Magic Mike is the new film by eclectic director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Contagion, Ocean’s 11, Haywire, Sex Lies and Videotape) which stars Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey and collection of other fine male specimens as a group of ambitious strippers working in a Tampa, Florida nightclub. If you read our Magic Mike review, you’ll hear us break down why the movie (while not perfect) is certainly more than the implications of its initial premise – a premise which gives the impression that this film is strictly for the “girls night out” crowd.
In actuality, Magic Mike offers as much fun for guys as it does those who want to ogle some pretty boys. Of course, resistance amongst the “XY” chromosome camp has been quite pronounced and persistent, and after doing a quick survey of all the negative responses amongst guys (who have yet to actually watch the movie), we’ve come up with three of the main reasons why men don’t want to see Mike work his magic. Sure, they’ll say “I had no interest in this whatsoever” because it’s an easy out – but in our opinion, the reasoning behind that sentiment goes much deeper…
The male ego is a fragile thing. Like a budding flower it needs constant attention, watering and exposure to light (read: public display) to properly grow – and it can be easily trampled. A couple of months back, I was complaining to my wife about a new billboard featuring soccer star David Beckham in nothing but some revealing underwear – to which my wife sharply responded with an observation that girls, with much higher frequency, are psychologically challenged by advertisements featuring scantly-clad women with impossibly perfect bodies. And she was right (don’t tell her that, though).
In the case of the ‘Beckham incident’ I was forced to put aside my imperial male ego and let ladies have their fun, ogling a beloved sex symbol. Such is the task facing any man who goes to see Magic Mike in the company of a female companion. The simple fact is this: there are still many guys whose egos will not allow them to sit in full acknowledgement that their lady is looking (lustfully) at another man – even some fantasy creation of a man that will never enter the picture of real life. Many men like to believe that their lady only has eyes (and desire) for them – and Magic Mike is a direct rebuttal to this particularly fallacy.
Even more harmful to the ego than the thought that your lady wants one (or more) of those ripped guys onstage shaking it, is the fear that when the lights come on in the theater, all she’ll have to take home is… you. The male ego has no word for “consolation prize,” and a lot of men will be damned if they let Magic Mike force them to come up with one, or force them into the same body image issues women have been dealing with since… forever?
Not to be confused with “ego,” in this case I’m talking about insecurity in terms of sexuality. When I wrote my official Magic Mike review, the first reaction from the often-belligerent Internet wasn’t an assessment of my critique – or even the usual roll call of hate it/love it opinion in regards to the filmmaker or cast. Instead, the very first question I was asked was “Who did you go see the movie with?” followed promptly by, “I hope you didn’t go see it alone!” (Yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck).
Truthfully speaking, one of the biggest issues facing (straight) men who may want to check out Magic Mike is the issue of how to even see the movie without being embarrassed:
- What will people think if I go see it alone? (That I’m gay.)
- What will people think if I go see it with another dude? (That we’re both gay.)
- What will it be like if I go see it with a girl (Ego-bruising – see section above.)
- What if I like any of the characters in the movie? (Does that mean I’m gay?)
Indeed, Magic Mike is one of those intersection points of modern male culture and psychology, wherein the lines of sexual orientation can become a little too fuzzy for comfort. It’s a bit unfortunate; the fear of being harassed by those who believe such specious superstitions like seeing a particular movie instantly changes your sexual orientation, is going to keep many dudes out of the theater. It is, inevitably, a juvenile outlook that is still all too prevalent in our society today.
A man secure in himself should have no problem walking into that theater; as the stars themselves pointed out, a smart single guy will know that the Magic Mike theater is where all the ladies will be hanging out. The same sort of secret that straight male cheerleaders and gymnasts have been enjoying for years.
This item is the refuge of those guys who want to make it appear as though they have no deficiency in confidence and/or sexual security. The guys who will claim that their desire to not see Magic Mike has to do with nothing more than the fact that they don’t like the dudes starring in the movie. In other words: the guys who are just as catty as girls are often stereotyped for being.
Channing Tatum has been well established as the go-to guy for male-on-male hate. However, it’s hard to see how people (cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike) can still make that claim after the actor has turned in such solid work in films like Haywire, his comedic breakout in 21 Jump Street - or even The Vow, which is a much improved romantic-drama than what Tatum previously starred in (Step Up, Dear John). Not saying you have to love the guy – but making the claim that he’s terrible, or the worst actor alive, is slowly but surely starting to sound ridiculous.
Whether it’s Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, pretty boy Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four) or True Blood star Joe Manganiello’s tall dark and cut physique, Magic Mike offers many opportunities for guys to point their fingers (guess which one) and say “F that dude.” And while saying “I hate [Actor's Name]” may seem like a much safer reaction than saying “[Actor's Name] is in much better shape and can dance better than I ever will,” it should be remembered: If we’re talking about stereotypical gender traits, cattiness is a typically considered to be pretty girlie, tough guy.
Of course, the items listed above aren’t the only reasons not to see Magic Mike. Another safe avenue to hide on would be the claim that ‘the subject matter just doesn’t appeal to me.’ (Though I find it hard to believe that the subject matter – stripper sub-culture – wouldn’t be appealing to more men if the gender roles were reversed.)
I hardly expect this article to open a floodgate of male interest in the movie, but as stated in my review, Magic Mike does offer a hilarious workplace comedy (and some weaker romantic and character arcs) in addition to its flesh parade sequences. There is plenty there for guys to see, and think about, and laugh about.
It’s an interesting time in our culture, where many gender roles and ideas about sexuality are being revised and/or challenged. In fact, in the end, Magic Mike may have more value as a talking point in the cultural zeitgeist than it ever does as an actual film. As it stands, I’m pretty sure we’ll hear plenty of thoughts and opinions on the matter in the comment section below.
Magic Mike is now playing in theaters.