Sunday, June 1, 2008

Love & Labels

Ok, so I did it. Like half the other women in the country, I went to see Sex and the City this weekend. I wanted to go alone but, surprisingly, the Bull wanted to come and since I've been trying to make nice with him, I didn't discourage him.

My desire to go alone was two-fold. For one, I like to see movies by myself, I always have. I like sitting in a dark theater by myself and just letting myself fall into the movie without any distractions keeping me anchored in the real world. And never more so than with this movie - I was looking forward to getting caught up in this world of sex and indulgence. It's really hard to fully immerse in movie-induced sexual fantasy with ones life partner sitting beside you.

But, the Bull may just be the most true and pure movie lover I've ever met. He will watch ANY movie. He just loves film and can find something to enjoy in every movie. And he and I so rarely get to enjoy time out alone together, that I couldn't say no to him.

So we got to the theater in time to get decent seats before the hordes poured in. The Bull, one of maybe 5 men in a PACKED theater, went to get popcorn and while I people watched.

In the very beginning of the movie Carrie, in her standard narrative style, says that young women come to NYC searching for two things - Love and Labels. I had to laugh at this line, because as I watched the women streaming into the theater - I found myself thinking that they fell into two categories - the ones who came to see the fashion in the movie, and those who came to experience vicarious romance.

On a steamy, Saturday afternoon there were women rocking 4 inch heels, shorts skirts, tailored blouses and full make-up - not to mention the multitude of perfectly coiffed heads. More than half the women in the theater looked more like they should be headed to a club than to a movie. The other women, smaller in number but still a substantial group were overweight and super casual (ok, frumpy) in dress. These are the women who people always say, "She has such a pretty face," or "You never met anyone with a better heart." The ones with lots of love to give trapped in a body few men want to love. They look hungry - and while most people would look at them and think they're hungry for food, I know they're hungry for romance, for love. And they came to see SATC for their vicarious taste of it.

Guess which group I fall into? Hint: I don't own 4 inch heels, haven't been to a hairdresser in more than 6 months and almost never wear make-up.

But I was there for more than the romance, I came for the sex. And not just for sex, but what I always loved about the movie was that - for the most part - the sex was woman initiated and appreciated and not at all apologetic. I feel like way too often women have to apologize for their sexual urges or are slapped with unpleasant lables. SATC just put it out there that ALL kinds of women love sex, want sex and enjoy sex enough that they don't just wait for it to come to them on someone else terms - they seek it out on their own terms. Lovely!

Here's a spoiler alert in case you plan to see the movie - I'm going to reveal pretty much any and everything in the movie that seems relevant to me.

So, I can't fully explain how disappointed I was to see so very little sex in the movie. And to see that most of the sex was not sought out, or on the terms of the four female characters who spent so many years having sex on their terms. Miranda is the only one of the four who is actually seen having sex.

Carrie has some stereotypical, Harlequin Romance, come home and search through the candlelit house to find your wonderful lover waiting on the candlelit terrace, passionate kiss that fades to black in a way we all know they "did the deed" kind of teenaged fantasy sex. Blech!

Charlotte has a couple of scenes that are close-ups of Harry's face looking down at her with the sheet up around his shoulders - sort of a pre-adolescent, you know your parents do it, but you don't really want to think about it, kind of approach.

Poor Samantha, the original cougar, the one who really brought it on her own terms throughout the series, the one who simply defied all labels that people love to throw at women who are unashamed about enjoying sex, she has the least sex of anyone. She makes herself available for her man - even adorns her body in homemade, hand-rolled sushi for him. But he's too busy with work to have time for play. So, Samantha is reduced to watching her horny neighbor engage in night after night of porno sex. All his conquests fake-boobed starlet types who moan and groan on cue. Cute - but not exactly the sex on a woman's terms I've come to expect from SATC.

So, Miranda, is the only one with real sex scenes. Which sounds kind of ok, except for the fact that something about the way the scenes are shot makes them oddly embarrassing. Like Charlotte's and Carrie's scenes, there's something about Miranda's scenes that kind of make you feel like they were conceived by a teenager. Only this kids isn't trying not to think about her parents in bed, or having fantasies about being swept off her feet. This kid got caught checking out her parents porn collection. You just feel like you're watching something you shouldn't be - and I had this strange urge to giggle at the sight of Steve's bare ass as he stormed out of the bedroom. As if all this wasn't bad enough, Miranda's whole storyline revolves around her lack of desire for sex. A lack of drive that results in a 6 month long dry spell for her and Steve, and her exclaiming during the first sex scene - "Let's just get it over with!" So we know, up front, that Miranda doesn't want sex on her terms or anyone elses - So much for SEX and the City.

But, then Carrie said it at the beginning of the movie- it's all about Labels and Love. It's just too bad that the Love is the corny, predictable kind and I couldn't care less about the Labels. In fact, in some ways I found the labels annoying and intrusive. Everything in the movie was SO over-styled that it was like talking to a name dropping friend - you just want to scream - "ENOUGH ALREADY, I get the point!"

Of course, from the series I got used to Carrie and Samantha being label whores. But that was never a part of Charlotte's or Miranda's characters. I mean, you know Charlotte is wearing labels, but not because she's in love with them like Carrie - she wears them because she is used to buying the best. Charlotte's wardrobe was mostly expensive, but understated. And Miranda - well she always looked like a label was mostly an accident rather than something intentional. I never felt like she spent time hunting them down. But in the movie Charlotte and Miranda are almost as flashy as Carrie and Samantha and it just looks wrong! Even their hair is bigger, flouncier and bouncier as though it was just catered to at a "name" hairdresser.

Ok, I could go on about this kind of stuff, tearing it apart bit by bit because there's nothing I enjoy dissecting more than a movie that doesn't measure up. But I will attack just one more aspect of the movie and then I'll let it go. Aw hell, for good measure, I'll even throw in something I kind of liked. But first for the greatest SATC no no of all.

Why, oh, why, oh why couldn't they have just left well enough alone. We all watched the series on HBO for all those years and knew that they were serving up some NYC creamy white. Sure there was the occasional background extra, kind of like the stray sprinkle that somehow finds its way onto your cone in the store. And there was some enjoyment in the hot fudge that was Blair Underwood's storyline. But I always found it perfectly acceptable that there wasn't a Black woman on the show. It seemed fairly true to life to me. Sure NYC is filled with Black folks. MY New York is predominantly Black. But there are plenty of white women in NYC rarely, if ever, encounter Black folks. And, sadly, when they do it's in a service position.

So, I guess it just made sense that they would introduce Jennifer Hudson, not as a friend or a peer but as an employee. But, can I just tell you that it was all just a little too Gone With the Wind for me. Fat, Black woman with a heart of gold and a simple, but insightful wisdom cares for and counsels spoiled, skinny white girl who can't realize that she has everything she wants if she just stops to look at it. I mean COME ON! In almost 50 years they can't come up with something better than that? Really? Seriously the more I think about it the whole thing feels lifted straight out of GWTW. Carrie and Louise ARE the modern day Scarlett and Mammy. And Big is Rhett in more ways than I can count. And it just kills me that after all this time Black women are still playing mammy roles in the movies. So much for progress. Please tell me who the fools are who really believe that we're living in a post-racial society!

OK, so just so it won't be said that I had NOTHING good to say about the SATC movie. I will say that despite my disappointment that Samantha wasn't her usual sexual self in the movie, her storyline was one I could relate to. The whole concept of eating instead of cheating resonates with me. I think so many women eat to deal with various voids in their lives, that it was a rare spark of brilliance in an otherwise horrendously flawed movie to show possibly the most glamorous and body conscious of all the characters losing herself and smothering her emotions and needs under a pile of food.

So there's my opinion of Sex and the City, the Movie. It's so rare that I really, really look forward to a movie so it just plain sucks when it's not anywhere near what I hoped. I can only keep my fingers crossed that Indiana Jones and Iron Man are better at living up to my expectations.


The Bear Maiden said...

And this is precisely why I prefer movies like Iron Man and Indiana Jones.... I'm sorry you didn't like it, though... Shoefly loved it :)

Elizabeth F. said...

I didn't see it and won't in the theatre. I have never been a huge SATC fan, but have seen re-runs on TV late at night. What a bummer for you! Sorry that it sucked so badly.

Bodhisattva Harlem Mama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bodhisattva Harlem Mama said...

I guess I didn't really go that deep into analysis over the movie, cuz's a movie. But your right. Millions of women flocked to the theaters to see this so it deserves notation. Not to sound in any way, but it felt more real and more honest than any episode ever did. And I think if they would've brought Hudson in as anything but a well put together woman, her role would've been deemed a caricature and disrespectful to black women. And I don't know, married Miranda sex instead of steamy Samantha sex seems more real to me. Hot and bothered sex all the time anytime is not the reality for most people. This made Miranda's character complex and the situations she had more real to me than the rest of them. I think I felt justified at the end. Like, finally, thank you for showing the city and the lives of its inhabitants in a more honest light.Not perfectly honest, just a little more than the tv show ever was able to capture