Last week as I was sitting in the doctor's office waiting to be called, a woman and her husband sat directly across from me. Normally, I wouldn't have even looked up from my BlackBerry, but this woman was wearing a burqa.
I tried not to stare, but there's something fascinating and a little eerie about seeing only a woman's eyes. And it's not something you run into often in Cleveland, Ohio. I found myself sneaking little peeks at her, wondering what she was wearing beneath her black robes, wondering if her whole face was as gorgeous as her eyes, wondering if she was thin or heavy or maybe even hiding a baby bump.
The wait was long and the waiting room was restless. We made eye contact and shared a quick eye roll about another patient yammering on her cell phone. I smiled. It was nice to make a connection. Soon after, we both disappeared into exam rooms and I didn't think of her again.
Until Friday night when we decided to have a girls' night out to see Sex And the City 2. As you guys know we were excited to go see a fun, silly movie. And it was fun.
We had a great dinner beforehand and the movie started off ridiculous, but entertaining. Let's just say you don't walk into Sex And the City and expect an oscar worthy film. And I'm not a movie snob. I can sit through (and enjoy) just about any movie including Bride Wars. What can I say? It's a gift.
We had some laughs at the girls' expense throughout the film. The dialogue was forced, the outfits were ridiculous and their lives were completely unrealistic, but it was still fun. And then they went to Abu Dhabi and that's where things started to get uncomfortable.
The scene where the ladies observe a woman wearing a burqa at a restaurant and wait with bated breath for her to eat a french fry kind of worked. Their curiosity reminded me of myself in that waiting room. How would she eat the french fries? Was there a mouth hole in the burqa? The woman delicately lifted the burqa and put a single french fry in her mouth and Carrie quipped about her dedication to fried food. It was interesting to watch American characters deal with a tradition so outside our social norms. Especially characters who were created to embody sexual freedom and empowerment for women. I'll never forget that scene.
But things went downhill from there. The women took Abu Dhabi by storm, completely ignoring and at times, ridiculing, the culture of the country where they were guests. Samantha's racy encounter with a man at dinner would have been offensive just about anywhere, but in a Muslim country it was grounds for arrest. By the time we reached the climax of the movie (no pun intended) Samantha had almost been stoned to death in an outdoor market and the women were all running around in burqas like they were middle eastern clown costumes.
The tone was all wrong. Characters that I'd grown to love after six television seasons were ridiculing Muslim women and their beliefs. And no matter how repressive we find the burqa in America, it made me angry to watch American characters go to a foreign country and completely disrespect their culture.
I think a commenter at IFC.com said it better than I'll ever be able to:
"[SATC 2] is an accidental candid snapshot of the sick, dying heart of America, a film so pleased with its vacuous, trashy, art-free extravagance that its poster should be taped to the dingy walls of terrorist sleeper agents worldwide. More depressing and alarming than the movies themselves is the notion that a certain culture, a certain mindset, birthed it, without a pang of remorse or even apparent self-awareness, much less self-criticism. Ladies and gentlemen, this is why they hate us."
On my way home from the movie I couldn't stop thinking about the woman I'd seen in the doctor's office earlier in the week. Somehow the movie made me feel like I'd just paid $10 for the cinematic equivalent of spitting in her face.
So tell us, those of you who have seen the movie, are we taking it too seriously?