By Alexa Day
Full disclosure: I haven’t seen Magic Mike XXL.
Sure, I intend to go at some point. I’m just not excited about it.
This was not the case with the first Magic Mike. I was excited about that. I live in a conservative place that’s doing its level damnedest to pretend it isn’t conservative, so the male revue is hard to come by. My crew of conservative friends, though I’m sure they’ll deny this, hesitates to admit that they’re interested in That Sort of Thing. But ultimately, we went to one of those dinner-and-movie places and had a delightful time.
My litmus test for stories is simple. At the end of the show or the book or the movie, I ask myself if the story surprised me. Was I finishing sentences? Did I see that plot twist coming?
In short, if I know what’s going to happen next, I’m disappointed.
(This is why I’ve given up on the rom-com, by the way, but that is another story for another day.)
Even though watching hot, scantily clad dudes dancing provocatively around the big screen (or the stage, whatever) is absolutely My Sort of Thing, I’m going to need to see a story. The original Magic Mike supplied a story. From time to time, hot, scantily clad dudes talked to each other. They struggled with their off-stage goals and aspirations. They had problems. Sometimes things got a little scary. Characters surprised me and disappointed me and I found myself hoping that this one or that one would manage to survive the film without doing anything too stupid or self-destructive.
The analogy isn’t perfect, but Magic Mike worked for me the same way that Boogie Nights worked for me. Then-boyfriend and I went to Boogie Nights expecting a movie about porn and the people who make it. Two and a half hours later, we left the theater unable to listen to “Sister Christian” in the same way. I respect that. Boogie Nights is a story that doesn’t really care that people came in expecting to be titillated.
Magic Mike worked for the same reason. My crew and I came in expecting to be titillated, and we were, but we also spent part of that time tense, frustrated, curious, you name it.
Fast forward to Magic Mike XXL.
I think I started hearing that Magic Mike XXL was a “feminist stripper movie” as soon as I knew what the release date was. (Esteemed colleague and fantastic reviewer Kiersten Hallie Krum supplies her review here; be sure to check that out!) I myself tried to avoid the media coverage — remember, I like a well executed surprise. But before long, I started hearing from any number of media outlets, in essence, that this was the stripper movie I wanted. You know, as a woman.
Well, that’s a problem. See, I thought I already had the stripper movie I wanted. As a woman.
Magic Mike XXL, so far as I can tell, is about Cute Boyz Doing Stuff Girls Like. They’re super sweet! They, like, ask questions and stuff! They’re really interested in women’s lives! And women tell them what to do and they do it!
You know what that sounds like to me?
Remember the scene in Coming to America when Eddie Murphy’s character, Prince Akeem, is introduced to the woman his parents have chosen for him? This is the scene where the gorgeous woman in the beautiful gown hops on one foot and barks like a dog because the prince told her to. Remember that? She’s willing to behave like that, to bury all her interests and desires and everything that makes her an actual person, because she thinks it’s the only way to get the prince’s attention. There’s nothing behind her perception of what he wants, and her perception is flawed. She’s pretty to look at, but the poor dear isn’t good for much else.
Similarly, Hollywood seems to have figured out that women were willing to travel with other women to drop loads of money on hot, scantily clad dudes dancing around the big screen. Hollywood has taken the unusual step of supplying us with more of what they think we want — BUT they’ve removed the rest of the story. Now, I haven’t seen it, and this is just what I’m hearing, but my impression is that everything gritty and complicated and potentially unpleasant or challenging has been excised from the storyline established by the first movie. This has given rise to the complaint that there is no story, which in turn elicits the response, “Well, sweetie, how much story do you really need here?”
There’s your feminist stripper movie, friends. Hopping on one foot and barking like a dog.
Whatever yoooou like.
I haven’t seen the movie. It’s altogether possible that I’m going to be surprised, frightened, disappointed, and — dare I wish — shocked by the characters and their behavior. And if I’m wrong, I will absolutely come back here and eat every one of these 800+ words.
But in the meantime, I’m adjusting my expectations.
What say you? Are my fears entirely unjustified? Let me have it in the comments.
And follow Lady Smut. If I have to eat my words, I think you will want to be here to see that.