Snobs and the City

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The SATC gals are now total brands for Michael Patrick King to puppeteer (and profit from)

By Armond White

Sex and the City 2 isn’t meant to be good; it’s meant to be TV, to further change movies into junk culture where you can’t tell one medium from the other. This includes diminishing romance, friendship, work and citizenship, thereby turning female stereotypes into gay male stereotypes. Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristen Davis) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) aren’t characters anymore; they’re brands: Aged, wizened logos that writer-director Michael Patrick King doesn’t even bother refurbishing.

Since the storytelling in Sex and the City 2 is so shallow, it’s best to look at how the movie corrupts popular ideas about modern life in Al Qaeda’s prime target. Using Alicia Keys’ solo version of “Empire State of Mind” as a musical intro gets SATC2 off to a dishonest start from which it never recovers.

Charlotte, Carrie, Samantha and Miranda: in need of refurbishment.

Starting with Carrie’s arrival in New York on June 11, 1986, King’s appropriation of “Empire State of Mind” is consistent with his TV-fable of Clinton-era egotism (the HBO series hit its stride in the late ’90s). He ignores the realities of urban living that Jay-Z lays out and Keys strives to sing past. Their moral tension makes “Empire” a sociological love-hate torch song; it recalls the radicalism of golden-era rap when hip-hop artists challenged the status quo. SATC2 doesn’t connect with viewers that way; its parade of luxury and entitlement entices viewers into cultural delusions—escapism—that hip-hop once discouraged.

Jay-Z’s song-narrative includes devastated female dreams—a model-turned-hooker story as crushing as Mulholland Drive and diametrically opposed to Sex and the City’s glibness. Its details are a culmination of Jay-Z’s struggle-records Hard Knock Life and 99 Problems, only this time trouble is seen from the upper hand. His “I’m the new Sinatra” boast is meant to convince himself of triumph and invulnerability but the self-coronation implies a kind of effort Carrie never exhibits. King pretends the opposite, proposing easy materialism and that detestable class fantasy of the white Imperium that Jay-Z and Keys together audaciously contradict.

“Empire State of Mind” updates the kind of immigrant dreams that used to be implicit in New York movies celebrating the go-getter American Dream mecca—from the 1953 How to Marry a Millionaire to Woody Allen’s 1979 Manhattan. Carrie’s opening voice-over vapidly mentions the historic purchase of Manhattan Island for $24 dollars as the fount of gentrified New York lore, but Jay-Z and Keys give their particular race-conscious spin—and it’s culturally evocative.

Keys hits her high notes like homeruns. What do Carrie and friends do? Shop. Consumerism is SATC2’s noxious substitute for personal achievement. Carrie’s confession about moving from a penthouse to a lower floor (“We may be closer to earth but we’ve kept a little bit of heaven”) merely introduces her walk-in closet. And her materialism is not a bit satirical; it’s smug. So is her marital hassling: “Am I a bitch-wife who nags you?” she asks Big. King so completely falsifies modern living he seems unaware the answer is yes. Propagandizing for greed and avarice, King doesn’t recognize that his story and heroine are obnoxious.

Although “Empire State of Mind” salutes New York hegemony, its reality proves Alicia Keys and Jay-Z redesigning and remaking the aspirational mode. Despite performing a ludicrous karaoke to “I Am Woman” (as if rousing the Abu Dhabi tourists to revolt), the SATC girls remain TV-fake. They actually represent an idiotic state of mind.


Sex and the City 2
Directed by Michael Patrick King
Runtime: 146 min.

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