I have to admit, I didn’t really have any interest in seeing Magic Mike to begin with. My first contact with the movie was seeing a print ad for it in a magazine where all of the lead actors were half-naked. This didn’t especially appeal to me, and seeing some friends remarking about the “hotness” of this actor over that one just reinforced my non-interest. Why would I want to give my money to something that led women into the near or actual occasion of sin?
Well, I ended up getting involved in a conversation on Facebook where someone was commenting on the trailer for the movie. In order that I might actually speak intelligently on the subject, I watched the trailer. This led me to think that maybe it was a bit more than just soft porn out there to make a buck. I wanted to be able to come back to my online friends with something substantial, so when I saw that the movie was playing locally in half an hour… I went.
Okay, first you all should know just how much I love you, because it’s no easy thing to walk into that movie theater and buy a ticket to Magic Mike alone. Even the clerk asked me, “Just one?” I was the only person in line.
When I stepped into the theater, I was the only person in the room. Great. Well, at least it wasn’t crowded? Eventually a few more people showed up, but there probably wasn’t more than 20 of us. Perhaps this is because it was 10:30 pm on the night before Independence Day.
The movie ended up being both better and worse than I expected.
Worse, in that there was a LOT of outright nudity and … “suggestive” acts isn’t quite the right phrase. There wasn’t much suggestion about it. It was more like outright “telling” witlhout actually “doing.” But that’s pretty true to life. Strippers are meant to shock and thrill, right? There was also bad language, objectification of both sexes and portrayals of drug use. So, I can’t recommend that anyone actually see the movie. Especially not those who are easily influenced or where watching these mostly naked men will cause them to lust.
Thankfully, I wasn’t “turned on” by this film. I did, however, appreciate their athleticism and dancing skills. Mostly, I found it to be a little comical as well as being a little sad. Watching the dollar bills being thrown at the men or shoved at them was a little like watching their dignity being taken from them, one bill at a time. I remember sitting in the theater, looking at an image on the screen of all these dollars scattered across the stage and likening them to teardrops. In one notable scene, “Magic” Mike was trying to straighten out these bills. He would run them against the edge of the table, much as we do when we are trying to get all the wrinkles out for the vending machine. Then, he set a heavy book on a stack of them. In another scene, he is trying to get a loan from a bank so that he can start up his own business making custom furniture — a profession he ultimately desires. But he is declined, even though he has a stack of cash as an initial investment.
All this leads me to perhaps the best part of the film: it does not glamorize this lifestyle.
In fact, as the movie progresses, it moves from Mike’s initial mindset — that being a stripper is a good source of money and girls — to realizing the emptiness of this lifestyle and ultimately rejecting it. This realization comes to him after he takes a young man under his wing and trains him as his protege, and sees how this adversely affects his life. He also realizes the emptiness in his romantic life. He goes from sleeping with multiple partners, to being confronted with the selfishness of this behavior when he tries to have more than just a superficial relationship with a regular bed-partner, to the end of the film, where it is suggested that he might have a shot at an authentic romantic relationship based on more than mere physical gratification.
Drugs are shown as dangerous, addicting and hollow. Money is shown as not being the most important thing in life. In fact, Mike gives most of the money he had been saving towards his dream, in order that his protege might escape the wrath of some drug dealers. And he doesn’t expect to get it back. We see how stripping is not a fulfilling career for the men, and how their worth deteriorates over time as they grow older and their acts are no longer “fresh.”
Once we are thoroughly disillusioned with the lifestyle and things look bleakest for the characters, a ray of hope enters when Mike rejects the lifestyle and simply walks away. There is a brief suggestion that maybe the guy will get the girl and then the movie abruptly ends, leaving you wanting more. Or at least I did. Not more mostly naked guys, but some indication that he was going to be okay. That he built a good life for himself. That his protege was able to straighten his life out as well.
We didn’t get that kind of reassurance. But we got hope. And sometimes, that’s all you need.