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Oh Really?

Male Actors of Magic Mike Struggle With Objectification, Personal Appearance, and Body Hair


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.)

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  • Anonymous

    I watched the trailer and I think that the entire film could be summed into the Flight of Conchord’s song “You don’t have to be a prostitute” (well sub stripper for prostitute) 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3omQikQYmgY

    It would be more interesting if Hollywood could do a story about sex work that isn’t sex negative 

  • Terence Ng

    ‘…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. ’

    It’s not a complete falsity. But it shouldn’t be treated as sole truth.

  • Anonymous

    I was lucky enough to see a free screening of Magic Mike last week. Social commentary and analysis be damned, this was the definition of twerk team. The audience was screaming and crying, I thought underwear was going to be thrown.

    I consider myself to be on the progressive side in matters concerning sexual equality, but when Channing Tatum strips(twerks) to “Pony” by Ginuwine all higher brain functions cease and the hind brain takes over.

    Ladies and gents, let’s just appreciate the summer of objectifying men (who knows when it will happen again) and thank Joss Whedon and Steven Soderbergh.

  • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com AngryBroomstick

    I can’t wait to see it.

  • Anonymous

    It’s empowering in the same way it is for men; being sexually confident, knowing what you want and getting what you want is great. The empowerment that women are taught they have is in satisfying other people’s sexual desires, by either looking or acting what’s narrowly defined as sexy, not in how satisfied they are with their sex life. Which unfortunately confuses some into thinking that being cat-called, groped, and other sexual harassment are forms of “compliments.” I suppose my point here is that being objectified takes away your ability to have any empowerment associated with owning sexuality, because you’re no longer your own person, you’re lost in someone else’s fantasy, and that’s an important distinction to make lest more writers/artists use this excuse to continue to objectify their women characters.

  • Xandra Dust

    I’m not really into movies that are rated R (usually a lot of sex scenes and swearing, which I can get on HBO), but this sounds really interesting. It’s got a nice switch so I might try seeing it.

  • Anonymous

     Y’know, I’d been pretty “meh” about this, but I might be in need of exactly this sort of hind brain entertainment. Have to take a look at my schedule, now.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KGPKSBUXJSIFIGY4NHYRSG27DM Shania

    AMEN!!! A Toast to Female Heroes and Male Stock Characters!!!

  • Anonymous

    Basically that Hollywood uses this as an excuse to exploit women and then convince them that they’re actually empowered. 

  • Sparky Darkness

    kn

  • Terence Ng

    Exactly. Important distinctions to make when bringing the topic up.

  • http://twitter.com/literatewench literatewench

    I don’t think any other blog on the face of the planet could make me actually consider not avoiding this movie like a plague-infested rabid warthog on meth. 

  • Anonymous

    We love you too.

  • Babs Carlton

    Does he actually twerk? Because stripping and twerking are different things and I’ve never seen a white man twerk before. 

  • Terence Ng

    Tatum knows how to twerk. And you also need to go to a gay club some time. Plenty of white guys twerking.

  • http://www.wordflow.webs.com/ Invisible_Jester89

    Mmhm… Eheh… *stares at picture and drools*

    I-I mean, objectification of male strippers is a great theme for a film! ^^” It’s always interesting when gender norms are flipped and played with. It’s what makes gender-bent fanfic a thing, and what makes films like this one an interesting comment on gender equality.

    There, now can I get back to objectifying the men in that photo? Yes? Okay, well if you insist… <3_<3