The reviews are in, and Sex and the City 2 looks like the season’s biggest critical bomb. Though the film drew a decent crowd in its opening weekend, it was lambasted by critics both highbrow (“an almost avant-garde adventure in aimlessness” —Wall Street Journal) and low (“Sucks in the city” —New York Post).
But SATC2 did have one approving claque: Rightbloggers, who had never liked the sexed-up series, gave it a big thumbs-up.
Why? They weren’t impressed with the quality of the film. For one thing, most of them hadn’t seen it, and for another, rightbloggers don’t judge films on anything so frivolous as artistic standards or entertainment value.
No, they stood and cheered the unloved sequel because they heard it was conservative — or at least that it looked that way if you squinted at it right.
Readers with long memories may be surprised by this. For years conservatives were constantly telling us that Sex and the City was part of a plot to make women interested in sex, which threatened the survival of the Republic.
“The series ridicules those who commit to marriage, family life, or even knowing someone’s name before jumping in the sack with them,” gasped Marianne M. Jennings in 2000. “Conservatives should do to Sarah Jessica Parker what gays and lesbians do to Dr. Laura. Complain bitterly.” This they did: “What was I telling you just last week about Sex and the City, mass media, and the mainstreaming of dildo parties for middle-American women?” cried Rod Dreher in a typical 2003 effusion.
Colleen Carol Campbell denounced the show for spreading “the cultural myths of the miserably married and the swinging single,” thereby causing an increase in relationships “forged purely for pleasure,” which she considered a bad thing. Lisa Schiffren blamed the show for teaching people about the previously little-known practice known as “threesomes.” Etc.
Conservatives tried to use the very name Sex and the City as they had used the names Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, as crowd-rousing shorthand for liberal evil. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism, for example, promised to reveal “The top 10 worst lessons for women from Sex and the City.” But as the show proved to be more popular than Kennedy, Carter, or conservatism, they saved this sort of bashing for their inner councils, for the most part.
The first Sex and the City movie in 2008 brought what we thought would be the last rightblogger gush on the subject. Some correspondents blustered about the sex, while others found some solace in the fact that the film was at heart a romantic marriage fantasy, making it, in the words of the National Review‘s Kathryn J. Lopez, “an important cultural contribution.” By the time the sequel rolled out, we imagined both the franchise and rightblogger fascination with it would be played out.
But then it was revealed that, along with the traditional shopping and schtupping, SATC2 showed the girls on their trip to Abu Dhabi getting rowdy with sexist Arabs. Samantha was seen waving condoms and yelling about sex in a public marketplace, and they all wound up, as the The Hollywood Reporter described it, “rescued by a bunch of Muslim women who strip off their black robes to reveal the stylish Western outfits they are concealing beneath their discreet garb.”
It sounds as dumb as anything else in the franchise — but rightbloggers seized on it like a Senate special election victory. The franchise’s sex-positive attitiude, which had only disgusted them before, became a right-wing turn-on when enacted in defiance of Muslim mores.
“Is Sex and the City about to become a conservative cause celebre?” said Allahpundit. “Did Hollywood finally see at a least a sliver of the light?” asked Right Wing News. “The biggest irony, perhaps, is how will liberal feminist Sex and the City fans defend this one?” “Oh! Poor liberals!” said Ann Althouse. “Beset on all sides. Even Sex and the City has turned on them.”
The more cautious of them let their less sophisticated brethren know that this was only a conditional, War on Terror sex exemption. John Nolte of Big Hollywood threw in some sex-averse throat clearing: “You’ll never hear me argue that the Samanthas of our popular culture — women forever in search of loveless sex — are healthy role models,” he said. Yet when “Samantha waves her condoms like the flag of liberty and with the other lifts the ‘Fuck you’ finger high in the air and lets that putrid gang of Islamist thugs have it,” Nolte admitted, he “get[s] misty eyed just thinking about” it.
So touched was Nolte, he even made this surprising concession: “Anyone with the guts to take on Islamists and their apologists in the media can flack for gay marriage all he wants.” Smite the Arab dogs, and you can flack for gay marriage! (One wonders what you have to do to actually get it.)
Nolte also attacked the liberal media for attacking Sex and the City 2 on behalf of the misogynistic Arabs. What, you haven’t noticed that in the reviews? That may be because — to put it politely — this is not nearly as big a deal as Nolte finds it. One of the reviews Nolte attacked, for example, was that of The Hollywood Reporter, which actually overtly praised the “choice, politically incorrect laughs” of the Arab sequences (and was the source for the Allahpundit and Althouse items).
But never mind that: Nolte appears to have intuited that the many bad reviews SATC2 received made it eligible for the rightbloggers’ highest honor: the Victim of the Liberal Media Award. It makes sense: Readers would know that critics had dumped on the film, but they might not know why — until rightbloggers explained that it was because the media loves militant Islam and sharia law, and would defend them even against Sarah Jessica Parker and casual sex.
Thus NewsBusters picked some of the unkind mentions and declared: “Media Defend Islam from ‘Sex and the City’ Jibes … Depict Muslim culture in a negative light in a film ostensibly about feminism and female empowerment, and prepare for two big thumbs down.” Instapunk also picked this up, claiming pro-Arab sentiment was behind the film’s low Rotten Tomatoes rating, and predicting that YouTube would soon “silently kill” its clips of Absolutely Fabulous because that show, too, lacked “Sharia Correctness.” Ed Driscoll declared that “the state-run media want to do everything they can to shield America’s de facto state religion” — that is, Islam. (Say, things really have changed under Obama!)
Not all the comrades got the new talking points, though, and they whacked at the film on the traditional grounds of sexiness and city-ness. At the National Review, Kathryn Lopez warned such new-in-town virgins as might be among her readership that “Carrie and her friends from yet another Sex and the City movie have had miserable, not-so-pretty lives,” and Cassy Fiano told them, “Slutting around like Samantha on Sex and the City does not bring you love or happiness or freedom.”
And then there was Debbie Schlussel, the excitable rightblogger who was so enraged by the first SATC movie in 2008 that she published a photo of “‘Sex and the City’s’ Cynthia Nixon (Right) w/Lesbian Partner” alongside her similarly classy text. Back at the same popsicle stand dishing the same bill of fare, Schlussel hollered that the sequel “pervert[s] every wedding tradition of my religion into a gay circus,” features “the unbliss of hetero marriage the filmmakers want you to see versus the gaudy-but-pleasant love of the gays,” and other such Farberesque passages of film criticism.
Schlussel noticed the Arab bit, but was not impressed: “I wasn’t sure for whom to root — the vulgar slut or them,” she wrote. “She’s a disgusting whore, and they are vile anti-Western creatures.” Don’t get her wrong, Schlussel hates Arabs, but “this movie takes a couple of digs at Abu Dhabi and Muslims after almost two hours of glamorizing both and denigrating American women as sex-crazed nutjobs. And that’s not enough.”
Schlussel is deranged, but we’ll say this for her: Unlike some of her fellow rightbloggers, she’s very upfront about what she actually believes.