This is Om’bak. One day we will write an About US section, but that requires us to know exactly what we are. Om’bak is a work in progress and we will allow it to evolve. For the moment we are a bunch of women living in Jakarta (demographic likely to change) blogging about what concerns us.
This is the first post:
I would introduce myself, but a collective blog is an attempt to escape the ego. Nevertheless, I will start most sentences with “I”. I feel the pressure of being the first to post a blog, but as the first day of blogging is almost over and the blog remains empty, pressure dissipates and it is time to get some words up. Already, I am starting bad habits.
Here is a story that Angela and I wrote together about Sex and the City: The Movie for The Jakarta Post (July 6, 2008). Don’t be fooled by the “I”. You will meet Ange on Wednesday.
Happy endings come at a high price
Jemise Anning and Angela Dewan
I often had trouble deciding whether the TV series Sex and the City was feminist, anti-feminist or if indeed it needed to be one or the other.
On the one hand, the show depicted four independent women who talked openly about sex in great detail, a once taboo act for women. The show addressed realistic problems (some more realistic than others) faced by the modern-day city girl. Carrie would present these issues with a question at the beginning of each episode — Do men prefer women less successful than them? Is monogamy realistic?
On the other hand, the show depicts women as superficial shopaholics whose lives revolve around their dates, one-night stands and relationships with men.
There is, however, no question about the new film, Sex and the City: The Movie.
The film’s major flaw is not its lack of plot or even its lack of character development, which was to be expected — but rather its depiction of women.
As a woman, I found the film insulting. All that the six-year TV series had accomplished was destroyed in a mere 142 minutes.
Women are portrayed as two-dimensional, with their only interests being men and materialism. Similar to the TV series, it opens with a voice-over from Carrie: “Women come to New York for the two Ls — labels and love.”
The film starts off with a cheap stereotype, which is carried on throughout.
It seems in New York people are not only looking for love, they are looking for marriage and stability, and at any cost.
In the film, Carrie is weak and sidesteps any conflict between her and her man, Mr. Big. She is afraid of causing a stir and afraid of instability, or life without a man.
The film centers on the wedding between Carrie and Mr. Big. They decide to get married because it seems like the right thing to do, in the interest of finances and stability. It is an engagement devoid of romance.
Early on in the film, Big leaves Carrie and her multi-thousand-dollar Vivienne Westwood dress at the altar. She then spends the majority of the film wallowing in self-pity. Compared to this wallowing the resolution is quick and straight to the point. All is forgiven after a set of plagiarized love letters. And then comes the twist; Carrie, it seems, could actually be to blame for their falling out.
In the end, she compromises her values, friendship and dignity for a man who calls her “kid” and “young lady”. The power imbalance between the two is, unfortunately, palpable.
And while the movie revolves around Carrie, the other three women — Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda — have equally undignified subplots.
In the TV series the three women were very strong characters, from the sexually promiscuous Samantha to the traditional Charlotte and the cynical Miranda. They were uncompromising within their own individual set of morals. In the movie these characteristics are diluted, and at times the characters, except for perhaps Charlotte, go against their values as displayed in the TV show.
Samantha becomes fat to the dismay of her friends, although it is difficult to see the alleged bulging belly. Charlotte, who is the brunt of some unsavory toilet humor, stops her daily running routine because she is pregnant. And Miranda, distraught by her own relationship problems, doesn’t satisfy her man enough and is a suggested reason for Big’s inability to turn show up on the big day.
Added to the mix is Louise, Carrie’s new assistant, from St. Louis with an obsession for Louis Vuitton and love.
Consumerism was always a part of the TV series. But over-priced designer goods came with social consequences, ethical dilemmas and at times, realistically, debt. In the film, there are no such consequences as Carrie shops big and spends big.
At the beginning of the film, Big and Carrie buy a penthouse apartment in the Big Apple. The apartment is airy and has ample room. Daylight streams through the large windows. It is “heaven” and close to perfection save for one major design flaw: the size of the closet. Without a walk-in wardrobe where is our petite, fashionable protagonist supposed to house her numerous clothes, shoes and accessories?
When Big unveils her walk-in wardrobe, bigger than most New York apartments, Carrie gasps and declares her love. Love and labels are intertwined, and women, therefore, are shallow.
Where in the TV series the four main women had successful careers — Samantha was a successful PR agent, Miranda a partner at a law firm, Charlotte a successful art dealer and Carrie a columnist of a major metropolitan daily — the trials and tribulations of the workplace play an almost nonexistent role. This helps to reinforce the two-dimensional stereotype of women.
The women screeched and squawked every time they greeted each other, and I shuffled in my seat, cringing and lamenting the loss of four great characters.
Perhaps the problem is in the format; after the book, Sex and the City was only ever meant to be a TV show. In the TV series the women did not persevere through bad relationships and did not put up with the arrogance or ignorance of their partners. The format required them to move on, and with each new episode there was a new conundrum. The playing field was even.
But with the desire to have a happy ending in the movie, Carrie becomes feeble. Carrie must live happily ever after in the arms of one man even if that means forgoing her dignity and the dignity of women alike.