I've never got into watching Sex and the City - I don't think I've actually seen any of the TV episodes. I did watch the first movie a few years ago, but wasn't impressed. When the second movie came out and was supposedly set in Abu Dhabi I wanted to watch it just to see how the Arab/Muslim/Middle East themes had been dealt with. But as I didn't expect to enjoy it I certainly didn't want to pay full price for it.
A couple of weeks ago I found the DVD in a supermarket for £2.99 and so bought it. I was right not to pay full price and right that I wasn't likely to enjoy it. In fact it actually feels like I've wasted over two hours of my life watching it, but I have to remind myself that the reason I wanted to see it wasn't to spend a relaxing evening watching an enjoyable film but instead was to have my academic head on and critique it. So I suppose I'm glad I've seen it.
The movie was actually filmed in Morocco as the producers couldn't get permission to film in Abu Dhabi or anywhere else in the UAE. No wonder. All the stereotypes are there: opulent hotels, sand dunes and camels, mysogynistic men and beautiful houseboys, women in abayas and niqabs with designer clothes underneath, religious fervour regarding sexuality and the showing of female flesh, and so on and so on. The storyline is very weak (I'm not sure there really is one) and the bits of 'story' seem to be there just to provide a link between the stereotypes.
But maybe I'm being too harsh and this blatant demonstration of stereotypes is actual a good thing, as a lot of the Middle East including the Gulf is like this and so the film is showing that a holiday here is not the same as a holiday in the Med or the Caribbean and therefore you shouldn't expect to act in the way you would in either of these locations or at home. It's also more of a reflection on Americans than on Arabs or Muslims as it pictures the New Yorkers arriving having done no research and having no idea as to how to behave or dress in an acceptable manner and assuming that it would be fine to blunder on in their usual manner. Well, ok, one of the women had done some research and she tried to educate the others, but these snippets seemed mainly to be for the purpose of setting the scene for what would later go wrong and for keeping the viewer up to speed as to why things were a problem for the girls. This is an assumption that viewers are uneducated in such matters and need them pointing out, which I suppose is justified on the whole.
So maybe I shouldn't be so critical of the film, after all they haven't actually depicted anthing 'wrong' and if it encourages future visitors to think a bit more about cultural sensitivity before choosing to go there then that can't be a bad thing. I do wish they'd shown more of the positives to balance it out a bit though.