A trove of more than 90 thousand documents released by the self-proclaimed whistle-blower WikiLeaks offers a grim picture of the latest US foray into the Middle East – one that senior White House officials knew would likely end in failure: Sex and the City 2.
The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from June 1998 through May 2010 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the successful 2004 completion of the popular television series, producers refused to give up on the Sex and the City franchise even while opposition to it increased exponentially with the 2008 release of the first Sex and the City movie.
Sex and the City 2, released in May 2010, brings to the screen the now familiar gal-pals, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda, who are flown on an all-expenses paid trip to Abu Dhabi by an Arab sheikh. Culture clashes ensue.
“Frankly, since the movie was already a critical failure back in May, we thought we dodged a bullet,” said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject. “The fact that WikiLeaks released these documents means someone simply wants to embarrass Warner Brothers, HBO, and the White House.”
The reports — some spare summaries and others more detailed narratives — shed light on some elements of the Sex and the City 2 production that pointed toward almost certain failure:
- Grossly oversimplified stereotypes would be inflicted upon civilians not just in US movie theaters, but around the world.
“The bitch, the slut, the princess, and the everywoman – forming a circle of friendship unlikely to sustain itself in real life -– these are stereotypes that might have had some traction in the late 90’s, but are long since past their sell-by date,” said one report.
- Those stereotypes would only be amplified in a Middle Eastern setting.
“Of course they have to ride camels,” said one classified document. “Of course most Muslim men are portrayed as thugs, while Muslim women are all simply closeted Manhattanites.”
- Obscene displays of conspicuous consumption far outweighed concerns related to narrative flow, plot development and character growth.
“This is what happens when power is taken out of the hands of the American movie-goer and put into the hands of those who benefit from product placement,” said another secret document. “It’s the rise of the fashion-industrial complex.”
The hugely popular Sex and the City television series starred Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis and Kim Cattrall - all hailed for their portrayals of modern women in a post-feminist landscape.
The series, which ran from 1998 until 2004, was nominated for 50 Emmy awards, winning seven times. The Sex and the City movie, released in 2008 – and focusing on the married lives of the characters - faced lackluster reviews.
While not directly involved in the production of Sex and the City 2, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says President Obama “is owning up to the responsibility” of what the US “foisted” upon its allies, the emirate of Abu Dhabi (UAE), where major segments of the film are set, and Morocco – where the movie was actually shot.
“These documents simply highlight what the President has been saying since the campaign,” Mr. Gibbs said in a White House briefing. “Not every superhero, not every theme park ride, and not every tv series needs to be made into a film – or a sequel.”