Does Magic Mike Have Anything To Stick Himself With?

grey Does Magic Mike Have Anything To Stick Himself With?

Magic Mike — the money shot.

The anim­ated gif above will save you £8 and 109 minutes of disappointment.

Yes, I’ve done my invert duty and been to see Magic Mike. Which, accord­ing to The New York Times, gay men are ‘flock­ing’ to see in num­bers not seen since Brokeback Mountain.

Even if they’re not all as jaded as me I think they’re going to be very dis­ap­poin­ted. And not because in Magic Mike gay or bisexual men don’t exist, even as a fam­ously gen­er­ously tip­ping audi­ence for male strip­ping – except as a punch­line. In one ‘hil­ari­ous’ scene Alex Pettyfer’s uptight sis­ter thinks for a hairy moment he might be gay because he’s shav­ing his legs. Phew! He’s not gay. He’s a male strip­per!

No the betrayal is much, much worse than any of that. And judging by how quickly the mostly female audi­ence in my cinema aud­it­or­ium stopped gig­gling and hav­ing fun it’s not just The Gays who are going to feel betrayed.

Magic Mike just doesn’t deliver the goods. The junk stays in the trunks. It’s a 110 minute prick-tease without any pricks and very little tease. Most unfor­giv­ably of all, this male strip­per movie – star­ring Channing Tatum – wants to be taken ser­i­ously. It thinks it has a plot.

And the plot is… another fuck­ing Hollywood mor­al­ity tale. Will Tatum man­age to escape the sleazy, druggy, boys-together world of male strip­ping and Alex Pettyfer’s win­some grin and end up with his judgey, bossy sis­ter, Cody Horn?

Who cares?

Especially since there’s not nearly enough sleaze on dis­play. I can’t remem­ber the last time I was so bored. Oh, yes, I remem­ber now. Watching Brokeback Mountain.

Fatally, this strip­per movie has no sense of tim­ing. Not just in the lit­er­ally point­less strip routines. Magic Mike suf­fers from per­haps the worst case of pre­ma­ture ejac­u­la­tion in cinema his­tory. Two minutes into the film you get the money shot – two seconds of Tatum’s smooth bubble-butt in all its firm, bouncy glory head­ing for his en-suite in digital Panavision. Which is very nice.

But that, as they say, is a wrap.

Except you’ve got another 108 minutes to go. Another 108 minutes in which as far as I can remem­ber you never see Tatum’s ass prop­erly again. In this movie about male strip­ping and the com­modi­fic­a­tion of the male body. Given that you can see Tatum’s bouncy ass scene for free in a trailer for the movie it’s the con of Captain America all over again – but even more of rip off. The wrong kind of rip off.

It goes without say­ing that you never even glimpse his cock. Floppy or oth­er­wise. Or even a dangly bol­lock. It is, after all, Hollywood, and while Tatum may have worked as a male strip­per in the past and worked that past to get where he is, he is now a Proper Hollywood Star and Proper Hollywood Stars don’t show you their cocks. Because that would be low class. Especially in a move about male stripping.

And apart from a glimpse of a couple of sil­hou­ettes of clearly pros­thetic pen­ises you don’t see any­one else’s cock, either, floppy or oth­er­wise. Magic Mike is essen­tially a movie about cock­less male strip­pers. Male strip­ping with no strip­ping. Which could have been inter­est­ing in an avant-garde, sad­istic sort of way. But of course, it’s really not that sort of movie.

Maybe I under­es­tim­ate the dir­ector Steven Soderbergh. Maybe he decided to ruin his career by delib­er­ately mak­ing a crowd-pleasing sum­mer movie that didn’t please anyone.

A more likely explan­a­tion how­ever is that Soderbergh was frantic­ally try­ing not to scare straight male punters. And safely sub­lim­ated homo­erotic sub-plots aside, he does work over­time in this movie to reas­sure that the male strip­pers are all a) straight and b) dudes. But if he was pan­der­ing to straight men he failed there too. Straight men search online for pic­tures of (big) dick as much as they do for pussy. They are going to be at least as dis­ap­poin­ted as every­one else. Except maybe lesbians.

What’s going on here is yet another instance of the pur­it­an­nical American Phalliban at work. Protecting the sanc­tity and power of the phal­lus by mak­ing sure the cock is never shown in pub­lic. After all, no mat­ter how freak­ish, the cock never lives up to the prom­ise of the phal­lus. Even if Magic Mike had the balls to show us… balls it would still have been some­thing of an anti-climax. As I put it in Male Impersonators back in 1994 (which, let’s face it, is really the era when Magic Mike is set):

The myth of male strip­ping mes­merises pre­cisely because it con­tra­dicts itself with every dis­carded item… No mat­ter how freak­ish his gen­i­tal attrib­utes, no mat­ter how craft­ily engorged and arranged with rings and elas­tic bands, no mat­ter how fran­ti­cally it is waved and wag­gled, the stripper’s penis, once naked, never lives up to the prom­ise of the phal­lus: the cli­mac­tic finale of the strip is… an anti-climax.’

Femininity is tra­di­tion­ally seen and rep­res­en­ted in Hollywood movies as ‘mas­quer­ade’. The clothes, the hair, the breasts, the heels, the make-up all stand in for the ‘miss­ing’ phal­lus. Masculinity mean­while is meant to just be there. Because men have the phal­lus. Women appear. Men act. Or so the tra­di­tional reas­on­ing went.

But Magic Mike, because it’s a cock­less movie about male strip­ping, is, inad­vert­ently, a good if bor­ing example of mas­culin­ity as mas­quer­ade. With thongs and leather and cop uni­forms and oiled tanned pecs and really bad, unsexy dance routines stand­ing in for the phal­lus. A kind of male Showgirls, without the camp or the fun. Or the ‘show’. There’s a scene where Tatum is dan­cing dressed in a thong, a SWAT cap and black webbing ammuni­tion pouches over his torso. It looks like a butch basque.

Perhaps because it can’t show us dick, and because it’s try­ing to reas­sure an ima­gined straight male punter, Magic Mike does though keep ram­ming down our throats that the men have cocks and women don’t – and is mostly unable to nego­ti­ate women’s act­ive, assert­ive sexu­al­ity, some­thing that of course the com­modi­fic­a­tion of cocks so char­ac­ter­istic of today’s cul­ture is based on.

By way of a pep talk Matthew McConaughey, who plays (with real rel­ish) the owner of the male strip club, likes to ask his male dan­cers: “Who’s got the cock? You do. They don’t.”

Or as Tatum, dressed as a cop in the now fam­ous open­ing scene of the main trailer says to a nervous sor­or­ity girl he’s about to frisk:

Mike: You don’t have any­thing sharp on you that I can stick myself with, do you?
Kim: No.
Mike: Good. ‘Cause I do!
[rips off pants, women scream]

But does he? After all, we only have his word for it. And any­way, those words are highly unre­li­able. Don’t his words actu­ally tell a dif­fer­ent story to the one the movie is telling us? Don’t they say either:

a) I have a penis large enough to fuck myself with — please allow me to demonstrate

or

b) Stand back ladies and watch me use my night stick on myself!

Sadly, he doesn’t do either, of course. That’s an entirely dif­fer­ent and much more watch­able movie. One that I sus­pect we might have been able to see if Channing Tatum hadn’t had the mis­for­tune to become a Hollywood star, and instead of being con­demned to the­at­rical releases on the big screen had gradu­ated from strip­ping in South Florida clubs to live shows on our PC screens.

grey Does Magic Mike Have Anything To Stick Himself With?

Comments are disabled for this post