The brisk advance ticket sales for “Sex and the City 2” confirm what’s already obvious — the films are some kind of new phenomenon, and it would’ve been stupid — perhaps even financially irresponsible in these grim times — not to make a sequel. The market is clearly still there.
It’s not, however, the same market as when the show started. The pro-/anti-“Sex and the City” factions have been circling each other, wielding the same arguments for years. If you like the show, you think it taps into something authentic about the way women bond and talk, or you like the clothes. If you’re against it, you probably despise the consumerism, the clothing-as-validation ethos — as Dana Stevens wrote at Slate while reviewing the first film, “I honestly believe […] that ‘Sex and the City’ is singlehandedly responsible for a measurable uptick in the number of materialistic twits in New York City and perhaps the world.” Indeed.
Still, that doesn’t make SatC worse than any number of Kate Hudson movies (as nicely parodied in a throwaway line in “Kick-Ass”: “Do you want to go see that new Kate Hudson movie, the one where she’s a shoe designer who can’t get a guy?”). The show, whatever its grating elements, was at least snappily assembled, certainly with more craft than the average romantic comedy these days. That British Glamour editor Jo Elvin’s best defense for the forthcoming film is that “it’s window-shopping on a big screen… a film like this is playing Barbies for grownups” speaks volumes. Once upon a time, we’d speak about how “Sex and the City” was empowering (or infantilizing), how the relationships meant something about honest discussion of sexuality.
It seems that as the women of SatC get older, their bonding and struggles have gotten less relevant. Economic recovery or no, “Sex and the City 2” will deliver what “Confessions of a Shopaholic” couldn’t successfully sell — fashion porn. More specifically, economic fashion porn (the Abu Dhabi setting, with its connotations of extravagant wealth, is no accident). Which means that the show isn’t titled properly anymore: it’s “Sex and Money” these days, assuming it was ever anything else.
That makes sense when you think of Sarah Jessica Parker’s trajectory from Carrie Bradshaw to the standard rom-coms she’s mostly been making since the show’s end. When you take out the sex, there’s not much left besides money, fashion and whining. If Meryl Streep’s become a viable star as she gets older, it seems the only way for the SATC ladies to age is to strip away any complexities from their personas as time goes along.
[Photos: “Sex and the City 2,” Warner Bros., 2010; “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” Touchstone, 2009]