Magic Mike is the story of a 19-year-old young man discovering his hidden talent for stripping. As shallow as that may sound, the movie does offer more subtlety and insight than one might expect.
Overall, this film is surprisingly good in terms of script, cast, and storyline. The characters are well-rounded and well-acted, and the plot is well paced. The film does indulge in quite a bit of skin-for-skin’s-sake, but we also see the characters, especially older of the two men, struggling with their life choices. Ultimately, the film is ambivalent about the morality of stripping, implying that while it may not be satisfying as a long-term career choice, it is just fine for a nineteen-year-old kid looking for fun and a little cash.
From the cultural perspective, the film brings up an interesting question: Should young men be sexually objectified as women have been? Is it somehow more acceptable simply because they are men? We are used to thinking of women as victims of sexual objectification, but this film turns that assumption on its head. (And, it might be noted, society in general seems to be growing more obsessed with standards of masculine physical perfection.) My theater was populated by middle-aged women hooting at the site of these young men’s bodies. (Oh, you naughty, naughty Sedona cougars!) The hoots were followed by chuckles from the few men in the theater, who were clearly reacting to the women in the theater, not to the movie.
I had only experienced this in one other cinematic context–in a theater full of teenage girls who screamed every time a bare-chested Taylor Lautner of the Twilight films came on screen. Even among feminists, there is debate between those who find such displays empowering and those who object. Personally, I don’t think it is the healthiest sexual expression for either men or women, relying on voyeurism rather than true relationship. But then again, movies by their nature are all voyeuristic to some extent.
Spiritual Bottom Line: The movie brings up issues about sexual objectification, but fails to deal with this topic in a meaningful way.
Quality Grade: B