« Austerity measures throughout Europe | Main | Author Nicholas Carr: The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains | Magazine »

May 29, 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Jodi, this is great - thank you for posting this. I had been totally put off the movie by the reviews; your thoughtfulness here means that I will be less quick to believe in the negative hype about the film....


Jodi, this is really great. It reminds me of my defense of the first movie against what I thought were some serious misunderstandings. I haven't seen the second movie yet... I will next week. But the rabidness of the reviews all made me suspect that there's something more than a bad movie going on here--glad to see that you've seen it and agree!

Jodi Dean

thanks so much for your kind words--I really appreciate it.


Thanks a lot for this review, Jodi. I'm still not sure about the "fantasy" argument, since it can serve as too blanket an alibi for what's really disturbing or polluting about a lot of cultural fantasies. Gone with the Wind is also clearly marked as a "fantasy," but that does nothing to interfere with heated objections in some quarters about the film's politics, and might even intensify those complaints. Your ideas about why the movie HAS to move on from NYC because Manhattan can no longer sustain these projected investments sounds like an awful lot of imperialist, globalization-era logic: we've used up all our resources or found them wanting, so it's time to colonize someone else's! Hearing the film's internal logic articulated this way makes sense, but not in a way that necessarily protects the film from the vicious critiques you cite.

Still, this is the longest and by far the most interesting and most eloquent defense of this much-maligned movie I have read, and whether or not I end up agreeing with your points, I SO appreciate being chastened out of my increasingly smug, sight-unseen frustration with the movie. I learned a lot from this review, and I'll look forward to more write-ups!


Thanks for this review. I'm particularly looking forward to this film because it seems (like the first movie) to be partly interested in what happens after the point most romance movies leave off - the 'happy ending'/marriage. I just wanted to offer one correction though: the critic who makes reference to "unexamined privilege" is A.O. Scott, who, according to Wikipedia, is 43 years old.


I enjoyed this, a lot. Although I'm yet to watch SATC 2, I found the way everyone in the media jumped onto the anti-SATC bandwagon extremely sheeplike. Nice to see someone who thought for themselves and didn't fall into that trap.


I didn't think reviewers were over the mark, I loved the series, but this was the final straw for me. I don't think it was a "fantasy" element as you describe it. Part of the problem I had with this film (as with the first) is that it was way too long. Perhaps reviewers would have cared more about the scene between Charlotte and Miranda if it didn't happen two hours into the movie. You say nothing of how characters have been rewritten in both films either. And yes, for a film that takes place during the recession recovery, I was disgusted with the amount of expensive fashion and jewels — nevermind the importance placed on these items. I thought the lesson from the recession was money can't buy you happiness or love.


Great review! The fact that you think for yourself comes through quite powerfully.

I think the apostasy for liberals stems from the fact that S&TC was created in their own image of what it means to be successful, but at a time when it was only the Tea Party-types whose standard of living was being pummeled through the very financialization of the economy by which liberal professionals thrived. You know, back when "times were good!"

The "recession argument" seems to imply that S&TC may have been appropriate then, when "everyone was doing well," but is bad form now that liberal professionals are being affected!

I also think that liberals don't want to have any casual association with the Middle East; all liberal treatments of other cultures must showcase nothing less than the highest standard of intellectual rigor, or else the fact that they are doing nothing to stop Obama from killing women his daughters' age in Afghanistan, for example, might embarrass them. In lieu of doing anything meaningful to address this, they take brave positions on a film like Sex & the City!

Steven Sherman

Intriguing post. For the record, the New York Times reviewer, A O Scott, is a male, probably somewhere between 45 and 50.


what ever guys it been a wonderful movie filled with good adventures and women attarctions. oh all the girls in the city was making the life more dangerous for those men live around. kind of culture shown in the movie was excellent.



Thank you for this piece. I haven't seen it yet (it opens here in Australia tomorrow), but I had been growing increasingly dishearted with all the reviews I had read. I am not under any illusions that this sequel will be as good as the series, or even the first movie which I also enjoyed greatly, but some of the attacks on it were particularly snark-for-snarks-sake.

I'm all for people criticising a movie because it's poorly made - and many of the negative reviews do mention the bad writing, that it is too long and so forth - but when they then turn around and also complain about things like not wanting to see "old women" on screen talk about stuff like this and then it veers into sexist territory. Dislike the movie for being poorly made, but not for not being aimed at you. A lot of the time the reviews have felt like "let's call women stupid because they like this". Of course a 50-year-old man isn't going to get anything out of women discussing menopause.

But, of course, I am sure many of them will next week say that "A-Team" is a decent movie purely because it has nice explosions or whatever. That's how it works.

Jodi Dean

Thanks for the comments, folks, I appreciate.

Stale--I agree. Lots of folks are delighting in eviscerating the women in the movie (not just the women). Often, the critics' enthusiasm for the snark competition leads them to misrepresent the movie. Countless times I've seen references to Miranda quitting her job to be a full time mom--this didn't happen. There's also an unfortunate convergence in a kind of pc trashing of the movie and a willingness to go right over the top and express all sorts of antipathy for middle aged white women. It's particularly vicious in the remarks over Samantha's sexuality.

Ladypoverty--you put it well. It's like Depression era fantasies are one thing, but insensitivity to the lifestyle cuts suffered by those forced to live on 500 K a year is beyond the pale. And the 'other cultures' point: what's odd is the way critics tend to write as if the US were an aggressor in the UAE and Saudi Arabia (rather than a dependent), as if there were not wealthy, oil based regimes with their own power, as if there were not mega cities with elites of their own.

Sarah--I didn't find it too long. Lord of the Rings 3, that was too long. Also, the characters seem to me to be consistent. They got what they wanted, now what? What happens as life goes on? So I don't see any odd change or 'cheat' here.

I don't expect movies to reflect in some sort of direct way their conditions of production. They can reflect it in an indirect, escapist way--which is what the Depression Era musicals did and what Sex in the City 2 does. After all, it's not like the series dealt with every economic downturn. There has always been over the top expensive fashion in it--that's the basis of the show, like crazy expensive technology is the basis of Iron Man.

For me the lesson of the recession is that the finance sector is incapable of regulating itself. So, the banks need to be nationalized, the shadow banking system eliminated, and the extension of credit and debt limited so as to eliminate speculation.

Nicksflickspicks--fantasy isn't an excuse. It's an explanation that should guide interpretation (and thus deflect readings that assess a film based not even on realism but on ideal/impossible politically correct expectations). The question then becomes the role, function, content, of the fantasies. Another advantage of this approach--it pushes the critic to think about gaps, inadequacies in any representation as well as potential and aspirations.

We are responsible for our fantasies. Personally, I was glad to see references to the Middle East in a Hollywood film that had nothing to do with terrorism. That was refreshing. Given the economic power of the UAE, I don't think mapping the film onto colonialism/imperialism works: we are already dependent on their resources.

On Gone with the Wind: I don't think it's clearly marked as fantasy. I think that it was and unfortunately still is read as some kind of truth of the South (I grew up on the Gulf Coast).


"In lieu of doing anything meaningful to address this, they take brave positions on a film like Sex & the City!"

I had to see the movie after two of my favorite bloggers, Jodi and Lou Proyect of the Unrepentant Marxist both defended it, and even before seeing it it reminded me somehow of the Ward Churchill incident, when he was criticized for calling the twin towers victims Little Eichmanns, he replied "I didn't know there were so many marxists in New York(concerned about the plight of working class victims)", yes, the movie is a celebration of a bourgeois feminism, (a passion for bling Was part of the storyline) but where have these reviewers been? The movies have always reflected a certain bias towards upper middle class protagonists .I saw it as a matinee, only about a dozen mostly female viewers saw it with me, and the trailers for other new offerings were so pathetic it made this movie look quite strong by comparison.

Jodi Dean

Where is the passion for bling? Certainly not in Big's giving Carrie a ring at the end--it replaces the television and is given to her as a kind of ritualized enchainment. No one else has jewelry in their storyline--or am I forgetting something?


Samantha: "I want to go someplace RICH!" "ooh I can almost feel the decadence!" one character sighs. One tiny amount of over the top dramatic tension is raised by the question of not whether they will leave the country, but whether they will have to travel "coach". I guess to me "bling" means what the reviewer called "unexamined privilege". And that rock Big bought Carrie was huge. I think you are looking at the relationships between the characters and not the social relations -- yes, as Proyect noted the movie is "fluff" but compared to the schlock out there I liked it. I am surprised you didnt note the constant over the topness of the privilege of these women- it was integral to the movie.

Jodi Dean

I thought I did:

"Everything is completely over the top--and we know from the beginning that they don't have to pay for it (even their 13 hour plane trip is the fantastic air travel promised in the 60s and now the privilege of our global financial overlords)."


I agree with almost everything you've written here. I was very surprised, after seeing the trashing that this films has got, to be actually quite entertained. And mind you, I was very disappointed with the first film.

Yes, it's a fantasy, it's like reading "Cosmopolitan" - the critics fail to understand that NOBODY is like that, Carrie and her friends are just projections that speak to women everywhere.

By the way, it would be interesting to know how this film is perceived by women in the Middle East...


BRAVO! It's all I have to say! Finally an intelligent review. Right on the nose with everything on the movie. SATC is probably one of the best TV shows ever made in TV history with the most consistent characters, including the gay ones, where we can all mirror ourselves into these 4 women in different points of our lives. The movie is just superb, witty, funny, deep, smart and real. These stupid reviews and are way missing the point, just like Sex and the City, you don't have to take life too serious.


@Jodi: Thanks for replying! I didn't mean practical, political colonialism but was referring to your point about what I would call an affective colonialism. These women clearly ACT as though they have come from a land of greater power and privilege (even though you point out that economic realities tell a different story). But more to the point, I meant what you decode as the way in which the women's and the franchise's locus of fantasy and affective investment drifts to the "exotic" UAE after their implicit admission that NYC can no longer sustain such projections. So they just borrow another city to serve the same libido-gratifying function, without actually interrogating the bases of that fantasy or the privilege that underwrites it. At the level of affect, that's clearly colonial logic, borne out by the movie's insistence on seeing Middle Eastern women as couture-loving Western women who happen to be differently dressed.

As for GWTW: The prologue says "...Look for it only in books for it is no more than a dream remembered," with all that Technicolor backlighting and etherealizing music. I'd call that a fantasy marking, though of course you're right that it hasn't been read that way by a huge share of its audience. We can see plenty of reasons why! Seems consistent, though, with what you're observing about SATC 2: yes, we can point to ways in which the movie tries to position itself as "fantasy," but clearly the critics and the meager audiences either aren't reading it that way or are reading it as toxic fantasy. And we can see plenty of reasons for that, too.

Jodi Dean

Thanks Stingoo and Rod.

NFP--you are right that they borrow another city to serve the same libido gratifying function. Is it really true that they don't interrogate the fantasy? I don't think so. The film is clear about a whole bunch of libidinal problems and makes clear that the "new" Abu Dhabi isn't all that new. Is going some place else for gratification necessarily colonialist? I don't think so. It can be, but it doesn't have to be. Colonialism is a larger political/economic formation/approach to different people.

I guess I don't see what's at stake here as affective colonialism (or this term would have to be understood very differently from colonialism as a system of economic exploitation and political domination; tourism can take different forms, not all of which are colonizing). I also don't look to SATC for that sort of critique.

Great pt re GWTW; I had forgotten that beginning. "A dream remembered"--does that suggest the same fantasy structure at work in SNTC? I want to say no, but I don't have a good argument. I don't think, though, that the GWTW wants to position itself as fantasy as much as in terms of a nostalgia for a very specific past (so, we can recognize it as fantasy, but the film can't).

Here's a shot at an argument: I guess it would have to be something like GWTW tells a story that it believes and wants the audience to believe. The dream that is only remembered was the dream of the antebellum south. The story of the film is the story of the loss of this dream, a loss that is a real loss even though it was unsustainable. So, for the film, the truth of slavery was what is depicted--there isn't another true story behind it. As my mother (white, from Mississippi) used to say: "but they loved their slaves! you saw GWTW!"

SNTC relies on fantasies of fashion, success, romance, and sex. It offers its viewers escapism (like most all Hollywood films). Is this pernicious or toxic? If it is, then the movie is not uniquely toxic but rather part and parcel of the elitism of globalized neoliberal capitalism.

Few if any cultural products fail to reinforce this formation--even ostensibly critical ones like films from Michael Moore ultimately reinforce it by making it seem expansive enough to include its own critique. I think this totalizing critique is basically correct, but the problem then becomes why bother with the criticism of particular cultural products at all? It's the system that's rotten to the core. Differently put, cultural products either obscure the contradictions of capitalism or express them, but even the expression is ultimately pernicious as the system profits from demonstrations of how bad it is.

Also, I think that there is value in cultural products that are escapist fun. Didactic films are rarely entertaining. And, they pose the problem: do they need to represent something real? criticize something real? at which levels?


I think this totalizing critique is basically correct, but the problem then becomes why bother with the criticism of particular cultural products at all? It's the system that's rotten to the core.

I think this is a wonderful way of putting it.


I was interested in seeing the film from your review. But while you raise some good points (particularly the I am Woman song and the motherhood conversation), I gotta say, with all respect and after having seen the film, your critique just feels delusional. I found the film's worship of wealth, privilege and capital so overbearing and repulsive as to be almost unwatchable.

Charlotte may be upset about being the Betty Crocker ideal mother but, by the way the film privileges fashion, the true explanation for her tears (in the spirit of the film) has to be the expensive dress. Miranda quits her job because her boss is an asshole but is seen in the final montage speechifying about global corporate profit targets. Carrie finishes her marriage book, but by the end of the film endorses Big's two-day off theory, the neoliberal conversion of marriage into just another job. Samantha may be going to UAE for her publicist job but she is invited there by the financier of the film - Abu Dhabi primarily fascinates as the source of capital (as she says, we need to go some place richer than NY).

And I agree with the previous poster - the film is infused with affective colonialism. Even the pathetic sympathy for the Indian servant, who has to save up for months to see his wife, is the most hypocritical and rage-inducing liberal bullshit. Made worse by the fact that any question of class or poverty is subsumed into how the servant's relationship with his wife reflects on Carrie's relationship with Big.

I also disagree that the film ruptured the Middle East fantasy. The Middle East was effectively there to teach late capitalist consumer whores how to desire again. It was liberalism meets fundamentalism, and then learning how to get off on it. The fundamentalism is the essential fantasy component not its rupture. When Carrie returns to Big, he issues her with a set of rules, disciplining her for her kiss with Aidan, all which Carrie clearly enjoys and all while presenting her with her 'sparkle' - a new ring (which is supposed to resolve everything). The film realises the libidinal connection between liberalism and fundamentalism and turns it into just another way for consumers to enjoy their material goods. Even the motif of battling menopause felt more a metaphor for learning how to still enjoy in a enjoyment suffused late-capitalist environment than a true championing of womanhood.

I agree there is a certain subversiveness into how utterly and almost uncompromisingly ideological the film is. Without exaggeration, it is Stalinist in its level of ideological delusion. The moment when the abayas drop to reveal the latest expensive fashion was hallucinatory, revealing the capitalist subject to be the universal subject.

I don't mind people enjoying this as pure idiotic escapism but any kind of pretension that this is some kind of feminist tract is nauseating. Lindy West said it best: (http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/burkas-and-birkins/Content?oid=4132715), SATC2 is "essentially a home video of gay men playing with giant Barbie dolls".

Jodi Dean


I think the film is some kind of feminist tract, a liberal feminist tract. It's part and parcel of the ideology of liberal feminism. It's a capitalist film--but this isn't really saying very much, who would expect it not to be?

I'll add that I don't find liberal feminism compelling. But I do find it important to raise a feminist response to critics of the film who refer to the characters as whores, denigrate their sexuality, belittle their problems, etc.

Your point about the relation between this liberalism and fundamentalism is good. I agree that Big issues a new set of rules and basically marks Carrie as a kind of prisoner with that ring.

Dave Guzman

I think the film conflates capitalism and feminism to such a degree that it's almost the duty of the viewer to be misoginist. Especially when the film hides behind the image of supposedly liberating/transgressive feminism when faced with any critiques, as if we're supposed to just repress the extreme libidinal relationship the film has with capital. Critics of the film are labelled as misogenists but it's the accusations of misogeny that are symptomatic, not the critiques of the film. The only ethical response to this film is to identify with its symptom.

Jodi Dean

I can't imagine anyone I would agree with making an argument like this: the film conflates capitalism and Judaism to such an extent, the film conflates capitalism and black power to such an extent, etc.

Why in the world would anyone ever think that SATC 2 would involve repressing a relationship to capital? It celebrates it, revels in it...

there are ways to criticize the film that are not misogynist...most of the critics are not choosing these ways.

Billy Stevenson

Hi Jodi - an interesting article. I'm in the strange position where I agree with some of your general points, but disagree with most of your close analyses. In particular, I agree that the film was strongest when it took the fantasy to its logical conclusion - the universal liberal feminist subject beneath the veil. There is something refreshing, or at least ingenuous, about that kind of over-identification with ideology - somehow it denatures ideology even as it celebrates it, rendering it hallucinatory, uncanny, unsettling. In particular, I thought the flight in burkas had all the hallmarks of a great exploitation-film. That said, I tend to agree with the previous reviewer in my inability to find that Carrie's interaction with the Indian servant in any way ruptured the fantasy - surely it did just the opposite, assuring us that political and economic differences don't merely mask a universal liberal feminist subject, but a universal liberal subject? I also find the last comment interesting, or at least productive of further discussion. I guess the paradox of liberal feminism - like most forms of liberal protest - is that it grafts a quite incongruous ethical system and worldview onto neoliberalism. From that perspective, perhaps the ingenuity of Sex and the City is that it makes these two worldviews seem completely continuous; it is (neo) liberal feminism. While I can't quite agree that that justifies misogyny, it certainly does tend (at least in my experience) to put the viewer in the position where criticising feminism feels synonymous with criticising neoliberalism; or, alternatively, in which the unthinkability of criticising neoliberalism segues into the unthinkability of criticising feminism - neoliberalism as the most "politically correct" scenario. For that reason, I had trouble with the moments in your argument at which you said "this scene isn't about neoliberalism, it's about feminism (or women generally)" - eg "this scene isn't about Charlotte's dress, it's about being a mother; this scene isn't about Carrie's ring, it's about Big's gesture of matrimonial unity.", etc. Surely, the point of these scenes is that they're neither exclusively about bling (and I agree with a previous commenter's extension of bling to all forms of "unexamined privilege") nor exclusively about the womens' issues, but about the way in which the film renders the two absolutely and eloquently continuous? I agree that saying that Charlotte's scene is simply *about* a dress is reductive, but I sense that it's just as reductive to argue that it is simply *about* motherhood. I also wonder whether part of what I found unsettling about this film was that it explicated the extent to which liberal feminism thrives on a fundamentally misogynistic conception of women; female chauvinist pigs. Certainly, the liberal gay appreciation that opened the narrative was founded on a particularly repellent homophobia; gay men were allowed to get married, but only with the proviso that we recognise them for the promiscuous, infantile, ingratiating lapdogs that they are; or, alternatively, as a particularly avid breed of consumer. As a gay man who has engaged in marriage rights for a long time, I desperately wanted to buy into this fantasy, perhaps in the same way that you wanted to buy into the fantasies surrounding family and motherhood, but I just couldn't - it was too repellent, it deflected too much of what I value through the most voracious neoliberalism. And, on a final note, I'm not sure I agree with the Depression-era escapist lineage. I actually sensed that the film was invoking a screwball lineage more than a Depression lineage - and, while the screwball comedy is of course a more or less direct response to the Depression, the second film cited (The Talk Of The Town, with Cary Grant and Jean Arthur) is a quite late screwball comedy (1942), and deals with a very different set of issues from, say, It Happened One Night. Of course, I'm not expecting a particularly nuanced series of references from a film like SATC2 - that would be ludicrous - but my sense of what was happening, citationally, was that the film was modelling itself, roughly, on the screwball comedy, in a flat, historicital, camp register, rather than drawing a particularly strong analogy between 1920s and 2000s depressions. Many of the same preoccupations, generically, were there - a retreat from urbanism, a preoccupation with the publishing industry, and the connections between spoken and written language (and their common denominator in a kind of mechanised, omniscient tongue), a delight in claustrophobic cacaphony, a particular investment in strong, idiosyncratic women, etc. But it seemed to me that the most critical screwball ingredient - a conflation of conversation with consummation (related, perhaps, to your concluding comments about the relative importance of female friendship and heterosexual love) - was missing, and has been missing throughout the whole series, which, in my mind, began as an attempt to co-opt Seinfeld's radical, still-influential gesture of attempting to revive the screwball conversational stance in a world in which language itself has been reified and commodified. And perhaps this is my most basic issue - I thought the film, and the series, were badly written. They're certainly stylish, well-crafted in terms of narrative, character development, topicality. But I find the screenwriting awful. Every joke is telegraphed, laboured, stilted in its supposed transgression - light years away from the delicate ingenuities and sublime wordplay of the Hollywood era it invoked. Anyway, I hope I haven't sounded too polemic - I just found your article sufficiently interesting to warrant an extended, thoughtful response.

Billy Stevenson, www.afilmcanon.com

Jodi Dean

Billy Stevenson--thanks for your thoughtful comment.

I won't defend the screenwriting. I first starting watching the show when I was living in Vienna--the German dubbing was easy enough for me to understand, a sure marker that no sublime wordplay was involved. Carrie's attempts at jokes and puns are particularly grating.

I'm glad you mentioned the title of Cary Grant film--I haven't seen Talk of the Town, and so couldn't place it. Your analysis of analogy with screwball comedies is compelling.

On the Indian butler: my initial point didn't involve rupturing the fantasy but rather whether or not the film relied on unexamined privilege. I don't think the privilege was unexamined; it remained privilege and the fantasy didn't start to breakdown until Samantha's (and Carrie's to an extent) sexuality got in the way (of Islamic norms, US marital expectations).

I'm not sure I get what you mean when you refer to the incongruous grafting of an ethical system onto neoliberalism. This is probably because I don't think that liberal feminism relies on a misogynist conception of women. I think the misogyny is creeping in from the reviewers/from some sense that it is acceptable to mock and denigrate middle aged women. Liberalism and neoliberalism both rely on the idea that cultural differences are not absolute. These differences can aid the movement of capital, becoming new things to buy or places to experience. From this perspective, what is to be opposed are limits to freedom. Liberation is to be able to do what one pleases (so, no difference between sexual liberation and economic globalization).

It doesn't make sense to me to say that criticizing either neoliberalism or feminism is unthinkable. The left criticizes neoliberalism and the right criticizes feminism. Feminists also criticize feminism, but this kind of feminist engagement with this film has not been prominent. Instead, what we've been getting is an odd, amorphous gesture to affective colonialism (that negates real histories of colonialism, denies the impact of real economic global elites in the Middle East, expects god knows what from a capitalist extravaganza like SATC 2, and seems to harbor an odd species of cultural determinism that defends restrictions on women's freedom as long as those restrictions are 'non -Western').


Jodi - I think perhaps you underestimate how repulsive, grotesque and overbearing the film's worship of class and privilege was. It wasn't just the usual Hollywood ideological topos. It made the film genuinely offensive and unwatchable. Moreover, I'm baffled as to how Marxist critics can reconcile this factor with their enjoyment of the film. That's what I meant about repression. I don't think it can be dismissed as too obvious to deserve attention or merely harmless fantasy (fantasy doesn't necessarily legitimate enjoyment) - particularly when you credit the film for its realist take at the same time. As you mentioned, 'liberating' capital is continuous with 'liberating' feminism. I don't think the film's feminism can be addressed without also confronting how overwhelmingly it is assimilated in capitalist terms. Of course, there is a 'truth' to ideology as you mention, but without an examination of its context you may as well just be pushing the ideology yourself.

Whether or not misogeny is justified as a response to this conflation is a controversial area I'll admit. But I do think a misogynist response explicates the film's own latent misogyny by actually identifying with it. I also note here Zizek's observation that anti-immigration views held by the working class should primarily be recognised as a distorted and spontaneous response to globalised liberal capital (of course, I'm not advocating anti-immigration views either).

(Incidentally, film critic Mark Kermode has a good rant on the class aspects of the film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHeQeHstrsc).

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo