Sunday, July 1, 2012

'Magic Mike' And The Angst Of Male Objectification

On the surface the new movie Magic Mike would seem to be nothing more than a showcase for the mostly athletic talents of buff 'n ready Channing Tatum and his hunky, gyrating fellow cast members.
But at its core this is really a film about the objectification of handsome, virile young men.
Yes, we've all heard about women being turned into sex objects and we've experienced the outcry against it as well.
But men? Guys? Really?
And even if they were/are sex objects would young guys really resent that? Wouldn't they look on it as an opportunity?
Well, listen to Rob Lowe in his recent memoir Stories I Only Tell My Friends as he explains the curious angst attendant to his emergence as a sex symbol:
I began to feel a counterintuitive, melancholy loneliness and even low-grade anger . . . I didn't like the way it made me feel when a passing car full of teenage girls screeched to a halt, emptying the crazed occupants who bull-rushed me, pointing, screaming, laughing. Years later someone would call this phenomenon 'objectification.' Then I didn't really know that I was being treated like an object. I did however begin to treat some people the way they treated me.
Rudolf Valentino. Cary Grant. Clark Gable. Elvis Presley. Brad Pitt. All of them -- and many others -- have been objectified. They were are are male objects of desire.
And so now we have Channing Tatum as a male stripper (Mike) in a role torn right from the pages of Tatum's own life. And it's all up-front, foul-mouthed, gritty and relentlessly raunchy with Alex Pettyfer as the kid stripper (Adam) who Tatum takes under his wing and aging hunk Matthew McConaughey as the guru (Dallas) who runs the male strip joint that rocks Tampa.
You'll find lots of exposed skin (both male and female) on display in Magic Mike as the principals alternately shed their clothes, gyrate and then jump in and out of bed with their many female fans. But lots of smooth, hard muscle and jiggling bare breasts cannot solely sustain a major Hollywood flick.
And so it's Tatum's fine acting and the story of Mike himself that drive this movie.
Mike is already past 30. He knows he cannot be a male stripper forever and he's beginning to feel, well -- empty. Mike wants more from his relationships and from life itself. But when he tries to talk things through with one of the beauties he's sleeping with, she simply answers: "You don't need to talk. Just look pretty." Duhh!
This guy has dreams. He's creative and enterprising and not afraid of hard work. And he wants to go into business for himself and maybe even share his life with someone. He aspires to something more.
And then Mike begins to realize that the only gal who seems capable of resisting his hunky charms (and the only one who may be willing to listen and help) turns out to be the somewhat ordinary looking dame who's also Adam's sister, Joanna (Olivia Munn).
Which proves what we should already know: 1) Guys are more complicated than they seem; 2) They like gals who give them a contest and 3) They can be mentally and romantically engaged after all if and when they begin to grow up.
It's true that women say they want men to be kind and thoughtful and mature and tender and understanding and sentimental and on and on . . . 
But now Magic Mike seems to demonstrate that woman just may be able to have it all -- seeking out men as objects of desire and even having flings with them (while telling them to shut up and be pretty) and then nurturing them as three-dimensional soul mates in the end.
At least that's the way it is in the movies.
And I'm here to tell you that this is one movie that's worth seeing. Congrats to director Steven Soderbergh, writer Reid Carolin, the entire cast and everyone responsible for Magic Mike. This movie is every bit as relevant now as Dirty Dancing and Saturday Night Fever were then. See it!