The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Is Mike magic only to women?

with 10 comments

I’ve always found the idea of “one-gender-only” nights appalling.

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.

Few surprises
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

Written by Jessica

August 13, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Magic Mike

10 Responses

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  1. “All of Nothing” — I’m assuming you’re talking about The Full Monty? 😉 And yes, hysterical and screaming women have tendency to evoke feelings of deep, deep shame…


    August 13, 2012 at 8:23 am

    • Thanks! My error. I always do that thing. I think it might be that they for some strange reason named The Full Monty “Allt eller inget” in Swedish – which means “All or nothing”. It goes by default.


      August 13, 2012 at 8:46 am

  2. I love this Jessica. I haven’t seen this film, it kinda scares me… I am too fat old and hairy and want to keep my wife away from seeing how inferior I am… but as you like it so, maybe I should give it a go!!

    • Don’t worry. I don’t think it gloryfies the world of male stripping. In the end you leave the cinema pretty happy leading a normal middle-class life. (I guess anything else would be surprising considering it’s aiming for a pretty wide audience.) Bring your wife and go for it! As I said the dancing numbers are impressive and there’s a bit of thoughtfulness there as well.


      August 13, 2012 at 10:47 am

  3. […] A writer I respect greatly, Jessica from The Velvet Cafe has given Magic Mike a big thumbs up…… […]

  4. Great post, Jessica! I’m glad that in the hands of Soderbergh this film went beyond the world that inspired it and became a proper movie, not just an excuse to show ripped men dancing.


    August 14, 2012 at 8:03 am

    • Thanks Fernando! It’s definitely a proper movie and not just about dancing, even though it was the dancing that made my jaw drop.


      August 14, 2012 at 8:06 am

  5. Awesome article! I think some movies may be more for women and some more for men but there are always exceptions in the group – I’m sure many guys enjoyed Magic Mike and many women enjoy action films such as Die Hard for example. It’s just a matter of taste on what we find entertaining and the quality of the movie most of all. I really can’t wait to see this one, I heard McConaughey is sensational.


    August 17, 2012 at 12:23 am

    • Thanks! He’s sensational indeed. I really think you should try to see this one if you get the chance.


      August 17, 2012 at 3:11 pm

  6. […] Magic Mike The Full Monty remains my favourite movie about male strip dancing, but I still had a lot of fun in the company with Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey, who surprised me with their dancing skills. […]

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