Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Best of LiLa: From Birkins to Burqas, SATC2 Sucked

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 noticed.

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 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?


Anne Gallagher said...

I didn't see the movie and I never watched SATC at all (because I did find the women all vacuous snobs) and what you have described here is exactly why I never did.

The comment from is dead on. This is why foreign people hate Americans. We think we're so much better than everyone else, and because everyone else is different from us, we're scared. And fear is only hatred turned sideways. Hatred burns and festers and then turns ugly.

And look at where we are now in America. Having people hate us so much they blow up buildings and train stations and airplanes.

I appreciate the fact that SACT had millions of women fans and for that hour every week, the show made people happy, but this kind of movie -- no. It shouldn't have been made.

Sorry for the rant.

Artemis Grey said...

I have to say that I've never been a fan of SATC. To be fair, part of that is simply my personal tastes. But it also has to do with the focus of the show. I mean, I laugh out loud at other people farting in public spaces, and I've been told that I'm vulgar for it. But the SATC ladies talk about the wanky of every male conquest, how big it was and how well they used it, and it's NOT considered vulgar, it's considered a celebrated show. I don't get things like that. But I'm not really surprised that they ended up making fun of women with burkas. From what little I have seen of the regular show, they make fun of other women all the time. It just doesn't come across the same way because they're making fun of American women.

That said, I don't think SATC is alone in their misstep. I've got friends that are crazy because I've never seen (and don't want to see) SATC (any of it, movies or show), The 40 Year Old Virgin, Get Him to the Greek, Borat, etc. But the thing is, ALL of those movies are comedies based off of either saying vulgar, provocative things, doing vulgar provocative things, or making fun of someone else for NOT doing/saying provocative things. It's a national trend and it's disgusting. That's why I usually stick with books, or movies like Despicable Me, which made me laugh my tuchus off and didn't involve anything vulgar. Well beyond the spandex on the popcorn-munching 'bad' guy.

And all of that said, I don't think people who watch those shows are bad people or that they would act the same way. I just don't think those movies make America look all that hot in the national spotlight.

Unknown said...

SATC2 sucked. You nailed it. Did you hear they are thinking of making a 3rd? What a joke. What's worse is I'll see it (because I pray to god they make up for #2).

Guess the jokes on me.

(I should have saved this fact for truth tuesdays... oh well)

Creepy Query Girl said...

This is an oldy but a goodie isn't it?:)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I remember when you posted this, and I certainly didn't bother to see the movie.
I believe I related a travel anecdote when my daughter went to Morocco to surf. She tried to be respectful and was nervous when she came out of the surf one day to find a group of women wearing burqas and watching her. She decided to smile and hope she didn't offend in her board shorts. The women responded by breaking into applause and commenting in French that she'd ridden a big wave. To me, that event says so much.

Adriana said...

I remember I read this before going to go see the movie so I thought it can't be that bad, but I was so wrong! I absolutely hated it. I couldn't stand any of the characters. Charlotte crying over her Valentino skirt and not being able to raise two kids was like seriously? My mom raised 4 without a nanny... Samantha was the worst. That scene at the market place was ridiculous and the whole f- you was just disgusting. There's my little rant about the movie...

Although, I kind of agree with Jen... I'm hoping the 3rd will redeem the atrocity that was the 2nd.

Lisa Aldin said...

Oh, gosh. That movie was awful. Completely agree. I did like the outfits though, in the same way I liked the costumes in Wicked. Completely unrealistic but way fun.

I liked the idea of the SATC women being thrown into a new culture. But, you're right, they spit all over it. Not cool.

Tara McClendon said...

Social barriers can be difficult to cross. But that doesn't give anyone the excuse to try to shatter them.

Marsha Sigman said...

I never thought you were being too serious about this. You know I love to be sarcastic with my humor but I know when to show respect. I don't like what they did with this movie.

Anonymous said...

It should be taken seriously, no question. Just because it's under the 'humour' genre shouldn't let it get away with the way they portray other religions.

'characters who were created to embody sexual freedom and empowerment for women'- In my eyes, they are far from that. The only thing I like about them is that they have good careers (I'm assuming) but their constant need to talk about their sex lives and clothes doesn't embody empowerment for me.

I haven't seen this myself but movies like this grate on my nerves. They're so superficial (which I guess some people might enjoy and there's nothing wrong with it. I enjoy watching comedy too) and the only way they can be 'funny' or 'comedic' is by insulting other people and acting totally ignorant.

A lot of the time, people say 'If you don't like it, don't watch it. You know (insert name of sketch show, movie, actor, stand-up comediant here) likes to make sensitive jokes.' But it shouldn't be ignored. Before long, it'll turn into something really, really ugly. Seeing as the vast majority of people watch movies, they are obviously affected by them, subliminally or not.

Lastly, the burqa is the name os the long dress/robes that women wear. The hijab is the arabic name for 'scarf' women wear over their hair. The niqab is the name for the cloth that covers the face.

Great post, by the way.

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