Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Good sex in a bad city, and marijuana in Guantanamo

"Sex and the City" Through a Man's Eyes by Wajahat Ali

Wajahat makes some interesting observations about the opening night of Sex in the City: The Movie - like that some women in attendance were "dressed up like they were attending the opening of a San Francisco club – dressed to the nines and sporting 'do me' heels" (Never understood that - "do me" heels? Do me skirt, or lingerie, sure, but heels? Makes as much sense as foot-binding to me.) And he's just about right when he writes that "the entire movie revolves around the ladies’ near obsession with corporate merchandise, most notably shoes and purses." Maybe not "revolves," but certainly very thoroughly"involves." Even a supposed-to-be-touching scene where Carrie rewards her Black servant (sorry, it's "personal assistant" because she doesn't do the cleaning - presumably that's left to a brown-skinned woman, off-screen) involves a thousand-dollar brand name purse. (Her servant remarks at how happy she'll be showing off this status symbol to her working class neighbor/friend/competitors back home.)

That's the bad part. There's far too much of everything that makes New York City despicable: the crass materialism that empties minds and atrophies hearts, the horrific mutilations capitalism wreaks even on those it grants good fortune. For instance, Carrie's love interest (all of whom throughout the history of the show have never been below upper middle class) is a wealthy investment banker. He is portrayed as an affable, romantic guy, whose only fault in the movie is getting cold feet on his wedding day. Never mind his investments in corn and wheat futures that made food even more unaffordable for the world's poor, surely adding a few more to the 20,000 who die daily from hunger and malnutrition, not to mention the emotional wrecks these deaths (and the far more widespread fear of death, desperation and suffering) caused. But in the film's lens, he's an asshole only for waffling over whether to go through with his marriage for a period of some five minutes.

But while he comes close, Wajahat misses the mark by failing to see the revolutionary character of the show, which was not entirely snuffed out in the movie under the weight of so much product placement. He concedes that the film may have: "depicted women in a raw and uncensored fashion; the way women are behind closed doors after shedding their societal demeanor of being 'prim, proper and chaste.'" Sure, there is that. But there is more. Some three billion women live on planet earth. On the greater part of the earth's surface, a woman who wanted to enjoy a sexuality like Samantha's would face, at best, social ostricization, and at worst torture and a gruesome execution. Hell, even in New York City, one would need to be as financially independent as Samantha to really escape any harmful social backlash for choosing to avoid the suffocation of monogamy and enjoy male bodies and sex with as many of them as possible the way she does. And while Samantha is the sexual revolutionary par excellence, none of the Sex in the City women hew to the patriarchal sexual norm, which for women has always been: find an owner, and only let his penis inside you. Miranda, while in the film is married and monogamous, in an earlier episode revealed that in her lifetime she slept with forty men: a respectable number. Also, Miranda, a successful middle class professional, chose to mate with someone from the working class whom she found attractive - which is a prerogative reserved only for men in patriarchal societies like this one. Even Charlotte, the sheltered ruling class WASP, had sex with all sorts of men, including a fling with a repairman - in which case you could say she fucked him in more than the sense that she exchanged for his labor the monetary equivalent of far less of her's (which is to say, because she lives off of an inheritance, none). Although Carrie is the least revolutionary (and worryingly, the most popular) of the group, what with her bank account dating criteria, she's the only one who works in a poorly paid profession: writing. So I give her a pass.

So until Hollywood stops producing counterrevolutionary, reactionary capitalist films, at least give Sex in the City props it deserves for embodying the spirit of sexual revolution.

UPDATE - Sex sans the City (A Post-Marxist Preview) by Susie Day - A brilliant parody

Film Review: Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay by Eileen Jones

This review in the eXile is spot on: Hollywood's best political film of the year, a brilliant attack on the rotten cultural core of the conservative United States. (Like Sex in the City, it too is flawed, in that it attacks racial stereotypes while leaving gender stereotypes in place.) In 2008, it's remarkable to see a Hollywood comedy with two Asian-American men as the protagonists? Yup.

The most politically subversive part of the whole film comes when the two first arrive in their prison cells at Guantanamo bay, and meet the guys next cell:

Kumar: "So what are you guys in here for?"

Detainee 1: "For giving the United States a taste of its own medicine."

Kumar, incredulous at meeting these people at Guantanamo: "You guys are real terrorists?"

Detainee 2, defensive: "Some call us terrorists - others call us heroes."

Kumar, surprised and angry: "Screw that, you think you guys are heroes for killing innocent people?"
Harold: "It's because of assholes like you that we're even in this fucking place, you fucking cowards!"

Detainee 2, delivers a sneering riposte: "Well maybe if the people in your country stopped eating donuts, and started realizing what your government's doing to the world, 'assholes' like us wouldn't exist."

At this, Kumar has no response but the following: "Fuck you donuts are awesome!" Harold can only add: "They're delicious."


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