Monday, June 02, 2008

I couldn't help but wonder...

Well, I know you were waiting for it... the inevitable "I am a girl, I have a blog, therefore I have an opinion on the SATC movie" moment. I would resist, except I can't. Obviously GIANT SPOILER ALERT, in case you care.

I had the option to see the movie on Friday night, but instead chose to go with a bunch of my girlfriends (like every other woman in the country) on Saturday. After a pretty quick, though delicious, brunch of huevos rancheros at Laurel's house, Laurel and I rushed to the Century Cinemas to meet six other ladies for the insanity. We walked in and beelined to the only available set of 8 seats in the theatre that weren't in the very front row -- the 8 seats on the side in the second row. Yeah, not only did I see this movie, but I saw it REALLY CLOSE UP (things I observed: Steve has some kind of mole on his ass, Carrie had a stain on her dress in the scene where she told Samantha she was engaged, and Big has gray chest hair). I was armed with a Screwdriver and three cans of Sofia champagne. I knew that the movie was two and a half hours long and I was not sure I could take it.

Before I get into my actual criticism of the movie, let me just comment on one irrelevant thing. PREVIEW FOR SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS SEQUEL! It looks like they decided to skip books 2 and 3 and go straight for book 4, probably because America Ferrara or Blake Lively decided that they could/would only commit to one sequel given their new TV fame. Nevertheless, I am pretty damn jazzed.

Anyway, so then the movie itself. Aside from the gross product placement and totally gratuitous, unnecessary scenes (fashion week? Christie's auction?).... aside from the way that things seemed pretty damn abrupt most of the time, in order to cram into a movie the kind of things that normally would happen in a season... Did it strike anyone else as totally unfeminist? Or, if not unfeminist, then, didn't it just seem to you that it was ridiculous that after all that, Carrie still took Big back? That all the girls insisted that Miranda was wrong to leave Steve? I admitted yesterday to my friends that, had the latter event happened in a season, I could have accepted it. I've always loved Steve, and I can accept that one transgression need not be the end of one's marriage. But in the movie, Carrie and Charlotte couldn't seem to blame Steve for cheating, and it almost seemed like you could read into it that Miranda was to blame, for not recognizing the problem in her sex life, for loving her job to the point of distraction/destruction of her relationship. Then, to even act as though Miranda's angry outburst at the rehearsal dinner was remotely responsible for Big's entirely inexcusable freakout! Can we talk about blaming the victims here? Really?

I don't quite share Dodai's rage over Samantha in this movie. I felt as though she was the only person who really took charge. She managed Carrie's broken marriage/wedding. She held them together when it seemed like they would all fall apart. Her compassion was high, and it's irrational to hate her for breaking things off with Smith because she "loves herself more" -- the truth is that he had become the center of her life, and not just her personal life but her job, too, and who wants that? I will say again that the relative shortness of the movie (to an entire season of episodes) probably gave this plot short shrift as well. How did Samantha ever let Smith become the center, plastered photos of him all over her wall? And did she, like Steve, have to leave her relationship because Smith, like Miranda, was devoted to his job (I'm making a comparison for rhetorical purposes, not necessarily agreeing with this argument). Was Smith actually distant? Was he actually in any way aware that he was making her feel dependent on him when he bought her the brooch, and if he wasn't, does it matter?

Charlotte was the only one whose life was drama free in this movie. Ace, my roommate, wondered if that was some kind of message -- you will only be happy once you've settled down, and not just settled down, but settled -- for a man who is less attractive, but rich and giving and blah blah? I'm not entirely sure about that, but it's still worth wondering.

Another beef I had with the movie was the moment when Samantha has gained weight and the girls are absolutely horrified to see her little baby pooch. Seriously? Please kill me now. I believe it was that moment when I turned to Laurel and said "I can't believe that millions of women, including us, are paying for this." It's like being charged for the loss of your dignity.

I hate to hate on things I used to like, but I reserve the right to have a split opinion. In some ways, I was satisfied with the movie, mostly just because it had some funny moments, and it was kind of fun to see the ladies a little further on in their lives. I kind of liked to see Carrie confronted with the fact that she was forty, seeing Brady and Lily (Charlotte's adopted daughter) grown up, seeing all of the women living at least a slightly different lifestyle than they did in the show. But in other ways I felt like it was shoddily made, far, far too capitalistic, and frankly it did not give me, as an American woman, the endings or lessons (or whatever you want to call them) that I feel like I deserve. These women are, and always have been, not exactly archetypes so much as a representation of the split personalities that so many of us have in us. There is a bit of each of the women in each of us, at least there is in me (although I don't want to sell myself short by saying that that is all I am, shudder). How could the producers, the writers, whoever, let them down like that and let them lose themselves, when the entire goodness of the old show was the idea that above all it was yourself and your friends to whom you should be true?

One final note. I read Dodai's rant about the movie with interest. It has always been obvious to me that the SATC girls are incredibly flawed. Materialistic, obviously. Self-absorbed? Obviously. Incredibly privileged and whitewashed? Yes. Yes. Yes. (The moment where Charlotte said she wouldn't eat anything because she was in Mexico was perfectly in character and I didn't take offense because of course Charlotte would say shit like that. Miranda's "Look! A white guy with a baby" I was more iffy about, just because I'd hope Miranda would be more wise than that, but it's not hard for me to accept that she isn't. Louise from St. Louis was really hard for me to take, since she was all of a sudden the only non-white -- or adopted, sweet, dressed in pink Asian four year old -- character in the movie and represented some terrible kind of sweet, down-home innocence that I couldn't help [ACK] but take in a bad way. Oh, those clueless black folks from the middle of the country.) It's one of those cases where I was not at all disillusioned by those aspects of their characters, because they have been there all along. Instead, the question is: do the writers/producers know that about the characters, and more importantly, do the millions of women paying to see this shit in the theatres know that? And do the masses that watched this movie this weekend realize that in many ways, their heroes in Blahniks let them down and are leading them on the wrong path? Are those viewers going to fight back, or continue to be misled? I hate to start judging media (it reeks of Tipper Gore to me), or suggesting that producers have some kind of moral right to tell a properly empowering story, but I am also pretty damn convinced that this stuff is poisonous to women.

Grr. All I know is, I yelled a lot at the screen on Saturday. So much so that I got shushed. I don't really regret it, either. Now I'm just trying to forget all this hoopla and find something else to think about.


Kim said...

Your review was much better-written than mine was, but we share many of the same thoughts I think. Right down to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

I didn't mention this in my blog, but yeah. Samantha's pooch? Where was it? I saw barely a pooch. Barely. When they were saying that at first, I thought maybe she was going to be pregnant (though at age 50 and after chemo, I don't know if that's even possible).


Anonymous said...

sara says...

i think maybe it's just a story. and i thought it was a great story. i don't think we always have to be looking for messages or role models when we watch movies. i think it's better to enjoy a movie for what it is- entertainment.

rach said...

sometimes i think that this knee-jerk reaction to this stuff reads a little...well. i mean, i feel like living in nyc and going to see the movie was a completely different experience. these are our court jesters, and we cheered and laughed with them, and groaned at the bad puns, and like, it was a dumb movie. but is it KILLING womankind?

who actually takes it seriously and doesnt think the whole thing is a farce? i mean, maybe middle americans with no insight, but its the same as saying that movies like history of violence will make people kill one another, i think.

Emily said...

well, so, my responses to your comments:

i don't think we have to be looking for messages/role models but when there's something that's so part of the zeitgeist/culture i end up wanting to ask why, and that has as much to do with what people already think as what this or any other movie might make people think or reinforce about their thinking.

as far as the idea that watching violence incites violence, there is some evidence to that, first of all, and second of all, i did refer to tipper gore for a reason. i don't LIKE arguing that point (or one that is too similar to be differentiated from that point), but i question the concept that "entertainment" has no effect on people's way of thinking.

OBVIOUSLY living in NY and the movie are totally different... but how many people don't realize that?

at any rate i don't like to think that any of this was "knee-jerk." i think a lot about this stuff all the time. it would be sad if my writing didn't manage to communicate that.