*Contains a few spoilers – some of the film and some of the fuzzy place in your heart reserved for Sex and the City. Sorry about that.
Let me set the scene. It was 2001. I was 15, channel hopping with the TV on mute way past my bedtime. As I flicked, I saw the flash of blonde curls, pink chiffon and those high, high heels. The things that defined Carrie in season 1 of Sex and the City were the things that made me stop at channel 4 and watch. And watch, and watch.
And so began my relationship with a TV programme that changed the way women were portrayed on screen. The language, the clothing, the sex – never had TV depicted so explicitly, or so deeply, the lives of four female friends. Everything else seemed vapid in comparison.
As I grew up, Sex and the City became ritualistic in my life. From clandestine viewings late at night aged 15 to screams over Samantha’s sex scenes (remember the armchair?) with a gaggle of girls in a uni houseshare, to an essay carefully crafted in my final year, exploring the new feminism the show promoted. Apparently, you didn’t have to burn your bra to celebrate your femaleness. You could buy designer shoes, have a successful career and an even more successful sex life.
When the first film was released, four girlfriends dressed as their favourite characters (the selfish, style-obsessed Carrie was the one I related to most) and enjoyed two hours of pure, unadulterated indulgence. Yes, it didn’t quite live up to the TV show, and no, it wasn’t the best film ever made, but it was fun. It was true to the show, true to the characters and true to the fans. We loved it, and sipping Cosmos afterwards we agreed it was the perfect end to our time as SATC fangirls. We’d still watch the boxset, huddled around a bottle of rosé in our pyjamas, but the heyday was over.
So when a second film was announced, I was dubious. The characters seemed rounded, the story lines complete, the ending satisfying. Why risk ruining that? Of course, there’s no way I’d miss it. So despite the hideous reviews which really did break my heart, I went along. A quick outfit pic first…
Dressed to kill and excited despite a foreboding feeling of dread, we trotted off to the cinema, Ben & Jerry’s in hand, expectations piqued.
I can’t tell you how gutted I was by the end.
First of all, Sex and the City isn’t Sex and the City without New York. The girls travel to Abu Dhabi, which is, of course, a city. But it’s not the city. The show is so intrinsically linked to New York it’s hard to sustain that comfortable familiarity, the thing that makes you feel like you know Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda, without it as a backdrop. Also, it would appear that the Abu Dhabi heat addled stylist Patricia Field’s brain.
The portrayal of these American girls in a far-off land so exotic even magic carpets are a possibility had me cringing in my seat. From Carrie’s all-out mockery of a woman in a veil eating French Fries to Samantha’s menopause-induced cleavage-bearing breakdown (which I’m sure many menopausal women watched with open-mouthed shock) – this was a roller coaster ride through bad stereotyping.
There were some bits I liked. I saw flashes of the original show when Miranda and Charlotte discussed motherhood over cocktails. Carrie’s quip when stuck between a crying baby and Samantha’s sexploits (Big: “I don’t know which is worse” Carrie: “Samantha. The baby will tire eventually.”) and the opening scenes of our favourite city, set to Alicia Key’s Empire State of Mind.
Unfortunately, moments like these were few and far between. Two gay characters who have always hated each other getting married, Carrie’s unrivalled selfishness that not even her vast array of maxi dresses could distract from and Samantha’s desperate attempts to prove ‘she’s still got it’, combined with a distinct lack of screen time for Miranda (who, as ‘the funny one’, always had the best lines) and fashion not even I could get on board with (The J’adore Dior outfit for walking round a baking souk? An arabic woman wearing an orange feathered waistcoat under her robes?), dug this film’s grave.
I suppose I shouldn’t have expected more after John Corbett, who plays Aiden, was quoted saying Sex and the City is about shoes and dresses and fashion*. Yes, it is about shoes and dresses and fashion. But it’s also about love and friendship and independence, and those things helped take the show and first film from the frothy, flippant space occupied by 90210 to somewhere smart and clever and touching.
As a lifelong (real life begins at 15) fan of Sex and the City, as a girl who can quote so many lines, as a fashionista who bought those neon striped Red or Dead heels after Carrie wore the Manolo originals and as a woman who cites Carrie Bradshaw as a real inspiration to her writing career, I’m sad to say this is one relationship that’s turned toxic.
As the girls would say – “it’s not me, it’s you.”
*I can’t find the original quote anywhere. If anyone knows where it is, please point me in the right direction! 🙂