CineMathematics or CinemaThematics. Your choice

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sexism v Racism

I haven't seen much of Sex and the City; I caught a few episodes with my flat's feminist in England. I thought its use of voice-over was much better used than in a show like Grey's Anatomy. By placing each episode within the framework of Carrie Bradshaw's column, the writers found a way to center the episode on a certain theme without it feeling overly contrived. We view things from Carrie's perspective, so she picks what to include or exclude from her column, and so what we see. I have nothing against the show. If I were channel surfing, I would gladly settle for it, though I would never actively seek it out.

I haven't seen the Sex and the City movie, nor do I plan to in the foreseeable future. Though they had little effect on me, the reviews, combined with the expected large box office gross, raised an important question: Does this film deserve its success? At first glance, the answer is a resounding no. But we must also look at the broader cultural context into which this film is being released. I don't think of myself as a feminist, but I do believe that there should be more films about women and for women, if not for everyone. Looking at the releases of the past months, only Baby Mama stands out as something with a female name attached as something more than the love interest or victim. This is a film made for an underserved portion of the audience, and there should be more. In order for there to be more, we need more films like this and Baby Mama to succeed at the box office. Therein lies the dilemma presented whenever a film like Little Miss Sunshine breaks out for indie film: Is it a good thing for indie film (or films starring women in this case) if a bad one manages to become a big success?

Before you answer this, consider an additional dimension to this problem. One of the first things I read about the film was that they had cast Jennifer Hudson in her first post-Oscar role as Sarah Jessica Parker's personal assistant. This strikes me as simply wrong. In the midst of this glorious ode to feminism (I'm not going into the politics of the show. Armond has done enough in that regard) sits the ultimate symbol of the racial divide in the city and this country: a black woman practically a slave to a white woman who is obsessed with shoes. If we're talking about gender equality with a film about four women, then we need to talk about racial equality and typecasting the only prominent black woman in the movie as a personal assistant.

Given this summer's lineup, I would be inclined to give Sex and the City the benefit of the doubt. We have no films between now and The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2 coming out in August that feature a woman as the main attraction (where is the original entertainment? But that's a whole other rant). Should we settle for mediocre product simply because it is centered on female characters? Buying a ticket suggests I am comfortable with more bad movies about white women and don't mind the casual racism apparent from the advertising. Not buying a ticket indicates that I don't care if Hollywood doesn't give us another female oriented film for months. What is a boy to do?



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