Spoiler Alert! In this blog entry, I discuss the movie “Magic Mike”, the film about the lives of a group of strippers based on actor Channing Tatum’s real life experiences. I’m going to be discussing the end of the film, so if you haven’t seen it and want to, read this blog entry after – and let me know if you agree with my analysis.
For my birthday in July, my sister offered to take me to a movie, and we mutually, enthusiastically agreed upon “Magic Mike”, the movie based on actor/stud Channing Tatum’s real life experiences as a stripper. I made my sister buy the tickets herself. Believe it or not, I was afraid that the pimply-faced teen working the ticket counter would laugh at a late thirty-something man coming to ogle Channing Tatum in his stripper movie.
I liked it – up until the ending, that is. You see, we’re shown that being a straight stripper is a wild ride. Money in spades and adoring audiences of women. But in the mix are some shady characters and the temptation of drugs. And for our hero Channing Tatum, the wild ride comes to an end when he realizes that the stripper life is a dead-end street. He makes the “right” choice to leave stripping and take up with a “good” girl (read: boring, plain-jane, and button-down). She is the film’s moral compass, and the film ends up being a morality tale. Like many a Hollywood film, it at first glorifies the fast-life, then swoops down to make us numb-nuts in the audience remember that we will pay for the error of our ways unless we do the “right” (read: Judeo-Christian) thing.
And it worked on me – for a while. I went home and thought, Why can’t I meet a gorgeous Channing Tatum look-alike stripper who leaves it all to be with me, so that we can live happily ever after in a house with a white-picket fence? Then I got to thinking about the real Channing Tatum. Is he, in life, the morally reborn guy that he becomes in the movie? By the end of the movie, Channing’s character feels de-sexed. Does Channing really have a secret kink? Do he and his wife swing?
To avoid a complete moralization, Matthew McConaughey’s character is given a moment to shine wherein his character shows self-pride by giving a bombastic performance. But McConaughey’s character is kept one dimensional throughout the movie, thus making it hard for the audience to relate to this odd duck who seems actually proud of his life choices.
Tell me: what’s more naive? To believe in the fairy tale that the movie leaves you with as Channing goes with the good girl and leaves all that stripping behind? Or that you can be a stripper, and feel fulfilled and good about yourself. Just recently, I read in the local gay magazine that a stripper in my city died recently. The story skirted around the manner in which he had died, but made note that the bar where he worked and his family wished people to make donations in his name to a suicide hotline. You don’t have to work in the adult industry to be pushed to suicide, but I can’t help but wonder if we as a society push the adult-industry workers to it when we devalue, degrade, and denigrate them.
How about this novel idea? Could it be that, as my sister once told me, that no matter which choice you make, there will be consequences. Will Channing’s character and his “good” girl always lie in a bed of roses, or will there be times when his character secretly misses the excitement of performing? Is it possible that stripping is indeed fraught with pitfalls, but that they can be avoided? Because we collectively tell people in adult entertainment that it’s a slippery slope, does it become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Much like when you treat someone like they’re stupid, they will act stupid?
Life is never black and white, and the pat, moralistic tone from “Magic Mike” offers no insights into life, which is a messy, contradictory experience. It still appears that the last thing we want to do is to tell someone that they can be sexually expressive and healthy at the same time. The only condoned type of sexual expression gets put in a very small narrow box. I beg to differ.