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Sex and the City 2 and the Real Housewives Epidemic: The Gotterdammerung of Feminism May 31, 2010

Posted by Skippy in Culture, Observations, Rants.
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Fig. 1: If you willingly and gladly spent money on this cinematic abortion and enjoyed it do not read this post.

Let’s me be clear at the outset: I loathe Sex and the City. During a brief moment in which I had HBO, I occasionally watched episodes of the show on which these two wretched exercises in narcissism and white fantasy are based. At the end of each thirty minute installment, I would feel empty, hollow…as if millions of braincells cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Realizing that this show was akin to mainlining rubbing alcohol, I quit watching. Well, that, and the characters were so unsympathetic, I usually wished that each episode would end with a Godzilla-like monster stepping on those shallow wretches.

When they made the first Sex and the City movie, I thought, “Really? Why? How are they going to fill up two hours when they can barely do thirty minutes?” Somehow, they did. I haven’t seen it, nor do I intend to.

And before someone can say, “How can you criticize a movie you haven’t seen?” I will say this: I don’t give a fat frog’s leg about analyzing the “plot” of these movies–what concerns me is the message that these movies send. I’ll leave the plot analysis to movie reviewers. They get paid to watch dreck. I don’t. I’ve read enough reviews and plot synopses of the sequel to have a fairly good idea of what’s going on in this film. It can be pretty much summed up in one word: bullshit.

As I think more about why I hate Sex and the City, but yet find the Real Housewives of ________ to be a fascinating, yet horrifying moment in American popular culture, I realize that what links these moments is an insidious yet virulent erosion of second and third-wave feminism, or, an infantilization of women. I think of it as the Barbie doll effect.

Fig. 2: That’s about right.

What Sex and the City and the Real Housewives franchise do is sell a fantasy (often constructed by men, natch) that women can live a fairy tale existence framed by conspicuous consumption, banal narcissism, and childish, self-indulgent behavior. For example, this latest round of Sex in the City sees the main character, Carrie Bradshaw, dissatisfied with married life. She wants to go out—-all the time, apparently—-but her husband Big wants to stay home and watch old black and white movies. That mean, ol’ Big—-well, actually, during the series, he was quite emotionally distant and played far too many games to deserve marriage, but I’ll leave that for bigger Sex aficionados to deal with. Anyway, how dare he! Carrie has the right to cavort about like a woman half her age!

Speaking of cavorting about, the whole “plot” of this unnecessary sequel revolves around the pathetic foursome traipsing off to Abu Dhabi (played by Morocco), where they treat the location like it’s one giant amusement park of shopping—-because that’s what women do, right? They squeal over shoes, shoes, and designer dresses, right? In between being ridiculous caricatures, the movie apparently tries to make some kind of commentary about Muslim women wearing abayas and burqas. Because the American way is totes better, right? Women are soooo liberated and totally free to do whatever they want to free from patriarchy, right?

Fig. 3: Remember girls, freedom isn’t free!

The Real Housewives franchise is just as cartoonish as the Sex and the City franchise. Conspicuous consumption is the order of the day, as is childish behavior in the form of incessant “vacations” (from what, I know not, as most of these women don’t actually work) and inane arguments. They speak constantly about being “empowered” women, but the merely resurrect and reproduce stereotypes of women being childish, emotional, and irrational. The men in their lives are visually distant; they lumber in frame to co-sign whatever the woman is saying and also to reinforce to the audience that these real housewives do, in fact, have a man. After the man trundles out of scene, the women go shopping at high-end stores and have booze-soaked lunches.

It was when I was watching an episode of Real Housewives of Orange County that it hit me: these women are living in a fantasy world. They think they’re real life Barbie dolls living in a Barbie world. Do you remember the commercials for Barbie and whatever stupid accessories Mattel wanted you to pester your parents into buying? Those dolls and their accoutrement were sold to millions of girls; what this merchandise did was reinforce a particular narrative: boys are to play with trucks, planes and model adult male roles, while girls are to play with dolls and aspire to be what those dolls represent, right down to the physical ideal. What happens is that the Barbie world inhabited by Carrie Bradshaw and her three idiot compatriots and the Real Housewives is paraded as what feminism represents, when in fact it is nothing but the grossest perversion of it. In this Barbie world, growing older has nothing to do with acquiring wisdom, and intelligence is secondary to attractiveness. This Barbie world exists only to increase women’s dissatisfaction with themselves—-what the Real Housewives and the Sex and the City females do is constantly seek an infantile fantasy world where chivalrous male knights sweep them off their feet and provide them with pretty pink princess castles and cute little cherub offspring.

Fig. 4: Damn.

Oh, and also? Twilight is the Harbinger of the End of All Things:

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