A while back, when asked about the unprecedented success of "Mamma Mia!", Meryl Streep stated: "I knew it would do well because it was aimed at an audience that has been neglected in recent years in film offerings: women".
What follows may contain a great many sweeping generalisations akin to Meryl the Peril's claim.
Let us think about the phrase "chick-flick" for a moment. It sounds like a derogatory term; conjuring images of sappy, romantic cliches and happily-ever-after platitudes. Chicks don't want complex, challenging, thought-provoking cinema, do they?
To suggest, as Streep did, that Mamma Mia gave women what they wanted from cinema is a huge insult to the female populace. Women want insipid romance, flat karaoke versions of songs they know and the overall ambiance and emotional resonance of a drunken hen night?
But, of course, Mamma Mia is just a bit of fluff. Escapist entertainment. Not to be taken seriously.
Currently on release, "Sex and the City 2" is attempting to reach the same crowd, ploughing a similar furrow of "female-oriented" escapist entertainment. This film mainly consists of over-privileged, middle-aged white women suffering from man-trouble and blithering on about clothes and shoes and such. It's the cinematic equivalent of an aspirational magazine. People can watch it and go "I wish I had those shoes! I wish I had that man on me! I wish that was my life!". There's no real drama, these characters drift through their lives (and the film) with their heads crammed firmly up their arses and pretty much nothing ever changes for them. It's like watching a shopping channel for 140 minutes.
But surely, there is a "male" equivalent to these aspirational flights of fancy? "Dick-flicks"? An industry of gun-fights, car-chases, super-heroes, giant robots and explosions? Isn't that the masculine parallel? Boys and their toys?
So what is it that I personally find so reprehensible about the state of "female-oriented" popular cinema, whilst I can easily be entertained by a superficial action film? A common argument against the male judgement of "SATC" is that we are "intimidated" by a group of strong women living their lives independently; doing things their way in a world where men will always be sidelined by the more important relationships between women themselves.
Now, I'm sure there are certain corners of this patriarchal society where blokes are going "What are those "Sex and the City" girls doing out of the kitchen!?", but I don't think my personal issue is really to do with the sex of the characters at all. It's more to do with the fact that these characters, regardless of their gender, are lionised to the status of icons simply for having lots of money, wearing nice clothes and getting a lot of sex.
It's interesting to attempt to draw parallels with "dick-flick" characters - or male characters in general - and the leads of "SATC". The honest-to-god nearest example of such a superficial male character is Patrick Bateman. Bateman lives in New York, is obsessed with designer labels and accessories, likes to drink in the hippest bars, is independently wealthy and successful and has a casual and cavalier attitude to sex.
He's also (probably) a serial killer and exists to satirise the emotional detachment and downright loss of humanity that goes hand in hand with his vacuous lifestyle. He is not a character to be admired.
The most admirable masculine answer to the "SATC" ladies is obviously James Bond. A man who enjoys the finer things in life, something of a snob when it comes to clothes, food and drink, sees any hole as a goal, he is precisely the kind of chauvinistic dinosaur that the "SATC" crew are attempting to reflect on. But the motherfucker saves the world on a regular basis. What's Carrie Bradshaw's excuse?
Bond may be a complete wanker, and the films often portray him as such, but he has a strong, wilful morality underneath it all, and is continually putting himself in harm's way for the greater good. Even when he does bad things, it's usually with good reason and to people who deserve it.
You look at James Bond and say, "That guy's an arrogant, superficial dickhead but, boy, can he save the world and kill bad guys and stuff!".
You look at Carrie Bradshaw and say "That girl's an arrogant, superficial dickhead but, boy, that's a nice handbag!".
"Dick-flicks", juvenile and simplistic though they often may be, usually concern some sort of variation on the good/evil conflict, with a central character who must do the right thing, not just to benefit himself; but others as well. According to hollywood; men get their escapism by vicariously saving the world or kicking arse in the name of righteousness, whilst women aspire to having a nice apartment and the latest shoes and some good friends to bitch about men with.
To quote a recent "dick-flick": "thousands of people wanna be Paris Hilton and nobody wants to be Spider man?".
And, I think, therein lies my issue with "chick-flicks" such as "SATC": I see nothing admirable to aspire to in them, beyond the superficial and often selfish pursuit of self-gratification. I mean, even "Transformers" managed to squeeze a selfless "no sacrifice, no victory" message in amongst the pretty special-effects.
Oh, and there is a male version of "Sex and the City". It's called "Swingers" and spends the majority of its runtime pointing out how flawed, insecure, deluded, arrogant and pathetic it's characters are.
P.S. Doesn't this look like the outfit that Ace Ventura wears when he's pretending to be insane in order to gain entrance to a mental institute: