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The Sex and the City Aftermath -- Misogyny Unleashed

by Melissa Silverstein
June 7, 2010 11:40 AM
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No matter whether or not you liked or even saw Sex and the City 2 what you can't have missed is the cultural conversation that film has caused in all quarters. We've been talking about women aging onscreen, we've been talking about women's rights in the Middle East, we've been talking about menopause, and we've been talking about American excess. Not too many films, even really good ones, are able to create conversations about a single topic, yet Sex and the City 2 has touched a nerve on a variety of issues. It's too bad that the film didn't live up to expectations, but still, the revelations it has unearthed has been fascinating.

But what has been so profound to me has been the release of a pent up torrent of misogyny against women and this film has just been a vehicle for that misogyny to be revealed. Because films allow -- and in fact require -- critical responses this has seemed to be an invitation to be as mean as possible. And it's come from everywhere. From men from women, and from people who are usually progressive about issues and ideals.

I still don't understand what this movie has done that is so offensive that it deserved the nastiness of the reviews that it received. If you don't like it, don't go.

As for the numbers, the film has made now $73 million here in the US (and the studio thinks it will have legs here because there are very few movies that will appeal to women opening over the next couple of weeks), but it seems to be doing a lot better overseas where it has made a total of $90 million. And while it never hit number 1 here in the US, it was number 1 in England, France and Australia.

The good news is that people are firing back and are noticing this nastiness. Because it's just not ok. And when you say nasty things about women in movies, how far are you from saying nasty things about women in general?

Women -- and men -- need to stand up to this misogyny and show that it is not acceptable about movies or in society in general. Here are some of the people standing up to this crap.

Bidisha in The Guardian:

It's jaw-dropping. Reviewers do not appear to despise a real rapist such as Polanski, but they do seem to despise four fictional women who are portraying mildly silly lives.

SATC2 is currently topping the UK box office, above Streetdance 3D, Prince of Persia, Robin Hood, Tooth Fairy, Iron Man 2, Space Chimps 2, The Losers, Bad Lieutenant and Four Lions. The Streetdance boys and girls are buff paragons of unalloyed dance ambition. Space Chimps is a searing portrayal of the effects of astral travel on primate development. The other seven films are all standard ignorant, cliched, macho, brutal, brainless, gung-ho, numb-knuckle, totally male-dominated, exhilarating toss. They feature large clubs of self-involved obsessive stupid men and their multiple male nemeses and cronies and one or two completely outnumbered women in demeaning, underscripted roles. All but one or two blockbuster films are about men – many men, sometimes all men – and are often a thousand times more venal, selfish, avaricious, consumerist, ignorant, aspirational, shallow and one-dimensional than Carrie and co. But there is no critical hate for them and their values – or their faces. That is saved for four women in one film no stupider than anything else Hollywood produces.

And I want to thank the stars for Manohla Dargis who probably doesn't enjoy having to be the gender police at the movie desk for the NY Times but stands up when she needs to (and it seems that she's needed to a lot lately.) I am grateful that she doesn't shy away when her voice is needed.

The scene of Samantha in the souk has been branded insulting to Muslims. Certainly it’s insulting to comedy lovers and to the character, a shrewd number sold out by her director for an unfunny gag about the unruly female body. This and other scenes of the women with Muslims are often awkward, though that’s partly a function of Mr. King’s direction. Yet there’s also something touching about a few of these encounters, as when the women wonder how you eat fries when you’re wearing a veil, a question that strikes me as an uncharacteristically honest admission of difference in a mainstream American movie. Too bad the women weren’t guys and went to Las Vegas, where they could have indulged in the kind of critically sanctioned masculine political incorrectness that made “The Hangover” such a darling.

There are others who are thinking about the film in interesting contexts:
Paula Kamen on the Ms. Blog: The Gen X Male-Only Midlife Crisis: Hot Tub v. SATC

Ashley Sayeau in the Nation: When Women Flaunt Their Toys

Jackie Ashley in The Guardian: Sex and shopping are no worse than gadgets or guns

Sex' still hot worldwide, takes in $45 million (Hollywood Reporter)

Why the Sex and the City 2 reviews were misogynistic (The Guardian)

Un-Innocents Abroad: The Drubbing
(NY Times)

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