Starring Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, and Olivia Munn
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Andy Richter, in an episode of the Conan O’Brien show, had a valid criticism on Magic Mike – where’s the gay content? One of the actors playing a male stripper, Matt Bomer, is gay, but 100 of the characters ogling him are women. But then again this is not a club within a main street in a large city with an equally large gay population that is most likely to be the target audiences of Club Xquisite. This is a smaller city – Tampa, Florida – and a healthy Google and yelp search would show where the movie’s leading actor and script consultant Channing Tatum, playing the titular Mike, did his stripping in what which looks like a ‘ladies night’ kind of venue. And men who I assume are straight have no problem going to the venue a day before or fifteen minutes before ladies night.
Then again we’re wired to assume that all (sexual) gaze is male and all money (for sexual purposes) is male. However, as we can see, hordes of tiara-wearing bachelorettes are willing to offer their hard earned dollar bills to these men. The movie subverts the gender expectations of who provides for whom not only in a sexual way but also in a fraternal way. Fellow Tampa resident Brooke (Cody Horn) lets her brother Adam (Alex Pettyfer, in a scarily accurate performance as a young bearded American slacker) sleep on her couch before he eventually becomes Mike’s protegee.
But let’s go back to the sexual notions. After Brooke shows moral support for Adam at his new job, she almost leaves until she gets glued to Mike performing to a Ginuwine song, dancing until his oversized thick hoodie and equally oversized sweatpants come off to reveal a svelte body. Horn pulls a great performance in this scene, her stoicism lets us, her audience, project layers of emotion and gender assumptions onto her. She’s disgusted, thinks this is beneath her, is eventually turned on yet almost doesn’t allow herself that same voyeurism that other women in the room are experiencing.
Magic Mike celebrates Tatum’s body as well as providing a critique that most moviegoers only see Tatum – and other men maligned as troglodytes – as a body. Most of the routines involve him as the titular Mike slinking towards the young women in Xquisite. One of the said routines is the Ginuwine routine, dancing to a song that’s as universally deemed as sexy as he is. His hoodie and sweatpants can’t hide what’s underneath. It’s the way he carries himself, Tatum fleshing out a virtuoso performance as himself.
But this quality of letting people know what he looks like naked even if he’s fully clothed might not be such a good thing. A scene in the movie’s second half opens with the camera looking over Mike’s uber-muscular shoulder, dressed in an expensive suit that looks like it got shrunk in its temporary stay at the dry cleaners. He takes out a big stack of American bills and gets ready for a meeting with someone who might be able to give him a loan for his furniture business. What ensues, despite the meeting’s early promise, is a less sadistic but equally heartbreaking version the Aileen Wuornos’ job interview scene in Monster. He can’t have a loan because his credit rating is too low, if not nonexistent, because he prefers to do his transactions through cash. I felt like admonishing him across the screen, but then again he might not have gone to a college where credit companies peddle themselves to the students, or that his job stops him from being approved to get credit.
Mike can get his iPhone and his house through cash but not a loan to expand his business, and he has to choose between staying with the comfortable life that he has now or forging a more legitimate path, as difficult as it is. This movie, despite its flaws, capably portrays the hurdles within a well-deconstructed and criticized notion of the American dream as well as showing us what Joe Manganiello’s penis looks like inside a pump.