R.I.P. "Sex and the City" 1998-2010?

by BILLY GRAY · June 1, 2010

    Sex and the City 2 made less money over its five-day holiday opening weekend than the original movie did in three. While hardly an outright bomb, the disappointing gross raises the possibility that Carrie Bradshaw and friends may never grace the screen, big or small, again.

    At least, audiences might be deprived of, or spared, new puns and overpriced shoes since premium and basic cable channels will continue to air the series and its spin-off films. And although it's too early to write an obituary, here's what led to the probable death of the franchise:

    Critics: SATC 2 received roundly scathing reviews.  According to Rotten Tomatoes, a mere 16% of critics filed positive reviews. The original movie adaptation, never exactly an Oscar front runner itself, still managed a 49% approval rating.

    Fatigue: Even the best TV shows tend to sputter out around season five or six. Note that the ratings for the series finales of Lost and 24 last week didn't hold a candle to earlier peaks. Producing compelling, fresh content week after week is a tall order and, as is usually the case, Sex and the City had become a little too comfortable in its rhythms and tics even before New Line decided to suck the teet dry with the first film in 2008. When you admit that movies based on TV series often play like highlight reels, you realize that the SATC movies wouldn't revive the product, but dilute it even more.

    Age (of participants and viewers): What audience did SATC 2 hope to reach? Women who, like the cast, are hitting menopause probably don't want to see a movie that reminds them they're hitting menopause. And younger, single audiences who could relate to the gals on the show through frozen-in-time DVD box sets are likely less interested in frustrated discussions about motherhood, marriage and, well, menopause, then in hungover brunches spent recounting last night's roll in the hay. Since women comprised 90% of the opening weekend audience, any discussion of men is unnecessary.

    The Great Recession: The first SATC came out in the summer of 2008. But even before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, people griped about its already-anachronistic materialism and wanton glorification of all things luxe. You'd think producers (including Sarah Jessica Parker) would have taken note of the brewing backlash and been more sensitive in the sequel. Instead, Samantha Jones (Kim Catrall) proposes the broads "go somewhere rich!" and, one private plane ride later, they're frolicking in the desert outside Abu Dhabi in $50,000 gowns. How...timely.

    Sex in another city: Whether the movie is a gritty contemporary war saga (The Hurt Locker, Green Zone), a bloated sword & sandals epic (Prince of Persia, which faltered at the box office alongside SATC 2) or just a $2,000 sandals epic (SATC 2), American audiences these days have limited interest in movies set in the Middle East. SATC 2 might not have gone for The Hurt Locker's topicality, but included a "political statement" in which Muslim women rip off their burkas to reveal sparkly designer dresses underneath. Believe it or not, this didn't have viewers beating down the theater doors. At least not to enter the theater.

    Now, how about a defense of SATC 2? As one Deadline commenter, "Don't Act Like Prince of Persia Is Any Better," pointed out, "places like Rotten Tomatoes are 75% men, most of the nerdboy variety.  They’ll praise male genre dreg like Crank and Kick Ass and violently tear down female genre films." Is misogyny to blame for the backlash?

    Maybe not, when you consider one of the most widely circulated reviews came from a woman named Lindy West on The Stranger. She wasn't so crazy about the film:

    "SATC2 takes everything that I hold dear as a woman and as a human—working hard, contributing to society, not being an entitled cunt like it's my job—and rapes it to death with a stiletto that costs more than my car. It is 146 minutes long, which means that I entered the theater in the bloom of youth and emerged with a family of field mice living in my long, white mustache. This is an entirely inappropriate length for what is essentially a home video of gay men playing with giant Barbie dolls."

    On the bright side, if the...lukewarm reception of SATC 2 lays the series to rest in a well-appointed, if somewhat gaudy, grave, Jessica Parker and crew will at least be spared the Sex and the City: The Hospice Years cracks that would inevitably accompany a third entry.

    Photos via EVGrieve