Is Mike magic only to women?
By excluding half of the population people seem to think that they’ve gotten free passes to objectify, ridicule and crack terrible sex jokes that they normally wouldn’t dream of doing.
It’s the kind of humor that doesn’t make me cry with laughter, but rather whinge with embarrassment. I’m never sure of who is most humiliated – the guys on the stage (it’s always guys if it’s a “ladies night”) or the audience, but I’m leaning towards the latter. Overly excited drunk women screaming hysterically at the sight of a bare breasted guy make me feel utterly ashamed.
Approaching with caution
Coming from this you could say that I approached Magic Mike with caution. A movie about male stripping with the ex model and dancer Channing Tatum in one of the leading roles, didn’t that sound very much like a night for the ladies?
On the other hand it was made by Steven Soderbergh, who is a director that I have full confidence in. Over the years he has jumped into a wide arrange of genres, and he always seems to get it right, so chances were that he’d make something good out of the male stripping as well. Besides I had gotten a free prescreening ticket, so there wasn’t much to lose.
There is this thing about expectations: they always turn out to be wrong. There’s nothing that can kill the experience of a movie as efficiently as to go into it with really high expectations Prometheus, anyone? Too good marketing for its own good I’d say. The movies that I’m skeptic about on the other hand usually surprise me in a good way. Like Magic Mike did.
Actually there’s very little to be surprised about. When the film started, introducing the young Adam who arrives at a city without job and money and then gets introduced to the world of male stripping by the veteran Mike, I could make a fair guess about how the lives of those guys would develop, how their happiness curve would look and what kind of difficulties they’d get through, and it turned out that I was quite right. We’ve seen this story told a hundred times before.
But what did surprise me was how much I enjoyed the strip and dance routines. They looked pretty much professional, far away from the charming, a little awkward dance they did in The Full Monty (one of my favorite British comedies, so despite my denials about you might suspect that I have a bit of a fling for male strip dancing.)
It’s impressive, not the least the performance by the 43 year old Matthew McConaughey. Either he’s got a talent for this or he must have worked his ass off to get in shape and learn the routines. In any case he’s pretty amazing. As is Channing Tatum, but that was more to be expected.
Not just for women
The question is: is this movie only for women? Judging from some reactions I got when I mentioned it on Twitter, people seem to assume this. But I would say no.
I guess if you’re someone with very low self esteem or if you’re so insecure in your maleness that you never could hug a guy or freak out every time you see a man wearing string thongs, you’re probably not ready for it. But if that isn’t an issue, I can’t see why this movie shouldn’t be as enjoyable for a male audience.
If anything you could accuse Magic Mike to offer very little for women apart from the strip numbers. I’m honestly not even sure it would pass the Bechdel test. In the end this is the story about men who are out on a discovery trip, going through some rough events and getting out on the other side. The women are only there as an audience, as the voice of reason or as objects for desire.
However I don’t think the other women who attended the prescreening gave a crap about Bechdel tests. They liked to see half naked men dancing and they didn’t make any secret of it. For the excited cry-outs and clapping you would almost have thought we were attending a live show.
And I? Well, I didn’t join in the screaming and shouting. I might have if I had been in a group of friends on a night out, especially after a drink or two. But I wasn’t appalled or ashamed on behalf of the audience or on behalf of the strippers. Somehow it balances pretty well, neither glorifying nor ridiculing the men who make a living strip dancing.
I was entertained and a little moved and I’d happily recommend Magic Mike to anyone, provided you don’t hate watching dancing on the screen.
Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh, US, 2012) My rating: 4/5