My husband and I were sitting in a movie theater enjoying the previews when my eyes were assaulted by a gyrating Matthew McConaughey in front of screaming cougars and bachelorettes.
It’s not that I have anything against mostly naked men, in fact I’m a big fan, but the idea of filling a feature film with them and what seemed, from the preview, a very weak plot, was pretty annoying. I’d feel the same way about a film about female strippers that didn’t seem to have a point aside from displaying bodies.
Then I heard Steven Soderbergh had directed the film Magic Mike, and felt some intrigue. Soderbergh directed Sex Lies and Videotape, Erin Brockovich, The Oceans Eleven series, and one of my favorite crime/chase/sexy-bathtub films Out of Sight. He knows how to combine sex appeal with great visuals and intriguing plots. So I started to rethink…
I asked my husband if he wanted to see the movie with me tonight and he declined (not surprised). I said, “what if it’s great, like Boogie Nights, where there are a lot of bodies but a bigger, universal message about objectification and coming-of-age?”
“Unlikely,” was his reply.
Here’s the thing, I’m what you call a sex-positive feminist, but I do like to look at how we use bodies to sell things. Just because I believe that sex and sexuality are awesome, that porn can be a great tool and a lot of fun, and that the ability to discuss sex and sexuality liberates us, doesn’t mean that it’s always done in a way that advances us as humans.
From everything I’ve read, Magic Mike is an epic failure. I read at least ten reviews and one was worse than the other. Two reviewers (both women) walked out. Boston.com‘s Christy Lemire said this:
“This is a movie that’s tailor-made for groups of friends to get together and giggle and ogle at the spectacle of it all. And it is a lot of f un – there’s no shame, we’re all friends here – but it’s also more substantial than you might expect, and more mundane.”
Instead of being a film about how young men use their bodies to entertain women, and then examining the toll that takes on them (which could be feeling stereotyped or objectified, or what happens when you age and are no longer the Channing Tatum in the room and lose your identity) this film, from all reports, is just an excuse for women to go look at hot dudes.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, but do we need to make a feature film and spend multiple millions of dollars? And why would a filmmaker of this caliber put his stamp on it? What does it say about our society that male strippers have progressed from the random Vegas Chippendales show to a multi-million dollar holiday weekend opening film?
It’s all about female desire, I guess. Female desire has taken over: from Edward vs Jacob in Twilight, to 50 Shades of Grey which has all my married friends falling all over themselves, to Ryan Gosling whose image as sex symbol du jour appears in Teen Beat as well as the Feminist Ryan Gosling Tumblr and book. More advertisers are jumping on the hot guy sex symbol bandwagon, and they’re finding it works, especially if accompanied by a knowing wink.
But does the objectification matter less because the objects are men? If this were a film about women, with seemingly no deeper message, what would we be saying? Certainly we’d respond with, “we are more than just fodder for your masturbatory fantasies!” and talk about the “happy hooker” myth. We’d probably roll our eyes at the men who went to see that film, we may even call them pigs.
My question for all of you men is this: How does a film like Magic Mike affect masculinity? Is there any fallout to men as a consequence of multiple super-hot male bodies gyrating in front of screaming women? With this new trend in mainstreaming and “outing” female desire, will men be affected either negatively or positively?