Magic Mike - An Honorary SSL Review
Well, Magic Mike is not technically eligible for an SSL review. There are actually no depictions of female sexual response in this movie for me to critique. However, I felt like I should say something about it since it's kind of a milestone for female fantasy and desire in the media. So I decided to say 5 things.
1. First off, I'd like to defend the large amount of females whose reaction to this movie was disappointment, either with the quality or because there was too much plot, too little strippin'. I've been seeing more and more critics who seem to trivialize those feelings, and I've been feeling a tinge of annoyance about it.
Now, I may be reading into this too much, but I get a small feeling that maybe a lot of critics don't know how to process this movie and women's reactions to it. First off, most critics out there are men, and women are coming from a place that men could not possibly understand. We have been bombarded our whole lives with movies that have men as the dynamic leads and women (the people we most easily identify with in a movie) as cliche'd decoration. Yes, of course, there are exceptions to this but not nearly, nearly enough, and we really do crave something different - even if some of us don't quite know how to verbalize that feeling. Secondly, this movie's got a novel, exciting energy specifically because of the male stripping parts - which does give it a leg up over other movies full of the same ol' same ol', but a male hetero critic saying he liked that aspect but not the plot might feel too weird to some (but I'm sure not all) critics. Thirdly, maybe critics, as critics tend to do, just wanted to differentiate themselves from what the lay-viewers have been saying. Unfortunately most of the critics are men and the lay-viewers are women, so even though this is what critics do, it feels just a little more annoying for me to hear critics poo-pooing average people's reactions. Then on the other hand, there's just a lot of Soderbergh worship out there, and probably some critics just don't want to hear the complaints because they simply couldn't bear to not LOVE his work.
So, let me elaborate more about why I think women's disappointment and the "more man stripping, less plot" attitude is perfectly legit.
Because we would have loved to have seen a movie that was funny, light, and showed a lot of skin and sexy movin' from some hot dudes - which doesn't seem too much to hope for given that funny movies that gratuitously add in female nudity are a staple of Hollywood...we just wanted one movie of our own like that, just one. You should forgive our small disappointment.
Because honestly, the plot wasn't that good. It was a cliche dark-side-of-stripping/romance movie with some questionable acting, editing of that acting, and plot points. Oh yeah critics, I said it. I truly believe that if the movie had a really great plot (plus having Tatum's body), we would have LOVED it beyond belief. We're not movie idiots. We have some taste, and generally we know when something ain't so great.
I'm just gonna say it again. The plot and the overall acting was mediocre at best. I mean come on, are you telling me that Brooke's crying fit over her brother at the end was anything less than hilarious when it was supposed to be dramatic? And really, we're supposed to feel bad for Mike that he can't get a loan to start his business when his business is making furniture from stuff that rolls on shore in front of his beach house...and he already has $10,000 dollars in cash ready to invest? $10,000! How about you use your $10,000 to make some of them fancy tables and put them on Ebay or sell on consignment. There's your business, Mike. Quit whining and start stripping (I mean honestly, why did he quit? It was great pay. How about you just stop partying so hard and instead work on your table making while you continue to rake in the stripper money till you're too old or your furniture business pays off). I have plenty of other complaints about the movie which I'd be happy to elaborate on if you ask, but these are just the easiest pickin's. My point is we ladies have valid reasons for being disappointing with this movie, and I think the powers that make movies should take an earnest listen.
2. This movie gives me hope that those in power may begin to realize that catering to hetero female fantasy and desire could be appreciated and profitable. Almost every straight woman I know saw this movie. Wild ones, silly ones, atheist and religious ones, professional ones, uptight ones, married and single, ones that don't get out much, and ones that do. They all were interested in this movie so they could look at Tatum and McConaughey's skin (or probably also because some of their friends were going, and they wanted to hang out).
I say this because there is a long standing line of thinking within the science community and the culture at large that goes something like this: if women were actually interested in seeing naked men/objectified men/female fantasy inspired sex scenes then there would already be a market for it. This type of thinking assumes that since there isn't already a large market for objectifying men on-screen (they way there is for women), then that in itself proves women aren't interested in that kind of stuff like men are supposed to be.
That's just ridiculous though, people. There are still women alive who were born into a world where women weren't allowed to vote. It's hard to argue that times have change so completely that women and men are now actually playing on an equal field when it comes to influencing our media. I mean, really, this lack of a media market for female fantasy couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that women only direct about 7% of Hollywood movies and hold only about 16% of key roles in the the top 250 movies like producers and directors (2010 stats)? Or that women only made up 14% of writers in the top 250 films of 2011? And , really, it also couldn't have anything to do with all the cultural influences that make it harder, stranger, and socially more risky for a woman to overtly engage in or praise media that sexually objectifies men?
All that said, I'd say it's hard to argue that the current state of our media proves that women just don't want to see men the way men want to see women. Yet this is a common line of discussion. The interest and delight I saw from the women while they were watching these men strip certainly tells a different story, and I suspect that as women become more comfortable in their subjective sexuality and as more women gain decision making roles in Hollywood, we'll be seeing more hot man skin on the big screen - which just might begin to balance out the types of depictions we see of women vs. men.
3. Ladies, make your men go with you to see this. Men expect their women to go to clearly male centered movies with them ALL THE TIME (I mean most of the movie out there are just that, right), and we don't say shit because we're used to living in a world that specifically caters to male fantasies and desires - particularly in our media. Well, this is a movie women want to see, and although it does, for once, cater to some aspects of female desire and fantasy, it is also a movie perfectly acceptable, if not fun, for a man to see. (In fact I would argue that most of the movie is actually geared specifically towards men.) He has no sensible reason to tell you no. If you have to look at an insanely large number of sexually alluring, unnaturally beautiful, under dressed women on magazines, tv, movies, billboards, then he can watch some sexy men stripping for a couple hours. That wouldn't even come close to the amount you have to look at in a day. Tell him to get the hell over it. It's just a flippin' movie. It won't turn him gay or psychologically hurt him. That this is still an issue is telling, very telling. My point is - we need to start expecting men to engage in media focusing on female fantasy/desire within our culture in the same way we unquestionably expect that from women. If we don't start expecting more from men then nothing will ever change.
4. Channing Tatum can move that fine body, and I enjoyed that for real.
5. Matthew McConaughey has a tiny, tiny little butt. We only saw it once, when he pulled the fabric from over his butt cheeks to make ass-less chaps, and I'll tell ya, it was surprising. It was more like seeing the butt of a tiny child getting out of the bathtub than a grown man's. I had no idea.