Monday, 21 June 2010

Girls Night Out

Apologies for the gap since my last posting, but I've been in Cornwall with my family for a week, and I had no experiences that seemed suitable for this blog. Except for the jolly nice cream teas, but really how much can you say about scones, clotted cream and jam?

This week, I had a truly girly night out, to watch Sex and the City 2 with a couple of (female) friends. Afterwards we retired to a bijou French restaurant in Islington to drink kir royales (they didn't do Cosmopolitans) and pick over the carcass of the movie, which was interesting as we'd all 'read' the film slightly differently, of which more later.

As for me, I didn't expect to be challenged by this film. I thought I might fume and swear a bit, but didn't expect to be confronted with my own ageism. When Samantha "rocks" a dress meant for a far more youthful fashion victim, I inwardly cheered (although I hadn't particularly thought of the dress as too young until a spectacularly tactless sales assistant said so). But there was a ghastly scene early on, at the wedding of Carrie and Charlotte's BGFs (Best Gay Friends), where Liza Minelli, whose face is now only partly mobile, appears as the cabaret (see what I did there?), singing Beyonce's All the Single Ladies. I found this genuinely frightening, and queasily reminiscent of the Rocky Horror Show. The assembled nearest and dearest, cavorting away to various gay anthems, looked more like a Halloween party than wedding guests.

When the 4 ladies are together, it becomes obvious how hard they have to work to look even 75% as good as they used to, and somehow that striving lacks dignity. I think it's the trying so hard to defeat, even ignore, the ageing process, that made me uncomfortable. Surely there must be good stuff about getting older, or we'd all top ourselves around our 30th birthday.

The 4some seem so cool and sophisticated, when on their own New York turf, but pick them up and plonk them down elsewhere, as this movie does, transplanting them to Abu Dhabi, they seem alienated from themselves and, especially in a scene in the souk, where they are confronted by an angry bunch of men, like silly schoolgirls. You can take the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girl.

But back to our discussion in the restaurant, what we all agreed on was that, from being one of the strongest characters, Samantha was positioned in this film as a bit of a sad old slapper. She is given very Samantha-esque moments, such as rocking the aforementioned dress, but this is then undermined by having Miley Cyrus turn up at the same premiere in the same dress. Or by showing her maintaining her impressive libido despite the menopause, yet also showing her defending her sexual behaviour to hotel security staff, with her usually immaculate makeup smudged and her hair dishevelled. Then when a condom slips out of her passport onto the table, the hotel manager's face looks more like it was a cockroach lying there, and Samantha looks unusually shame faced. And by the way, would a woman who beat breast cancer, and dealt with hot flushes during her treatment, plus the loss of her hair, ,really make such a fuss about the menopause?

So what worked? Well, as in the series it was the celebration, and the validation of women's friendships. Hurray for women who don't break dates with their female friends to go out for dinner with men, hurray for women who go on holidays with their friends, even though they have children and spouses. This was underlined a little too heavily when the NY 4, fleeing the angry men in the souk, are rescued by a group of veiled and robed women, who, as they reveal, are sisters under their robes, united with Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda in their love of haute couture.

I tried to think of other films/tv series that are similarly built on this idea of female friendships, and I could only come up with The Golden Girls, remember them? Similar types appear in the 2 series- Blanche the faded Southern Belle is an older Samantha, and there was a dippy uptight one who was a bit like Charlotte. I would love to go and see Sex and the City 25, in a couple of decades time, featuring the "girls" dealing with really being old. I wonder what they'd be like?

1 comment:

Fiona said...

This is really interesting Amanda since so many have slated the movie - I read a particularly bad review in the Guardian (but can't remember who from) saying how the film was racist and had lost all its identity and had nothing to say.
I think that ageism is something that is really overlooked by most of us, especially by so called feminists such as the Guardina journo, who feel that while they are in the prime of their intellectual lives it is fine to make derisory comments about people whose feminism or femininity is constructed differently. The characters in SATC are going to have a hard time delivering us the "it's fine to be successful and interested in clothes" line as they get older unless women in general move away from thinking that the only older women who combine glamour and success are people like Honor Blackman or Helen Mirren. Liza Minelli aside (!) why should Samantha be seen as an old slapper and why isn't looking 75% as good as you used to ok?