July 12, 2012

MOVIES: Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh, 2012)

Here's the problem: Stripping isn't sexy. Sexy requires at least some small level of intimacy, and you can't achieve that when you're on a stage shaking your ass for a screaming audience of 50 or 60 people. And since stripping isn't sexy, Magic Mike isn't sexy. And Magic Mike is very much being sold as sexy, marketed to women as a chance to see some prime slabs of beefcake.

(And, yes, marketed to gay men, too. But they're a small slice of the movie's target audience. If gay men were enough to make a movie a hit, Showgirls would be the new Avatar.)

The movie is being sold to its audiences, in fact, in precisely the same way that the movie's strippers are being sold to their audience. So in the way the movie treats that audience, we get a strong sense of how Soderbergh and his colleagues feel about us, the folks watching this movie. And it's not pretty.

The audience at Xquisite, the strip club run by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), where Mike (Channing Tatum) is the star attraction, is portrayed as drunken sorority girls, lonely housewives who can't keep their husband's interest, and pathetic losers too ugly to get a man of their own. Most of the movie's dance sequences feature an audience member brought up onto the stage, and in one of the movie's ugliest moments, one of the strippers throws out his back trying to lift one of the women, because she's just so damn fat. (She's not a Hollywood-thin waif, certainly, but neither is she morbidly obese; she's an ordinary-sized woman.)

The audience is being told -- and by extension, we are being told -- that we are sad and pathetic losers for having come here in search of sexy, and that we are even more stupid for having expected to find it.

The story is predictable; the acting is minimal (Channing Tatum was more interesting than this in 21 Jump Street); and the level of "but they're all straight, no really, they are, we swear" defensiveness is enough to choke you. This is a sad, sleazy little movie with nothing but contempt for its audience.

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