Magic Mike: Objectification is Cool Again

Before I start reviewing the actual movie I feel I need to discuss the promotion for Magic Mike. I have written many a feminist essay about double standards and the unfair treatment of women, but in this case I think the double standard is being unfair to men. Imagine if a movie were being released with a bevy of beautiful women who spent a majority of their screen time with little to no clothes on. And imagine that this isn’t some direct to DVD soft core porn with little to no plot, but a well-rounded, expertly told story, beautifully shot by a well-known and respected director. Now imagine that when these actresses went on talk shows to promote said film and all the hosts can talk about is how good these ladies look naked. Not even talk, but rave and gush as if they haven’t seen the opposite sex naked in three years. Imagine if this movie had to have special midnight showings because men were so amped up for it that they felt the need to attend in groups; to shout and cheer every time one of the lovely ladies gyrated on the stage or simply walked by in her underwear.

Can’t imagine that? That’s because it wouldn’t happen. As soon as any talk show host started behaving that way towards a female actress they would be labeled sexist and have to spend weeks making public apologies to women everywhere. These women lining up for Magic Mike wouldn’t even let their husbands back in the house if they behaved that way with a female stripper movie. Women have spent decades complaining about being objectified by men and then one little male stripper movie comes out and women are losing their minds. Now I’m all for a little eye candy and if it comes in the form of well-built men all oiled up and grinding in women’s faces, all the better, but ladies, it’s a just a movie. In the showing I was in one lady actually cheered at the opening scene as a naked Channing Tatum climbed out of bed. I’m all for women embracing their sexuality, but perhaps what these women need is a trip to an actual strip club.

Of course now that I have said all that I can’t really talk about the dancing without being a hypocrite, so everything everyone else has said about it? Yes. But really Magic Mike is so much more than its dance scenes, most of which have already been shown in the previews anyway. At its heart Magic Mike is the story of a man flailing, trying to figure out his life and become the man he has always seen himself as. There just happens to be a little bit more dry humping on that journey than most people encounter.

The worst part of this marketing campaign is that it is discouraging men from seeing the film when I think they would enjoy it just as much. Men are clearly the focus of the film and I’m sure there are many men out there who can identify with the struggle of giving up an endless party in pursuit of something real.

Steven Soderbergh is a masterful storyteller and the whole movie feels like it’s been laying out in the Florida sun all day for that laid back, bleached out feel of a perfect summer movie. The performances are also spot on. Channing Tatum, whose previous career as a stripper helped form the basis of the movie, is as charming as ever and proves that if he is given the material, he can be a pretty decent actor. Matthew McConaughey steals every scene he’s in, as I expected he would. All the guys are really excellent, though their parts are much smaller than the promotion would have you believe. The only weak spot was Alex Pettyfer as Adam, the young kid getting lured into the lifestyle. He mostly just wanders around without showing any emotion besides smugness, which I guess worked for the character, but that was mostly a lucky coincidence.

I strongly recommend Magic Mike, but only if you’re actually looking for a summer movie with a moving story. If you’re just interested in seeing men take off their clothes, there are probably better options. Because this is simply a touching story injected with just the right amount of humor and lightness. And the naked men are just an added bonus.

– Devin Mainville

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