Under those tight “Magic Mike” abs is one seedy underbelly.
That’s great, if that’s your thing. But in between the oiled-up bodies and Channing Tatum’s attempt at witty dialogue with a twinkle in his eye, “Magic Mike” sheds a cruel spotlight on the sleazy world behind the leather tasseled G-strings, and I came out feeling like I needed to have my eyeballs scrubbed.
Should this be surprising? After all, the movie’s director is Steven Soderbergh, who can create worlds that are lush and beautiful ("Ocean’s 11") and grimy and dreary ("Traffic"). It’s the latter all the way in “Magic Mike."
The movie is set in Tampa, where the Republican National Convention will be held this August, and shows us a side of the city that isn’t highlighted on tourist brochures. It’s a dirty beachside world of orgies, sex toy shops and drugs where young boys – the character of Adam is only 19 – get wooed into stripping for dollar bills. Adam is actually based on Tatum, who once worked as a stripper.
Friends of mine who saw the movie in Texas said they missed the first thirty minutes of dialogue because women were whooping and hollering in the theater. Other friends marked their calendars for the movie’s release date. Still others have already set up babysitters for this weekend so they can see it.
Some of the women in the theater where I saw it came after the lights went down and left before they came up. One seated behind me was snapping pictures of McConaughey on the screen with her iPhone.
Obviously, something is brewing (or perhaps lacking?) in America. Women, it seems, are desperately craving fantasy worlds where naughty is oh-so-nice, escapism is welcome and election-year politics don’t exist. As McConaughey’s character, Dallas, says about the life of the stripper, “You are that dreamboat guy that never came along.”
With sex selling to wives and moms, it’s very smart for the marketing gurus behind “Magic Mike” to promote this movie as rollicking fun – a “Full Monty” with better looking guys. From the movie’s trailer, it looked like a feel-good movie about a 30-year-old stripper who just wants love – a 21st-century “Flashdance” for women.
But that’s not what the movie delivers, and I call foul. If women are turned on in the beginning, they are drained by the end. Not to spoil anyone’s fun, but as my 80-year-old mother, who accompanied me to the matinee, said, “What’s sexy about a stripper lying in his own vomit?”
Earlier this week, my ‘She the People’ colleague, Mary C. Curtis, wrote that maybe “Magic Mike” will level the ogling playing field.
If anything, Soderbergh goes one step further, and leaves women feeling like many of the men I interviewed for my book “Sex in the South” said they did after visiting female strip clubs – empty and confused. Yippee; women and men have something new in common.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker