Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “Magic Mike”

Dear Frank,

Magic Mike poster. Classy, right? Yesterday morning at work, I was in line to buy some orange juice at the office’s little shop when I overheard the following conversation:

Girl 1: “I saw Magic Mike this weekend.”
Girl 2: “Ohmigod, me too!”
Girl 1: “Yeah, it was good, but by the end I was like, ohmigod, TOO MUCH naked men!”

Giggling ensued. I can only imagine that this conversation was had in a thousand office buildings, in a thousand cities, this morning. Giggling included.

Magic Mike, Frank, is about as simple as movies can be: Young guy without a job (known forever as The Kid) gets a job working as a male stripper, thanks to the titular Magic Mike, who doesn’t hate the work but does hope to transition to a more sustainable long-term career.

Parties, money, and drugs ensue, until eventually The Kid gets in over his head thanks to some bad decisions regarding parties, money and drugs; Magic Mike has to bail him out (sacrificing a big chunk of his savings in the process) and decides to give up the life, focusing instead on trying to win the heart of The Kid’s sister, a nice lady with a grown-up job. The sister and Magic Mike kiss. THE END.

That’s what happened in the movie, Frank, with one minor exception:

HELLO NURSE.

HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, NURSE.

Yes, there are many explicit scenes of extremely attractive men dancing in thongs for the pleasure of ladies. All of them are extremely believable as male strippers. And the personal trainers of all involved deserve motherfucking Academy Awards.

That said, probably the most surprising aspect of Magic Mike is that while you’d expect this movie to be as crass and shallow as something like Coyote Ugly, that is not the case. It’s a goddamn real movie, made by Steven Soderbergh, who continues to be one of America’s most interesting directors. This means two things: The movie, in its relaxed contemplative European way, is actually pretty interesting — and it’s not as much fun as you might hope.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, the girls sitting behind us Sunday evening had plenty to “Whooooo!” about. (I wish I had seen Magic Mike at a midnight Friday screening — clearly, the way Shakespeare was meant to be seen.) But Soderbergh took this movie seriously, and he kind of forces you to do the same.

This shows up primarily in the treatment of our protagonist Mike, who (according to something I read on the Internet one time) is based on a real guy who mentored Channing Tatum when he was a 19-year-old The Kid. Mike, a self-described stripper-slash-entrepeneur (or, yes, entrepeneur-slash-stripper), is saving for his dreams, being all too aware that taking his clothes off for dollars isn’t a sustainable career path in the long term.

It shouldn’t really matter what Mike wants to do after escaping the stripping lifestyle, except that it totally does because for serious Mike’s dream is to design custom furniture — a detail worked clumsily into the film’s trailer, but more successfully integrated into the actual plot.

Why custom furniture? Who the fuck knows. It’s so random a life goal that it almost loops back around to making total sense. I kind of respect it. And Mike does seem to be really good at putting pieces of glass on top of salvaged metal bits. But I’m no custom furniture appraiser, so what do I know?

I mean, it’s not an UGLY table…

The reason Mike’s custom furniture dreams do matter, I suppose, is this: Michelle Said at A Bright Wall in a Dark Room wrote something I really liked about this movie, about how one of its key themes is how what you do for a living can often become your identity, for better or for worse.

One key to happiness, after all, is loving what you do. But does that mean you should let it define your existence? Magic Mike says no, that no one is just one thing, really, especially if that one thing is showing your abs to bachelorette parties.

Speaking of abs… Okay, I am going to limit my thoughts on Channing Tatum (and his abs) to this paragraph and this paragraph alone: I AM A CHAN FAN. I don’t think he’s a great actor, and honestly I don’t find him super-attractive. (Except when he wears glasses, as he does during one scene in Magic Mike, but chalk that up entirely to my glasses fetish.) But the more I read about him, the more I’m fascinated by his physicality and goofy charm — plus, he’s the funniest part of the 21 Jump Street remake, which SHOULD NOT BE TRUE BUT IS TOTALLY TRUE. Truth? I love him the way dog people love puppies.

Does this mean that watching Channing rip off his pants on the big screen got my girly parts going? The answer to that, to be honest, is not really. No insult meant to the man’s dance skills and/or physique (both of which are excellent) — it’s simply confirmation of something I’ve felt since the age of 18, when I went to the illustrious Hollywood Male revue show for a friend’s birthday party. I can appreciate a nice physique, but to lose myself in the moment, it needs to be part of a story.

I'm pretty sure feminism means that I am allowed to like looking at this photo. Just in case you were wondering.

And I feel that many other ladies feel the same — otherwise, romance novels would not be, literally, the most popular books on the planet. I suspect it to be a side effect of social conditioning as opposed to biological gender differences, but my point remains that a few paragraphs of graphic description go much further with most girls than a photo of a naked man.

Side note: Men making a big deal about 50 Shades of Grey being “mommy porn” is like a woman watching Showgirls and saying “BREAKING NEWS: MEN LIKE LOOKING AT BOOBS.” GET OVER IT, GUYS. (That is a perfect simile. Love it like I do.)

But even if Magic Mike wasn’t true lady porn, due to Soderbergh’s direction and the nature of female sexuality, I still enjoyed it. It was truly charming in a number of ways and the cast was great; there’s something to be said for a film with low ambitions but great heart. You might actually enjoy it, Frank! Just don’t let yourself feel insecure. After all, ladies might like to look at abs like that. But most of us understand that reality is far different.

Love,
Liz

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About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller, based in Los Angeles, is a writer for the screen and the web, her work including G4's Attack of the Show and the tech blog GigaOM. She also co-hosts the podcast Timey Wimey TV, contributes to the video curation site Here's Some Awesome, and tells her friend Frank about stuff at Liz Tells Frank.

Posted on July 3, 2012, in All the Spoilers, Movies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I love your comment re: 50 Shades and Showgirls. That is all.

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