2’s underperformance that pretty much sidesteps the whole “it’s awful; its trailer was awful; its marketing campaign was awful; and people don’t like seeing awful movies” issue.

Quality simply doesn't seem to enter into the equation in the discussion surrounding “SATC2,” as though to suggest it’s not doing the business because it’s a rotten film is absurdly simplistic, especially when dealing with the notoriously fickle (read: stupid, will go see anything pink and glittery) female audience. Fellman says: "great reviews are always good but this is a franchise where we have such a strong fan base. Yes, the reviews were unfavorable … but the audience likes it." Translation: “It’s 'Sex and the City,' dumbasses! The ditzy broads that love this shit don’t read reviews!” And he may be somewhat right about that, but unfortunately for him, it seems the ditzy broad demographic may be smaller than he thought.

Look, even at the height of Carrie-mania (ugh), for every ninny who actually spent time categorising her friends into Samanthas, Carries, Charlottes and Mirandas, there were, I dunno, five? ten? twenty? right-thinking, sensible women who rolled their eyes at such behaviour and treated it much as you would an addiction to horoscopes, or an over-reliance on chocolate as an emotional crutch - just damn silly. Of course, we five/ten/twenty (some of whom may have watched and enjoyed the show) would probably have been the Mirandas; in the skewed world of the SATC devotee, labeling someone a Miranda is the worst insult you can level, because she works or isn’t very pretty or is played by a lesbian or something. Well, fine, there will always be a certain segment of our sex who refer to desserts as “naughty” and giggle when a male waiter has to bend over to pick something up, too. They’re called idiots, and are mostly dealt with by ignoring them.

But when the actions, attitudes, and tiny, tired, shopworn aspirations of the idiot minority are ascribed to the entire female sex, and their hysterical feebleminded we’ll-do-as-we’re-told mentality is treated as the norm for all women, as was the case with the contrived hype surrounding the release of “Sex and the City 2”, well then, marketeers of Hollywood, you can just fuck right off. And when your tactics don’t work, and the women you thought you so accurately targeted stay away? Maybe it’s time to reevaluate not just the way you market films to women, but the films themselves. It’s just possible that more of us would go and see something if it was, you know, ‘good’. But no, that can’t be it, can it? Not when we’re talking about ‘women’ who everyone knows operate on a different and totally illogical level, right?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many insights into the magical otherworld of the female psyche "SATC2"’s reception may afford. If it does anything close to acceptable business, we predict another subpar sequel, if for no other reason than Hollywood is pretty much creatively bankrupt when it comes to finding properties it can market to women, however badly.

So if it does happen, here’s a plea/some advice: we’re told that women like shoes, shopping, cocktails, gossip, holidays, beaches, trashy novels, hair products and so on. One, some, or all of these things may be true of me or any woman, but we're not aliens, and you know what else we like? Well-made, well-written, well-observed films, whether the protagonist is the same sex as us or not. Hell, if you’re a chick/ho/bitch/girl/lady/woman/sista who likes going to the movies and you want to go see a major release, you pretty much expect to have to cross the gender divide and identify with a schlubby male fortysomething’s mid-life crisis, or a horny teenage boy’s effort to get laid and save the world. I probably shouldn’t be, but I’m fine with that, because if “SATC2” and its frankly embarrassing marketing/media campaign is the best that Hollywood can do in terms of a ‘women’s’ movie, I wish a pox and a sudden death upon the whole genre. I’d rather my sex be ignored than slandered.

I know, such a Miranda thing to say.

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