by Kiersten Hallie Krum
You’d have to live under a rock not to know that Magic Mike XXL, the male stripper movie sequel, got a full release over the 4th of July holiday weekend. I kinda can’t believe I just typed “male stripper movie sequel” but there you go. Happy Independence Day, America!
Delighted as I am to watch hot guys take off their clothes, somehow male stripper reviews leave me mostly meh. I laughed myself silly from one end of Magic Mike to the other, but I’m pretty sure that’s not for the reasons Steven Soderbergh and the rest would prefer. Honestly, if I want a dry hump from an oiled up, male hottie, I can just as easily get one on a club dance floor with a loaded look and a hip shot. It’s not exactly hard. (Heh.)
But there’s something about a male revenue that makes me feel as though some of the women patrons are the butt of a joke for which only the dancers know they’re being set up. Like in the first Magic Mike movie, when Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) lifts up an enthusiastic, overweight woman and promptly throws his back out. Geddit? Because heavy women are too large to pick up in a pseudo romantic gesture even when they’re paying for it. Hilarious, right? If that was real life, chances are that woman went home, crawled into half a gallon of cookie dough ice cream, and didn’t come out of her room for a month out of mortification.
I wrote about the reverse power dynamic of male versus female strip clubs when I posted about ManServants, the service by which women can rent a man to…do things for them. “We want to empower women to define what’s sexy and make their own rules,” they claim.
Thing is, that’s what Magic Mike XXL wants to do too, or at least that’s what this BuzzFeed piece, “‘Magic Mike XXL’ Gets Off On Getting You Off,” opines. (Cue the Halestorm earworm.) It in, writer Anne Helen Petersen claims that the movie “understands the narrative structure of female desire in the way few films do.”
Magic Mike XXL thus conceives of pleasure, and eroticism, as a force with many vectors. Most media represents desire almost exclusively as something that occurs between traditionally attractive, straight, appropriately sculpted white people under the age of 37, yet XXL shows it passing between races, between body sizes, between ages. Black women, middle-aged women, plus-size women, young women: We see all of them aroused. Sometimes they’re frenzied; other times they’re bashful. But in the spaces of the film, just like the space of the cinema in which the film is screened, that appetite isn’t just normalized, but encouraged.
As the guys go on a road trip to a stripper competition in Myrtle Beach, “at each stop, they learn and/or demonstrate a new understanding of female desire,” until they finally conclude at the competition where they display “a series of performances that turn on basically every component of the straight female body.”
Well now. How ’bout that?
Like the ManServants, the men of Magic Mike are looking to the women they entertain to define what’s sexy, what they most desire, and then they work to give it to them. It’s not a man’s idea of performing some firefighter clichéd idea of What Women What while really just inflating his own substantial…ego. Instead, it’s a major media motion picture where a group of hyper studs are actively working to understand what women really want.
It reminds me of The Privilege of a Woman’s Pleasure, romance scholar Jodi McAlister’s assertion that romance novels are concerned not only with fulfilling the heroine’s emotional journey, but just as much with satisfying the emotional journey of the female readers for whom romance novels are written. Not to give them a fantasy of some idealized relationship that can never survive the light of day in real life, but rather to take them on an emotional journey to which they can relate, be it in the romantic relationship or otherwise, and in so doing, fulfill a true need. According to Peterson, the men of Magic Mike are searching out that emotional fulfillment on a sexual level and approach their acts as “male entertainers” with priority first set on fulfilling that emotional need. Not carting that before mentioned heavy woman up into some gyrating facsimile of what they think she’s supposed to want, but rather actually seeking how best to make her genuinely feel wanted.
Dayam. Sign me up for the next showing.
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