Magic Mike XXL

Last night I had some hours to kill in an unfamilar city, waiting between travel connections, so headed for my usual refuge. Unfortunately for various reasons involving long queues, short timescales, limited screenings and no 3D glasses I had to make a quick decision and ended up watching Magic Mike XXL. A turn of events that in retrospect I am not entirely happy with. Perhaps I’d have been better off settling down with my book in the corner of that boisterous sports bar after all.-

There are clearly plenty of films that make life little bit better and plenty more with no lasting benefits whatsoever but it is quite rare that a movie will actually have an adverse effect. There is no escaping it though, I was a happier man before I’d seen Magic Mike XXL. I’m sure I’ll get over it but today I am feeling a little bit dirty.

It isn’t that I am a prude, at least I hope not. I thought the first Magic Mike film was actually fairly good so it isn’t just because it was about strippers, or even that it was about male strippers. The issue is that it wasn’t really about anything else. Gone is the characterisation from the original movie, gone is the drama and gone is Matthew McConaughey. What we are left with is a lot of baying women, a lot of naked torsos and a lot of bumping and grinding held together by a very weak story and script. 

Clearly if the genders were reversed and the film featured little more than crowds of men, whooping and throwing dollar bills at skantily clad women as they gyrated and thrust their nether regions then the film would be considered horribly sexist. This way round though the set up somehow appears to be more respectable which doesn’t really make sense. Certainly no one seems to think Channing Tatum’s career has suddenly taken a desperate turn even though one of his last movies was Foxcatcher (maybe because his last movie was actually Jupiter Ascending) and I’ve not read any articles from masculinist writers decrying the film for its unfair treatment of men. Nonetheless guys are objectified in this film in a way that massively outweighs the way the women are presented, which again, if it were the other way round would be a problem.

I’m not suggesting this is double standards. Certainly the concerns about the way women are portrayed in films are built on decades of inequality in both society and in cinema so it is right that we shouldn’t be getting our boxers in a twist about one or two films that treat men like sexual objects. I don’t even think the film is chauvinist as chauvinism by definition holds up one gender as superior to the other and that isn’t the case here. MMXL clearly holds both men and women in very high regard. The females are all precious queens to be adored and celebrated and the males are all adonises. Age and physique doesn’t even matter that much either, everyone is seems can spread joy be it through complimenting others, dancing, singing or engaging in promiscuous sex. Everyone is empowered, everyone is having fun on their own terms and everyone’s a winner. Seriously, there is more conflict in an episode of Peppa Pig than you’ll see here. Mind you, Peppa Pig doesn’t feature men in thongs rubbing their groins in people faces either. (Not unless I missed that episode. Daddy Pig does fancy himself a bit of a dancer.)

I accept I’m not the target audience, and clearly I’ve not been able to put myself in their mindset, but the reason I really didn’t like Magic Mike XXL is that in the end it needed to be less seedy and more fun. This balance that is achieved perfectly in similarly themed films such as Mrs Henderson Presents and indeed the first Magic Mike proves elusive here. It is more Showgirls than it is The Full Monty. 

The Ripley Factor: 

As suggested, the gender politics are somehow okay. There are four main women in the film; Jada Pinkett Smith as the new MC (MC here standing for McConaughey), Amber Heard Depp as the aspirational young photographer who’s trying to stay off the pole, Andie MacDowell as the rich divorcée and Elizabeth Banks as exactly the same character she plays in Pitch Perfect. They are all go getting women to one extent or another. For me though the star of the film is an actor called Lindsey Moser who plays a cashier in a Mini Mart. She was the only person in the whole film that I felt was even marginally relatable.

Is this one for the kids.

The film is rated 15 but if I had a 15 year old son or daughter I wouldn’t want them watching it. Maybe I am a prude.


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