I watched Magic Mike. It was on Netflix and I felt like it was an “important” film to see. It represented a moment in time in our culture and I wasn’t even excited about the naked men at all.
Honestly, I didn’t find the film sexy in the least.
The like, lack of emotional connection between any of the characters was disturbing, and the drug use made me really sad, I didn’t feel as if the movie made any attempt to acknowledge the “female gaze” or play to female sexuality, and I was troubled by the traditional aka “anti” sex work position that the movie seemed to have.
Basically, the movie was advertised as this SUPER SEXY FUN ROMP for women who are attracted to men, a fun movie to take your girlfriends to, and YAY STRIPPERS! In the end, it was as fun as Showgirls, which is all about backstabbing and losing yourself in an exploitative industry, with a tiny side helping of nipples.
If I had the chance to make a movie that was what I thought Magic Mike was going to be, it would be a lot different. There wouldn’t be homophobic jokes, there would be a more diverse group of men, and it continue to push the idea that stripping is glamorous while simultaneously painting it as the worst low that a human being can sink to. Hey! We all know that the lowest low a person can sink to, career-wise, is working for the Trump administration! I was exhausted watching this old stereotype play out. Did they not have the opportunity to talk to actual sex workers and paint a more accurate picture of their lives? I rolled my eyes all the way through Magic Mike because everything about it felt soooooo fake.
But Channing Tatum seems to be unable to let it go.
And that, weirdly, is the sexiest thing about Magic Mike?
Now, I’m not a sex worker, though I know many people who have worked in that industry, and I know that a lot of the allure is that it allows you to be openly sexual in a society that still has Puritan hangups and double standards on sex. Fact-check me on this: any time someone asserts their own sexual desires, they face a backlash from the majority of society.
But Channing Tatum? He’s feeling himself.
The sexiest thing about this is it sort of feels like Channing, through Magic Mike, discovered his sexual self and is just trying to force the hand of The Universe into allowing him to play his stripper character forever and ever. And sure, I’m almost certainly projecting here, or trying to place motives onto why he insists so heavily on continuing the franchise — it was a phenomenon that generated a lot of money, sure — but his motives seem….different…
Just as I find Amber Rose’s unapologetic pride in her career in sex work to be empowering, I find Channing Tatum’s earnest desire to appeal to the female gaze endearing. Maybe I really bought into the innocent sincerity and golden-heartedness of his Magic Mike character, but I want to believe that Channing just wants to be sexual on stage.
There’s a layer of complexity that we can’t ignore here, which is that Channing is being celebrated for his desire to be sexual onstage while women — HA! — definitely do not. As a conventionally attractive cishet white man, there is almost not chance that dabbling in live sex work in Las Vegas is going to damage Channing Tatum’s career. The same cannot be said of Amber Rose. The phrase “former stripper” seems to be permanently attached to her name, no matter what she does. Many performers started off as strippers, including — you guessed it! — Channing Tatum! But while Amber Rose cannot distance herself from the societal disdain for her stripper past, Channing Tatum is celebrated for reveling in it. Is this fair? Fuck no, this is a double standard, and it’s such an obvious one, we can’t ignore it. It’s pretty vital that we point it out.
But I don’t want to be the type to dissuade anyone from expressing their sexuality to the fullest extent of their desires. Channing Tatum, if taking off your clothes in the hopes that women will applaud you makes your heart skip a beat, do it. Same goes for everyone: if you find something that tickles your pickle, I wish you the ability to chase that down and go after it.
So while I’m not personally titillated by Magic Mike, I’m happy that Channing Tatum is. I’m excited to see the exploration of the female gaze and female sexuality, and I’m hoping that it will pave the way for more acceptance for sex workers. But what do you think? Is Channing Tatum to be applauded? Is this actually a step backwards? Are you just like “meh”? Or are you buying front row seats and a flight to Vegas in another tab? Comment!