SAUNDERS: Four very beautiful ugly Americans
June 2, 2010
I am rarely accused of being overly sensitive to other cultures, and I’ve had my share of disagreement with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Yet even I was offended at the decision to center the plot of “Sex and the City 2” on an all-expenses-paid vacations to Abu Dhabi for New York’s famed four best friends. The sequel’s racy material was considered so objectionable that the Islamic emirate wouldn’t let filmmakers work there, so the crew had to shoot in Morocco.
The setup is just plain irritating. The four iconic New York friends – 40-something and 50-something Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte – are supposed to be smart survivors who thrive in a scratch-your-way-to-the-top world. They are too old not to understand the notion of hospitality and the corresponding responsibility of visitors to behave as respectful guests.
They should understand that you don’t trot around an Islamic nation flashing leg and baring cleavage with a Cosmo in hand. You don’t engage in foreplay in a public restaurant in front of frowning locals. And by the way, the most effective way to show solidarity with one’s sisters in the Middle East should not be wearing short shorts at the souk.
Wikipedia describes the epithet Ugly American as the term for “loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless and ethnocentric behavior of American citizens mainly abroad.” “SATC2” – as the trades call it – has a new message: It’s OK to be an Ugly American – if you’re beautiful.
The universal expression “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” apparently does not apply if you are chic and from Manhattan.
As the United Arab Emirates has opened its doors to international tourism, there have been news stories about the clash of Western women, barhopping men and sharia law. In 2008, a British couple was arrested in Dubai for drunkenness and having sex on a public beach.
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The “SATC” sequel’s plot seems, as they say, ripped from that headline and then topped with a feminist rant.
As an American woman, I have many issues with countries that make their women cover their bodies and also limit their legal rights and movement. But when you are a guest in a country, you should show respect for the customs of your hosts, whether you agree with them or not.
As an HBO series, “Sex and the City” never was a particularly tasteful show. The series’ emotional glue was supposed to be the special bond between four single women, but their true love clearly was for conspicuous consumption. As a movie, their materialism befits the big screen. Watching “SATC2” was like watching a very stylish fashion catalog for two and a half – yes, two and a half – hours.
Everything looked great – starting with the same-sex wedding in an adorable Connecticut venue jazzed up with a decked-out men’s chorus in a ceremony presided over by Liza Minnelli. But then, every “SATC” location has to shout “Filthy Rich.” Otherwise, it’s not special.
In that spirit, the sequel ends with no Carrie Bradshaw revelation about how disrespectful it was for the ladies to think that their designer clothes gave them carte blanche to misbehave in other people’s homeland. It ends with the series’ great sanitizer – jewelry.
E-mail the Tribune’s Wednesday columnist Debra J. Saunders at email@example.com.