So I know I am behind the times, but I finally watched Sex and the City 2 for the first time this weekend. I had heard that it was pretty awful, but I had thought the first movie was pretty good and I was tired of studying so I decided to give it a chance. Well, the scenery is pretty, the clothes are still ridiculous, and Mr. Big is still a handsome devil, but the cross cultural interactions were so painful that throughout the movie Caitlin and I often looked at each other, jaws dropped in horror.
First, a brief explanation of the plot. Samantha’s former boyfriend Smith starred in a movie shot in the Middle East. At the movie premiere, Samantha meets the film’s producer, who tells her she should visit the Middle East on his dime so she can spread the world on what a wonderful place it is. So Samantha rounds up the gals and they head to Abu Dhabi on an insanely luxurious jet to an insanely luxurious resort. And… hijinks ensue.
Throughout the film, Miranda, who is the only one to read the guidebooks, serves as the cultural interpreter for the girls. She attempts to use Arabic phrases and informs the girls of local customs, including wearing modest clothing. Miranda, Carrie, and Charlotte are fairly respectful of the local customs, but as viewers of the series and film may predict, Samantha– a loud, profane and *ahem* sexually liberated older woman–does not do so well. Throughout the film, she wears revealing clothing, makes inappropriate comments, and gets arrested for making out on the beach. The coup de grace is towards the end of the movie, where Samantha, in short shorts and a tank top, gets her purse dumped out in the middle of a bazaar. With a crowd of religious men watching, condom wrappers come flying out of her purse. Her reaction? To flip all the men off and shriek and curse about her pride in her promiscuity! I consider myself a feminist, but this scene left me absolutely horrified. The girls are chased out of the market by the men and quickly jet back the US, where Samantha can express herself without getting arrested. Whew!
While Samantha is provides most of the offensive material in the movie, there are other cringeworthy parts. Samantha outs one of their many male servants as gay, and there is a scene where he and Samantha use face masks and he helps her out of the bath (seems unrealistic, no?). The girls are continually downing cocktails in a Muslim country. They laugh at the burkini-clad women. And then there is a painful karaoke scene, where the ladies belt out “I Am Woman” and the women in the audience proudly stand up and sing with them. Women’s lib, everyone!
To be fair, there are a couple nice scenes of cultural exchange. Carrie, in speaking to yet another man servant, learns he is a migrant worker and sees his wife only every three months. At the end, she leaves him a very generous tip, intended to be used to go visit his wife. And when the girls are on the run in the market, they bond with a group of helpful women who wear the latest fashions under their burkas (which I’ve heard is often true). Still, I suspect the film could be seen as offensive to many Middle Easterners. In fact, according to IMDB the movie was actually filmed in Morrocco because the United Arab Emirates refused to let them film in the country.
Now I know that the point of the film was not to go in-depth into the cultural and political mores of the UAE. Yet, being that the setting is such an integral part of the plot, I wish that the movie had not relied so much on cliches- the camel rides in the desert, the yes-men servants, and especially the Ugly American stereotype perpetuated by Samantha. But maybe I am too critical. If you saw the movie, what do you think?