Sex and the City 2 and the Scholastic tradition of Thomas Aquinas
The picture is The Abduction of Psyche, by Bouguereau.
My girlfriend has been a bit unter druck lately (as have I, for different reasons), so I have been cooking and being entertaining and so forth, to at least the extent that a fat old man can be. I did quite a nice porcini risotto and southern fried chicken the other night, though I do say so myself.
Anyhow, thought I, how does one help the sophisticated modern Korean woman to slum it? When she suggested a trip to 'Sex and the City Two' (me having seen the various series and the previous film, not wholly against my will) I thought, well, why not?. The Premier chairs at the Odeon in Putney aren't bad, no one will be there, and provided I nod at the right moments, don't choke on the credit-fuelled sentiment, and buy toffee popcorn rather than a couple of big hot dogs with mustard and tomato sauce, what can go wrong?
Etienne Gilson and Leo XIII had, no doubt (as such men do) a great deal to answer for. One of the things that they proclaimed, as Alan Fimister's great book on Robert Schuman reminded me last year, was that a decent civil order was inconceivable without Christianity, and specifically without the Church. Oddly enough, it is possible to read the idea in a republican way; after all, St Thomas, Bellarmine and others have all argued that the most decent civil order, because it is the most realisable, is a state that balances various forms of government with the people as the source of God's authority but the law, the government, and the oligarchies as a check on the human elements that might lead to badness.
Sex and the City 2 seems determined to argue the opposite--to construct a completely godless, binding, but semi-relativistic ethical code for living based on indulgence, narcissim, the body, and a huge amount of pretend money that very very few watching could ever really have. It's also oddly solipsistic, rather than racist, with every non-American character forced into some mad nineteenth century plastic identity. Where on earth was the accent of the braless nanny from, I asked myself very briefly, before remembering to look at the popcorn. In those moments when I realised that people would watch this sort of thing and take their cue from it--since it seemed to act, twitter like, as a fount of one-liners as much as anything else--it was as if Reggie-Marie Garrigou-Lagrange worked in vain.
This was one of the many thoughts that I had whilst necking far too much of the exploded, sugared bounty of the Prairies. The film was faintly annoying wallpaper, though it was well plotted. America has clearly fallen into some sort of timewarp somewhere between 480-520AD and 1783-7. Perhaps, as the world cools, we are aping the onset of the two previous little ice ages--maybe something magnetic happens to our brains. Birds go South, and why shouldn't we? If we did, would the chemical soup of a woman's brain react more or less slowly than the testosterone-addled mind of a man?
Sarah-Jessica Parker's confection manages to be late Roman, corrupt, trivial, and so stupid it actually inspires intellectual questions. It's as though H.L.Mencken's Warren Harding--characterised by vast legions of prose bloviating over the landscape in search of meaning--had actually been distilled into a sort of aneurysm fluid. It's gnostic, in a way. Everyone in the film worships the body whilst claiming that they are something more and separate inside, as though they belonged to some Marcionite or Arian sex heresy.
That was just me being pretentious. By this point, I was downing a bucket of diet pepsi and thinking about making a paella later.
The film seems to attempt to follow a feminist and late-republican agenda in American life, and rests on a set of somewhat relativist, finance-soaked ethics that have absolutely nothing to do with religion, and tedious drolerie. It namechecks (in order) gay 'weddings' (and I don't know how Liza Minelli was photoshopped to get into those positions), arrested development, ingrained sexism in the workplace, the terror of the menopause, the need for escape from the economy, the medievalism of the levant, and the misogyny of conservative Muslims seeking only to suppress women who wish to wear the creations of sundry homosexualists of Mediterranean extraction.
It wasn't hard to smile at the right, telegraphed moments, and I did. The film is rather enjoyable escapism, but its the tedious middlebrow stupidity of it that makes me wonder. It seems to know that it is not as good a diversion as the last depression produced--Philadephia Story it isnt--partly because Chris Noth ('Mr Big') references Cary Grant so much. But he lumbers, where Grant danced, and he knows it. SJP even makes him take away the TV screen in the bedroom where he planned to watch old screwball comedies, as though the writers sense it too.
It's difficult to imagine any of the four women, bar the formerly obnoxious Miranda, making it anywhere near the screen seventy years ago, and I mean that as a comment on their acting. Really, imagine what Ida Lupino could have done with Samantha's essentially transexual old boiler, and Kirsten whatsherface can't make up her mind if she is a pastiche of Lauren Bacall, and Audrey Hepburn or just some National Lampoon version of a preppy tart.
Julie Nixon* is the only one of the TV crew who seems to have grown into something remotely sympathetic, which is odd, because she plays her role in the style of an annoying postgraduate lawyer in an Ivy League hothouse. I have experience of such women, who tend to reach for the empowering bourgeois self-pity that androphobic feminism is even more often than handmade sweets and lentil curries. Now that she has calmed down a bit, she's developing a fit with Angela Lansbury. I'd still avoid her uncomfortable, annoyed silences when she worked out that a) I wasn't a middle class liberal and b) I wasn't digging her driveway, by, well, looking, though.
Sex and the City Two pushed me beyond--mir_rovecha, my korean phrase of the day--Gilson into Maritain and Leo. Some theologians, the present Pope amongst them, believe that the Church is not just right, but more right than other systems. That is to say, the Church is given by God the deposit of the faith, the past exegetical and theological patrimony of the Christian tradition, but also embodies the Platonic truths of God to which it has been exposed. In their eyes, others may be less right but on the right track; other ethical systems may allow things to tick along. Other systems could, therefore be systems of morality, if more wrong.
That laid out in SATC2 won't. It is not only empty, it is not only tired, but it beautifully exists as one side of the sort of Dionysian, look-at-me coin that flips over into Suicide bombers. It has even less of a future than paper money. In the face of this stuff, I felt like Charles Maurras, which is not a comfortable place to be since he was, obviously, a big old far right nutcase.
I did like the New York tune at the start of the film, and the way the opening credits slipped between John Hughes' Cathedral, Al Smith's folly, and the Chrysler building made me smile.
I can't wait for The A-Team, which obviously I will visit alone.
*I realise that I meant 'Cynthia Nixon', not Julie Nixon there. But, well, there isn't a part of my mental lake that the late President isn't lurking beneath sometimes. I think that there is something Lacanian to the whole deal.