Monday, May 31, 2010

Reality check

I suppose there's a reason Hollywood used to be called "the dream factory." We go to movies for escape from the mundane monotony of day to day living. I saw mixed reviews for Sex and the City 2, but a colleague said to go ahead and see it anyway, that the wardrobe alone was worth the price of admission. So a friend an I entered the current iteration of the dream factory.

When you remove the elements that we can all relate to - problems with the boss, relationship issues, kid issues, marriage transitioning to the stage "between the wild sex and the screaming baby," SATC has always been about the fantasy life that viewers experience vicariously through Carrie et al. In a way, SATC is a throwback to those glorious, silver lit films of the 1930's, when Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant lived in grand homes and Fred and Ginger danced their way through the glossiest version of Venice that never was. Every visual detail of SATC temporarily makes us forget that while our heroines might be shopping at Bonwit Teller, we find Target suits our budgets much better, thank you very much.

Seeing Carrie walking around her apartment in her do-nothing outfit of baggy silver and white tee shirt layered over a peach mini, accessorized by skyscraper heels makes me wonder who *really* wears those kind of shoes at home? When no one is around. Honestly. For those of us who are frantically juggling as fast as we can, Charlotte's mommy meltdown while baking cupcakes with her girls rings true, but again, who wears winter white vintage Valentino baking with the kiddies? Is this stuff based on reality? Honestly, I don't know anyone who weekends in the Hamptons or who has to worry about the hot live-in nanny. Most of the nannies around here barely speak English and they're picked up by their husbands at the end of the workday. O.K., so the protagonists have the fantasy life that some of us wish we had, and score points for Charlotte and Miranda toasting the moms who don't have help, but are the stereotypes of the ugly American in the form of Samantha really necessary?

Anyone with any passing familiarity with the character of Samantha just knows that putting her in the Middle East, albeit the "new" Middle East, is asking for trouble. The continual reminders for Samantha to cover up, to not act provocatively are just falling on deaf ears. The "ripped from the headlines" moment of the character being arrested for kissing another hotel guest in public was one of those things you saw coming a mile away. It's a sort of fish out of water narrative, where the fish just wants to be a fish and swim her way, but really. You would think that this woman got to be a powerhouse PR exec by having a brain. By understanding how people think, because how can she sell a client if she doesn't have an innate sense of how other minds work?

Samantha has always been the ballsy character, for lack of a better word. The woman who is all woman, but acts like one of the guys in being open about wanting to get laid and demanding respect or her moment in the spotlight. She's fiercely protective of her friends, but she looks out for number one. Samantha wants what she wants and isn't afraid to ask for it. But at what point does self-respect trump respect for the country in which you are a guest? You might not like the customs, you might not like how women must act, but at the same time, you don't live there and have to deal long term with the consequences of your behavior. Seeing Samantha screaming at the crowd of men that, "I have sex," and then flipping them off was funny in an uncomfortable way. But I couldn't help think that the scene was relying on every stereotype of cougar versus Middle Eastern morality that the writers could come up with. I don't know how many young women watching the movie would have the opportunity to visit a resort in a Muslim country, but I'd like to hope that they wouldn't have the idea that it's o.k. to go and flout the mores of another culture.

I often say why travel if you expect everything to be just like home? You look for the differences and savor the sights, sounds, scents, and tastes of this new world you're exploring. But at the same time one must be aware of the differences and respect the traditions of the hosts. Because otherwise, one does become that rude, ugly American who yells and fusses and complains because things aren't exactly the way they are at home.

I find myself with mixed feelings about the fantasy that I witnessed on the screen. Celebrating friendship and being ever supportive of your girls is a good thing. Maybe it's a sign of midlife that I no longer find fashion the enticement that it once was to my eyes. Sitting there watching the endless parade of floaty fabrics and jewelry, I just kept thinking, "is it practical?" When I was a teenager, I wanted to live in one of those glossy movies. Maybe not so much anymore. Maybe it's a good thing to be able to differentiate between the product placement fantasy world of the Upper East Side and what works for my real life in the real world.