'Sex and the City 2' is offensive and ignorant, but I now relate.
When you have to buy a whole new wardrobe because your clothes don't conform to the country you're visiting, it sucks. So does sweating on a packed bus because open windows are a no-no.
Over eight years ago, Sex and the City 2 hit theaters. For fans of the HBO series, the excitement could not have been stronger. The first Sex and the City feature film is good and as I wrote way back in 2008:
“Whether or not the women find their happy endings with the men in their lives, the foundation of what [the Sex and the City] women stand for is solid: Friendship above all else. Having the pleasure to watch them on screen together again will satisfy the most devoted fan as well as new additions to the saga that is Sex and the City.”
Sex and the City 2 did not receive such favorable reviews. I gave it the lowest of low rating — one clock — for Production and never looked back — until now.
My Hatred for Sex and the City 2 Has Lessoned
Blame Netflix and insomnia but I watched Sex and the City 2 recently and realized there’s still a great deal wrong with it, but in terms of its offensiveness my feelings have changed. That’s because I’ve changed immensely thanks to living a nomadic lifestyle where home is literally where my hat is on any given day.
When I wrote the review for Sex and the City 2, I’d been to a handful of countries and strictly as a tourist. I’ve now visited one-third of the world and lived in quite a few countries, many of which have very different customs than the United States. It’s made me see the world in a very different light and cultural differences can be difficult to handle.
From my Sex and the City 2 review:
“Things do pick up when the girl’s head to Abu Dhabi but in a disgusting attempt at humor, [Sex and the City 2] actually insults the culture and makes American’s look like the most ignorant and disrespectful people on the planet.”
At the time, that sentence went easy on Sex and the City 2’s handling of the cultural differences between the United States and the United Arab Emirates. But, there are plenty of ignorant and disrespectful Americans at home and abroad. Some are on holiday, others expats. It’s a sad fact I’ve learned over the years. I’ll never understand why a person would move halfway across the world and then spend their time complaining about their new home.
I still think Sex and the City 2 is insulting and paints Americans in a poor light. Samantha does do plenty of inappropriate things and acts like a child when she’s reprimanded for it. She fully well knew where she was headed and that she’d have to adapt.
I know that, too, with each new country I visit. I read up on the culture, what’s appropriate and what is not, how best to dress to not draw attention to myself and show respect, and what can and cannot be said or done in public.
There may not have been as much information online when Sex and the City 2 was released but there was enough and guidebooks aplenty. Director/Screenwriter Michael Patrick King should have known better than to make Samantha such a poor example of an American abroad in an Islamic country where nearly every citizen is a Muslim.
But I now understand Samantha’s frustration at having to change who she is because of a religion she is not a member of and laws that do not apply at home. If someone told me that to live in California I had to be a Christian, I’d move. Would I still travel to San Francisco on occasion for clam chowder soup and sourdough bread? Definitely. I’d likely avoid wearing a “Darwin rules” T-shirt, though.
A big part of travel is learning and accepting the traditions and customs of the country you’re visiting. If it’s offensive to show your knees, you don’t show your knees. If walking hand in hand in public is considered inappropriate, you don’t do it; same goes for kissing or other displays of affection. When wearing a low-cut shirt will get you attention that puts you in danger, cover the girls up. If drinking alcohol is prohibited, enjoy a glass of water or tea and don’t complain that you can’t have an evening cocktail.
When you’re at home, you can do whatever. When you travel, you have to respect the culture regardless of whether you agree with it.
But adhering to cultural standards that are very different than your own can be incredibly frustrating. I get that now. Samantha’s breakdown in Abu Dhabi during Sex and the City 2 is something I’ve nearly done on more than one occasion.
Sometimes it’s as simple as not being able to buy a ferry ticket because the ticket seller, who is currently seated at their booth, follows the (ridiculous) rules: Tickets are only sold 15 minutes before departure. Or when the temperature on a non-air conditioned bus is stifling and the smell of bodies ripe but you can’t open the window since drafts cause disease.
Then there are the countries where the man next to you is spoken to or asked to make a decision and every word you say ignored. If you’re a woman traveling alone, they’ll ask to speak with your husband. When you tell them you’re alone, respect can be difficult to come by and negotiations a lesson in how to handle belittling and mansplaining because you aren’t somewhere where sticking up for yourself or talking back is appropriate. And if that means you can’t spend the night at a hotel — no single women allowed! — You just have to suck it up and move on.
Better yet is when it’s assumed that you are wanton because you travel alone. Suddenly, men think they can take advantage of you or women make it their quest to find you a husband so you can be respectable, and have babies. The look of pity women in certain countries give childless women is remarkable.
Finding Understanding in the Epic Samantha Condom Meltdown
Samantha should have sucked it up multiple times in Sex and the City 2 and quit complaining, but when the condoms fall out of her purse onto the public street and she starts screaming that she has sex, I laughed out loud the second time around. The first time, I cringed in horror.
I now understand her meltdown and can relate to it instead of seeing it only as an act of complete insolence.
There is more than one country I’d love to prance down the street with my hair a wild mess, a teeny tiny skirt on, and a push-up bra helping to leave nothing to the imagination, yelling “It’s my body and I control it!”
I never will because I respect other cultures and realize that if I am going to immerse myself in them, I have to do just that. My Americanisms take a back seat. And if I don’t like a country because of the limitations it places on its citizens, or just women, I leave. I have that freedom. And I can vent all I want once its border is far behind me.
So Michael Patrick King, while you could have not gone so crazy with Samantha in Abu Dhabi and handled her culture clash with more dignity and respect, I don’t feel hatred any longer towards Sex and the City 2. I get it. Samantha’s snap is something any woman who travels can relate to on some level.
Thankfully, I can keep the need to act out and scream contained much better than Samantha. But you never know, I may snap some day. Fingers crossed it’s at the airport check-in counter and not on a public street.
And If this article makes me sound like an as***le who thinks she is better than someone else because of her world travels, suck it up. I’m using my right to free speech while living in a country that can suppress it.