Magic Mike is not a movie that’s been pinging very loudly on my radar, and so it wasn’t really until today that I figured out what it’s all about: Channing Tatum as a veteran male stripper tutoring a younger guy (while dating said young guy’s sister) and deciding that though the work certainly gives him an ego boost he no longer finds it very fulfilling to be appreciated for his physical qualities: it hard to find his own self worth off the stage.
And that’s pretty interesting, as we don’t get a lot of serious depictions in our media of male characters who have made careers out of their looks alone, much less time spent on the personal struggles such a character might have with being in that position, like having to be encouraged by a female significant other (often it’s the other way around) to remember that they have other qualities that they could build a life on. (In the titular Mike’s case, he makes custom furniture). The loose woman who’s shown to be incomplete emotionally because she encourages men to objectify her and must be rescued by a loving man is a practically ancient story. According to director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Reid Carolin, that sort of gender flip was what interested them in making the movie in the first place, and between them and Matthew McConaughey, Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Joe Manganiello and Matt Bomer, who play the movie’s male stripper characters, that process has been kind of revelatory.
From The Washington Post:
“In movies, generally if there’s a female role in it, generally, a large part of the time, her power comes from her sexuality, and that has done something weird in society where women think their power is their sex, that their sexuality that is empowering them to be strong women, and that a complete falsity,” Tatum said.
“For this (film), the women are the ones that are smart and have careers and are making good decisions for themselves, and the guys are the ones that are objectified and deriving power from sexuality,” Carolin said. “That makes them behave very flamboyantly and confidently, but they don’t have any real fulfillment out of that, and there’s this struggle to feel like they’re worth something outside of that.”
Of course, the question is, how prominent will these themes be in the movie? The trailer has a lot of Mike wisecracking about his situation, which, in context, could be framed either as bravado supported by the rest of the events of the movie… or as a brittle defense he’s set up to make himself feel like he’s still personally connected to his job. As for the actors, who were actually doing the stripping in order to get the movie made… they did have some complaints. Like waxing.
“I don’t know what movie could make me do that again,” Tatum said.
“One time is enough for me,” echoed McConaughey…
“Oh my god, I don’t know how women shave,” Pettyfer said, adding that his skin was irritated for weeks.
Talk to some cosplayers, guys.
(via The Washington Post.)