After seeing 'Magic Mike,' one writer wonders if women have fallen into a cultural trap.
OK, I'll admit it. I was one of the thousands of women that flocked to theaters across the country to see Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh's latest film starring Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum as male strippers.
It debuted the weekend before last, coming in number two at the box office, and earning a little over $39 million, which isn't surprising, considering the amount of hype surrounding its release. There were racy advertisements, promising both McConaughey and Tatum would be scantily-clad throughout to tease women's sexual fantasies, and juicy blog posts stating that "Wanton female lust [was] expected to erupt like a lava-spewing volcano at movie theaters around the country." 5 Reasons We're Excited To See The Stripper Movie "Magic Mike"
And perhaps it did in certain moments, but there was also much more to the film than errupting female lust.
Quite simply, Magic Mike wasn't what I expected it to be, and brought up questions that gave way to a higher level of thinking than marketers gave their audience credit for. After viewing the film, I was left with a few major cultural conclusions.
The first of which? Attractive men dancing around in Speedos, flexing their muscles, and swirling their hips is much cheesier than it is sexy. In addition, the classic "central love story" fed to a predominantly-female audience was predictable and unnecessary. And lastly? Channing Tatum has an amazing body. But does it really need to be one hundred percent hairless? Exclusive! Channing Tatum On Magic Mike: "Every Dance Ends Naked"
But, really. On a more serious note.
The plotline had multiple layers, and was much deeper than expected. Out of the many themes explored in Magic Mike—themes, such as, capitalism, gender roles, and sexual ethics—the most compelling of all was an exploration of what it means to be liberated. How does our society define liberation? How do we obtain it?
These questions are referenced most overtly in a scene featuring Matthew McConaughey, the greasy strip club owner, and Alex Pettyfer, who plays the supporting role of a novice, young stripper. In this scene, McConaughey, clad in Speedos and a yellow spandex tank top, instructs his newest protégé on the art and glory of male stripping.
Both men stand, facing their reflections in the mirror. The young apprentice gyrates his hips and mentally conjures his mojo, while McConaughey is directly behind him, speaking words of encouragement and inspiration. "You're not just stripping," he tells him, "you are fulfilling every woman's wildest fantasies... You are the one night stand, that free fling of a f*** they get to have with you tonight, on stage, and still get to go home to their hubby and not get in trouble because you made it legal. You are their liberation." 10 Things to Know to Be Sexually Savvy
All I can say after watching that scene, is that if a nearly naked 19-year-old kid is truly our liberation, then I think we're all in a lot of trouble. And if we take this definition of liberty seriously, then perhaps we're in even more trouble because what he actually argues is this:
Illicit sexual encounters = liberation
Fulfilling your every sexual fantasy = liberation
And if some of us never engage in either of those things, does it mean that our lives are then lacking in some fundamental form of liberty? Read on...
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