The "Magic Mike" Complex: Why Can't a Straight Guy Like a Movie About Male Strippers?

The "Magic Mike" Complex: Why Can't a Straight Guy Like a Movie About Male Strippers?
Together, with Mr. Soderbergh as their guide, Tatum and McConaughey elevate Magic Mike beyond lightweight fluff and into excellence. The fact that droves of excited women packed the nearest multiplexes this summer to hoot and holler as Tatum bumps and grinds to Ginuwine's "Pony," or Manganiello humps one enviable gal while wearing only a fireman's hat and suspenders, shouldn't take away from that excellence. It's the reason why my friends have tirelessly mocked me for the last three months for watching, and subsequently recommending, Magic Mike. Little do they know, of course, that Soderbergh stages the stripteases as tongue-in-cheek comedy sequences, not overcooked seductions a la Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls. When Manganiello's character, cheekily named Big Dick Richie, attempts to hoist a potbellied woman in the air, he struggles to do so, and the look on his face screams, "Call a tow truck and a chiropractor, stat!"

Speaking of Big Dick Richie, kudos to Magic Mike screenwriter Reid Carolin for having the shameless gall to use such an audacious name. While talking to friends after seeing the movie, I was shocked at how matter-of-factly I cited Manganiello's on-screen moniker. "Oh, and then there's Big Dick Richie," I'd say, with enthusiasm, "and he has some of the funniest scenes." You'd think I'd instead say, "Big-D Richie," like a Caucasian replacing the N-word with "ninja." My comfort with acknowledging Richie's large member should be directly credited to the filmmakers for disarming the character's overt sexuality. The scene in which he manually enlarges his joint with a pump is played for laughs, and, once you get over the initial surprise, it's a hoot.

Another thing that my pals don't realize is that Tatum and his fellow actors exude a natural camaraderie and easygoing chemistry, captured through several wonderfully executed moments of backstage banter and pre-dance rituals. It's difficult for a movie to have any completely likable characters—Magic Mike has at least seven. So what if they just so happen to spend the bulk of the film's running time in minimal attire? Whenever they're on stage, the film's manly movers and shakers may be strutting their disrobed stuff, but they are fully aware that what they're doing is totally ridiculous. It's all part of a show that makes the women happy. Ultimately, the characters, and, concurrently, the actors themselves, are not ashamed of it.

 
Whenever they're on stage, the film's manly movers and shakers may be strutting their disrobed stuff, but they are fully aware that what they're doing is totally ridiculous. It's all part of a show that makes the women happy.
 

The same goes for Tatum, McConaughey, Soderbergh, and everyone else involved with Magic Mike—all of whom have openly discussed how much fun the shoot was, and how proud they are of the finished product. In Entertainment Weekly's Magic Mike roundtable cover story, Tatum reflected on the shoot: "Actors, generally, if we finish our scenes early one day, we go home. Especially during the dances—we were there cheering everybody on." It's easy to see why.

Fellas, take a look at the women whom sirs Tatum and McConaughey lie in bed with every night when they're not on a movie set: Jenna Dewan Tatum and Camila Alves. If dudes who can pull chicks that fiercely hot aren't embarrassed by Magic Mike, why should any guys who hook up with fours and fives at local watering holes have a problem? If anything, this flick should be used as a motivational tool. The accompanying sales pitch: "Take notes, fellas, and maybe one day you, too, can get a girl who resembles Jenna Dewan Tatum."

Those same male friends of mine—the ones who'll no doubt chastise me for writing this piece in the first place—will never understand what makes Soderbergh's film so uniquely memorable until they get over their insecurities, sit down with attention undivided, and watch Magic Mike for themselves. Sadly that won't happen anytime soon. Not as long as Channing Tatum and company grace the DVD and Blu-ray fronts with their abdominals on blast. They much prefer Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman's quote on the cover of my The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) DVD, the one that reads, "Would have the Marquis de Sade gagging into his popcorn… Could be the sickest B-movie ever made." And just wait until they hear about the naked chicks in that movie! So what if they're on their knees not for pleasure but because that makes it easier for their mouths to be surgically grafted onto another lady's derriere? As long as there's no dudes in birthday suits mounting chairs in the background, it's all good—right?

This weekend, as I watch Magic Mike alone, at home, appreciating its many cinematic strengths, I'll imagine a world in which all hetero guys are able to find the rich humor in Big Dick Richie and his penis pump. Or the sight of Matthew McConaughey rocking a spandex belly shirt and coaching a dancing newbie in a touchy-feely, slightly grab-ass fashion. And in this dreamland, I could buy a DVD at Best Buy and not feel like I'm sitting front row at a Chris Rock stand-up show wearing an "I Love Mitt Romney" T-shirt.

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Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

Tags: magic-mike, steven-soderbergh, channing-tatum, matthew-mcconaughey, strippers
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