Sexism and the City

I posted the other day about how much I hated Sex And The City 2. It seems just about every other film critic under the sun agreed with me but not, tragically, the cinema-going population of the UK. (At least it didn’t do very well in America. Small mercies.)

I’ve been thinking about it a lot ever since, and have had many conversations with my thinky friend Paul, who loves to analyse stuff in a way I don’t. He hated it even more than I did, if that’s even possible, and we’ve been batting SATC 2 insults between us for weeks now. He made a good point yesterday during our latest bitch-fest: about how many of the critical reviews have focused on the general appearance of Sarah Jessica Parker et al, pointing out how old and haggard they look. What’s infuriating about this is that it’s something you’d never see if the critics were discussing a film starring a good-looking man who just so happened to be getting older. And, horribly, a lot of that personal criticism has been coming from female critics: the very worst kind of reverse sexism.

I’ve been reviewing for over a decade now and in all that time, unless I’m hideously mistaken, I don’t think I have EVER criticised the personal appearance of an actor or actress. If someone’s starred in something and given a bad performance – well, that’s fair game. If I’d written something and it was crap, people would call me on it, so why shouldn’t I call out someone who’s phoned in a star turn? But I wouldn’t dream of insulting the way they look. It’s bitchy, unnecessary and one step up from name-calling in a playground.

Of course, part of the criticism of SATC 2 is that these are women are almost inviting the nasty comments because they aren’t growing old gracefully; they’re wearing clothes too young for their years and behaving the same way. There’s even a moment in the film where a shop assistant tells Samantha that a dress she has her eye on is ‘too young’. But it’s glossed over: rather than making their ageing a theme of the movie – one a great many women can identify with, and I’m saying that as a 38-year-old who’s starting to realise that my looks aren’t what they used to be – they went off on a tangent and decided to explore other things, such as how married life when you’re rich beyond your wildest dreams can be boring, or how women in Abu Dhabi eat chips while wearing veils over their mouths.

Instead of treating the audience like idiots and insulting us, why didn’t this film focus on some themes we might actually empathise with?

It’s a shame that our culture has this terrible double-standard. Truth be told, I think SJP, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis look amazing and probably always will. But throw them into a film in which looks are everything and they’re doomed – particularly when they’re 20ft high on a cinema screen, showing off every laugh-line, vein and wrinkle. As much as I hated that damn script, I really feel for them as human beings, being ripped to shreds by a press who can’t draw the line between a terrible movie and four women being called ‘ugly’ just because it suits the purpose of the reviewer.

And bloody hell, if these women are fugly, where do the rest of womankind stand?

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Sexism and the City

  1. Lerxst

    Ok, I agree with your general point (though can’t comment specifically on SATC as, well, let’s just say it’s not my scene). Frankly it’s lazy journalism going for easy targets.

    But “if these women are fugly, where do the rest of womankind stand”? Umm. I think this is where womankind departs from mankind, and goes into self-flagellation mode.

    Even though well-dressed and with expensive slap courtesy of the best Hollywood can buy, none of them is THAT attractive. Heck, I see plenty of more beautiful women everyday on the Tube on my way into work.

    • jaynenelson

      You honestly don’t think Cynthia Nixon is attractive? Or Kim Cattrall (at any time of her life, not just now)?

      Wow, now I’m even MORE depressed… I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder but still, that’s harsh!

      • Lerxst

        Let’s get this in context – not so attractive that they should be used as some high benchmark for the rest of womankind, no.

        But if you want views specifically on them, then Cynthia Nixon is ok, and has probably aged the best of them. Kim Cattrall I’ve never liked, though that may be connected to an interview I saw with her many, many years ago where she came across as a stuck-up, obnoxious cow.

        And you certainly shouldn’t be depressed – your logic seems to be that if I don’t find them particularly attractive, what must I think of everyone else. Whereas, the truth is I don’t find them that attractive and I think there are much better out there. Give me a Josie Lawrence or an Emilia Fox, a Helen Baxondale or an Amanda Donahoe, a Caroline Quentin or a Liza Tarbuck any time. And just for the record, going by the photos I’ve seen over the months, I’d say you were more attractive than any of SATC girls.

        (If you really wanted a Hollywood benchmark I’d go more for the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer – at pretty much at any age – or Dina Meyer).

  2. Jenni Carberry

    I really enjoyed the film and I’m going to see it for the 2nd time tomorrow and did identify with some of the themes: Miranda’s career change plus Carrie’s being married but choosing not to have children and the shock that this decision seems to invoke. I loved the series and also loved Kim in Star Trek VI and Mannequin (sorry, Jayne for the latter!) I don’t get the fashion and never did in the series either but I love the concept of 4 female friends sticking together no matter what. Will it ever beat my love of Sci Fi, of course not, but I’ll always watch the repeats on Comedy Central just as I do Deep Space Nine reminiscing about a time when I didn’t have all these lines around my eyes! On a slightly different tangent, I understand why these ladies don’t eat Pizza but have you ever noticed that nobody orders it from the replicator in any Star Trek series? 😉

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