Sex and the City has been called a groundbreaking show that ushered in a new era of female empowerment. Whether or not you feel that walking blocks on end in $800 stilettos, constantly (pretending to be) eating high-calorie foods, and having lots of sex is empowering, is irrelevant.
At issue here is something far greater than designer clothes and limitless bank accounts, in a city that eats money faster than Samantha can spread em-mental cheese on a bagel stick.
If SATC is so empowering to women, why does its sequel take place in “Abu Dhabi” (as played by Morocco)?
How can it justify adding a character to its script that flogs its own people, treats “guest workers” who power its economy like de facto slaves, and has a police force that – according to the American government – enables the beating of women?
City officials didn’t even allow the movie to shoot in Abu Dhabi, and as with the first SATC film, number 2 will be banned from cinemas in the United Arab Emirates.
Still, SATC 2 chooses to make the misogynistic, human rights violating city a central character in its plot.
And to think, it was two of the Sex and the City masterminds who wrote the book He’s Just Not That Into You.
Not even they got the message? Seriously?
How can the producers justify setting up shop in a country that refuses to sign standard international human rights treaties?
Worse, how can they so flippantly choose to glorify such a country?
Well, back in September 2007 Warner Bros. (SATC’s production company) announced a joint partnership with the UAE’s region of Abu Dhabi. The Hollywood Reporter said the deal would be worth billions of dollars over time.
A deal lined with movie multiplexes, Mickey Mouse video games, and 50-50 funding of broad-appeal blockbusters...
If Warner Bros. can (attempt to) cover up Sarah Jessica Parker’s man-hands on an 80’ by 35’ screen, they could certainly use a backdrop of decency to somehow cover up the UAE’s human rights violations.
And really, if the production was able to make Morocco look so chic and glitzy, why couldn’t they just say they really were in Morocco?
Would that not be as believable as a sequence in the movie showing Abu Dhabi women removing conservative clothes to reveal flashier garments beneath?
Though you would like to think that many are enraged about the glorification of an abhorrent country, the focus of criticism on the film has mostly been pointed in another direction.
Sex and the City 2 has been blasted for its “insensitive” portrayal of the Muslim culture. But Michael Patrick King, who helped create the show and wrote both spin-offs defends the film.
“To me it’s not a political movie… It’s an escapist comedy.”
And SJP says, “Certainly Carrie is loving the experience of this rare opportunity to observe women of faith who are really loving the idea of tradition or, in fact, loving their faith and re-defining tradition for themselves.”
Parker goes on to say that any criticism is purely based on misunderstanding.
This may indeed be true.
Because there is a big misunderstanding here if “Carrie” can only see a rare opportunity to observe (repressed) women re-defining tradition for themselves.
And an even greater irony if King thinks this movie is entirely escapist, when in fact, there are many who can’t escape Abu Dhabi.
Less then 20 per cent of those in the UAE are citizens. Imported workers are stripped of their passports, suffer to the extreme, and have no recourse to be heard. If they try to leave, they're often threatened and denied money that's due to them.
True, a 15-year-old expat girl got out. She was flogged 90 times for adultery (an “adulterous” teen?), before finally “escaping” and getting deported from Abu Dhabi.
And while Sex and the City 2 romps around the world, premiering its newest star, an 18-year-old Muslim woman is in a UAE court, after she was allegedly raped by six men from 1:30am to 5am.
For this she was initially charged with the “crime” of consensual sex.
In the UAE, if a Muslim woman is found guilty of consensual sex she faces lashings and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Interestingly, while in court the other day, the teen retracted her claim. She offered no reasoning other than she was “unaware” of her actions when she reported the crime, and added her brother beat her after accusing her of talking to other men.
So now, if this girl is lucky, the charges of consensual sex may be dropped to “deception,” which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
So bravo to Warner Bros. and bravo to Sex and the City 2 and its entire team.
You have actually managed to make the abuse and repression of women and the disenfranchised fashionable - and most importantly - sexy.
What’s more empowering than that?