Magic Mike, the movie about a male burlesque act, made a healthy $39.16 million this past weekend, a very tidy sum for director Aaron Soderbergh, a film with a production budget of only $7 million. And yes, indeed, my nine bucks was included in that opening weekend haul.
Because, as your intrepid reporter, I know you count on me to stake out the hottest trends and report back to you about the experience. Right? You say right.
For those of you not familiar with Magic Mike (read: heterosexual men), it's the heartwarming story of a young slacker who finds lucrative work as a male stripper ... but is soon caught up in the dark side of that world. Not that you'd know that by the movie's trailers: one just says, "Tell your boyfriend you're going to book club." =
This is a seriously adult movie. Very much like the Mark Wahlberg vehicle Boogie Nights, Magic Mike is a cautionary tale with messages such as: taking your clothes off for money is really hard, and drug abuse has its consequences. But with penises.
A good friend of mine (and a Channing Tatum enthusiast) and I (a fan of not only Matthew McConaughey but his bongos and bad accent but of well-built men projected on to large screens everywhere) were naturally keen on seeing the movie together on a girl's night out. We went on opening weekend, and luckily we decided to go to the theater early: it was a sold out show. I could tell she was divided: why else would she tell the girl at the counter she was a little embarrassed to be buying the ticket?
Luckily, I come equipped with little or no shame, for better or for worse. I apologized for nothing, including the extra butter on my popcorn. Once we settled in with our popcorn and cokes, two things were overwhelmingly obvious: First, the audience was 99% female, and second, they were positively giddy about seeing some naked dudes. The atmosphere was positively like Mardi Gras. And my Collin County sisters, God-fearing by day, were DRUNK, y'all. And rowdy.
I estimate there were 10 men in the theater by the time the lights went down. As every one of them entered the theater, women hooted and hollered at them. I was surprised no one threw panties. Thank you, gay men, for your patience with us. Scandalous! There were approximately two heterosexual men in the house, and I salute their firm grip on their masculinity. Because these Collin County, Texas hussies were ready. The other, more inebriated ladies were rowdy, loving the bawdy tone of the first half-hour of the movie (evidently this movie theater does not open purses looking for flasks). There was a lot of squealing and fake hiding-behind-the-hands-horror by my fellow female viewers.
But as the movie actually got a plot and slowed down and got more Soderberghy, it became clear that the ladies were restless and yearning for more skin. They didn't come for the storyline, methinks. Expected from a crowd of men. Less expected in a crowd of females. But don't judge us females for our fun with Magic Mike. Amanda Klimczuk, a researcher at the Institute for Mind and Biology, says that seeing male strippers is "seen as something " 'naughty,' like eating ice cream right out of the carton. So doing it with friends may be pleasurable, but may also instill giddiness because they're all doing something ‘taboo' together."
This is different from a club featuring female strippers, where men pursue more individual..er, em...interests and needs. So the upshot of my theatrical foray into male stripping was what a surprise and hoot it was to see a crowd of women from the most conservative county in the reddest state in the nation holler over a bunch of forty-foot high six packs and booties onscreen. But what I really took note of was the desire apparent in that movie theater: a clear desire for women to see more sexualized males. And in a theater studded in the buckle of middle America's Bible belt, too, mind you.
Mainstream male nudity may not be as common as mainstream female nudity, but it does seem like women gazing upon men purely as sexual objects — from the Old Spice man to the ripped vampires in True Blood and the asses of Magic Mike — is becoming more common, more accepted. It's left me wondering: maybe if there were more movies like Magic Mike, my fellow women wouldn't need to get so overwhelmed at a peek or two at Channing Tatum's butt cheeks.