The Times, 25 May 2010

Index on Censorship Blog

So, before we go any further, I need to admit that the second Sex and the City movie isn't for me. This is not, I should explain, because I operate on a higher moral or social plane than girls who like dramas about girls who like shoes. I simply operate in a different plane: I like shoes, but not enough to watch a whole programme about them, let alone a film. But when Sex and the City used to be on TV, I watched it, if I was home. The last film, however, left me thoroughly baffled, as the smart-mouthed women of the TV show now seemed to care more about white weddings than any rational person should. I dislike weddings. And white clothes. So the last film wasn’t for me; the new one, also not for me.

Yet it is an accepted truth that all women must care about a Sex and the City movie, unless they have given up on womanhood altogether. Every newspaper has articles about it - will it be good, should we care, how old is Kim Cattrall now? And the Times ran a piece at the weekend, which featured a couple of paragraphs from Dhaffer L’Abidine, who stars in the new film. She begins by saying, 'They're really strict, on the legal side, about the information I can give out, but all I can say is that in the film I am the reason why they go to the Middle East. I can't say anything more.'

Which reminded me that I have seen this formulation a lot, recently. It seems increasingly common for a film or TV company to prohibit anyone involved in a forthcoming production from giving anything away. Which I am largely in favour of - one of the things I like least about the internet is how hard it has made it to be surprised anymore. Even if you see preview screenings of films, it's difficult to go in as a completely blank slate.

And the secrecy - or censorship - is often used, I suspect, to try and prevent an audience becoming weary of something before it's even in the cinemas or on TV. The more popular the show, the more difficult it is to keep quiet. Neil Gaiman posted a picture of himself with Steven Moffat on Twitter this week. A hand carefully obscured the title of the Doctor Who episode he has written, which will air in 2011. If Bob Quick had had that kind of foresight, he might not have had to quit his job last year, after inadvertently revealing his secret anti-terror documents to the world's media.

But I think things may now have spun out of control. With all due respect to the Sex and the City storyliners, I think it is fair to suggest that literally no-one is waiting for the movie because of an expected riveting plot. They are waiting for it because they want to see what Sarah Jessica Parker wears near a camel. So HBO Films can really calm down on the secrecy.