Will “Magic Mike” (2012) be the “Citizen Kane” of male stripper movies?

10 July 2012

Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself: she’s watching films like Magic Mike and Ted? Mainstream comedies in regular theaters oriented to general audiences?! Has this blog been hijacked by an evil-minded imposter?

(I admit: in retrospect it appears that watching Ted at the theater goes against all my principles. All I can say is that my friends chose it.)

But I must defend my anticipation of Magic Mike — because it’s being eagerly anticipated by so many of my favorite gay and/or female film critics, including Louis Virtel’s videos The Weeklings:

[Sidebar: I’m relatively new to The Weeklings, but I have now scanned about one-third of these 2- to 4-minute videos and they’re so quick-witted that sometimes you have to watch the videos 2 or 3 times to absorb everything. To wit: the episode in which Louis Virtel takes issue with moron Adam Carolla’s views on whether women are funny. Or when he proposes to do a proper interview with Anderson Cooper about coming out — his list of questions is genius! “How do you feel about forcing straight kids to come out as uninteresting?” Or when he joins the rest of his troupe, The Gay Beatles — oh, the episode in which they explain which Beatle they would be … which leads them to explain which member of Sex and the City they would be, or which Cosby Kid, or which Fanta Girl….]

But back to the issue at hand: Magic Mike. Because I believe it is my duty as a woman — nay, as a human being — to hand over my money to see a film about male strippers. I fully expect that within a few days’ time, I will be back reporting that Magic Mike is, indeed, the Citizen Kane of male stripper films.

I confess: that is not my line. It really belongs to film critic extraordinaire, Libby Gelman-Waxner.

My most secret and powerful desire might be to get paid to write film reviews not just with a nom de plume, but an entirely made-up persona like hers. When I was in college I discovered Gilman-Waxner’s genius reviews in Premiere magazine. She is a middle-aged wife of a dentist, mother, suburban New Yorker, and buyer for the juniors department (also: “she” is secretly screenwriter/ humorist Paul Rudnick). She’s always spot-on with her criticism, like when she describes Daniel Craig in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: “He wore reading glasses, which on a dreamy guy like Daniel are the male equivalent of a nurse’s uniform or a schoolgirl kilt.” In short, Libby is the perfectly melded combination of gay man and straight woman.

Tanning salon-driven dramatic tension in the dressing room between Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey — but over what? I can hardly wait!

That’s the real secret, you see: Magic Mike represents the sweet spot where the interests of people like Libby Gelman-Waxner, The Weeklings, and Feminéma converge. Libby and I agree that there’s basically zero chance I will not enjoy this movie. Moreover, it is SO much fun to anticipate seeing it. I mean, just listen to her imagine the possible plot points:

And I’m praying that one guy is stripping his way through medical school, and that another guy gets drunk and falls off the runway, and that finally all of the strippers pull together and become a family and strip to rebuild a local orphanage, and that someone declares, “We’re gonna help those kids because, dammit, that’s what male strippers do.”

I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? I walk out and say, “The dancing was awesome, but it wasn’t gay enough.”

Want to know what I concluded after seeing it? Here’s the answer!

10 Responses to “Will “Magic Mike” (2012) be the “Citizen Kane” of male stripper movies?”

  1. Didion,
    I have to confess, this is one of the last movies I would ever plan on seeing. You have now at least made me think of perhaps seeing it.

    • Didion Says:

      Oh, I know, I know… it’s really very hard to tell whether it’s going to be a straight-to-Lifetime-Channel type of film, or an actually good film. The trailer is ridiculous. I’m just hoping for an audience full of groups of women and gay men who hoot and holler through the whole thing, and that Matthew McConaughey is just as sleazy as he’s ever been in his life. (Also: cocktails beforehand will surely enhance my enjoyment, even if there’s no addiction melodrama subplot.) It’s summer! this may not be the movie you wanted to see, but after all those goddamn superhero flicks, this is the movie we all need!

      • I will see if I can persuade Robert to see it and will have to get back to you if we do see it.

      • Didion Says:

        To be serious for a moment, I think that any film made by Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s Eleven franchise, Haywire, Sex Lies & Videotape) is going to be interesting, good-humored, and not Lifetime Channel at all. But I also think there are going to be audiences out there who, like me, have decided to get in the spirit of a cheesy beefcake show a little early, and will attempt to subvert via their hootin’ & hollerin’ any more serious themes. My friends and I fully intend to be part of the subversion.

      • The subversive approach is appealing and a cocktail before we see the movie sounds like great advice.

  2. Dark Iris Says:

    Alas, after numerous cocktails and a Saturday night packed screening, I was sorely disappointed, even when my expectation bar was set to “mostly naked men gyrating.” Soderbergh shot his actors from too far a distance, as if he was trying to respect the actors’ privacy and not exploit their bodies! In a stripper film! Then there’s the moralistic tone to which the film devolves. Ugh. I reviewed it and put at the head a gif of all of Tatum’s sexiest dance moves until my partner begged me to write about something else, so he wouldn’t have to see him over and over on his home page. Heh. Tatum can dance, and he’s worth watching, but there’s not enough hot dancing, and too much “acting” (if you want to call it that). Not enough beefcake.

    I also think it’s GREAT, Didion, that you are talking about this film. It’s been marketed heavily toward women, and to gay men, and Magic Mike says something significant about what Hollywood thinks of both of those groups, as well as what cinematic codes might constitute a hetero female or queer male gaze. Sometimes Soderbergh can really push genre boundaries in a smart and progressive fashion. I thought that Haywire was one of the best female action hero films ever made (which is probably why it didn’t do that well at the box office). Magic Mike doesn’t unpack the gendered economics of sex work in any smart way, nor does it create a hoot-hollering atmosphere of sexy decadence either. Bummer.

    So I’m super-curious as to what you think! Thanks to you, I just watched Take this Waltz, and I just loved it. It stuck with me in a way that Magic Mike never could.

  3. servetus Says:

    Did you see the review in The Guardian?

    • Dark Iris Says:

      I Immediately went looking for the review, and there are 6 articles on Magic Mike in The Guardian! But the one to which I think you’re referring, “Magic Mike Turned Me Gay!” was pretty darned fascinating, especially it’s discussion of “the gaze.” I most appreciate the author’s emphasis on the multiple ways one can experience desire in the cinema, but he seemed to be simultaneously debunking and reiterating some gendered stereotypes. Still, it’s a really thought-provoking review, and I’m so glad you suggested it!

      • servetus Says:

        yeah, that is the one. Glad you enjoyed it. It’s been on my mind since I read it and I need to reread it.

  4. […] plot points and a general lack of commitment to any one vision. (And certainly not enough to be the Citizen Kane of male stripper movies.) The renowned director Sidney Lumet’s eloquent book, Making Movies, reminds us of the […]

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