Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fifty Shades of Magic Mike


Have you seen Magic Mike, and if so, what did you think? I was looking forward to this movie like nobody’s business, and finally got a chance to rent it the other night. I have to say that it wasn’t what I expected. The docu-style, handheld camera work came as a surprise, as did the long single-camera takes. I wasn’t expecting the romance to be such a big part of it. There was less Joe Mangianello than I expected. And I didn’t expect to be so blown away by Channing Tatum’s dance moves. Overall, I liked it more – or maybe just in a different way – than I anticipated.

Then I read a quote from Steven Soderbergh about why he thought it was so popular. I quote:

“A few months earlier, these 'Fifty Shades of Grey' books came out. Suddenly, the whole issue of female fantasy was part of the cultural conversation [and] we were able to draft off of that. It really helped us enormously."

And I got a little irritated. Is he saying that “female fantasy” was never part of the “cultural conversation” before? Hasn’t he noticed how we women appreciate a sexy movie star of the opposite sex just like the men do? Have women not been attending Chippendale’s shows? Was The Full Monty not a massive hit? Has he never been to a bachelorette party? Hasn’t he heard of the existence of erotica written or filmed for women? Hasn’t he seen my Facebook feed?

Is it really news, in 2013, that women appreciate male bodies and feel free to express that? What the heck? I’m glad he made millions of dollars by somehow accidentally exploiting this fact, but I think it’s a little weird it took him by surprise.

Steven, you’re a great director, but hello. Female fantasy was around long before Fifty Shades of Grey. It was part of the “cultural conversation” long before that (Anais Nin? Anne Rice? Any random beefcake fireman calendar? Romance novels, which celebrate female fantasy, have accounted for about half of all books sold for quite some time. We’ve been enjoying our fantasies all along, thank you very much. We don’t need a “cultural conversation” to give us permission to watch a movie filled with sexy male eye-candy. In my opinion, Magic Mike would have been just as successful if Christian had never met Anastasia.

But what do you think? Did Fifty Shades help Magic Mike at the box office?


Kelly Jamieson said...

I never, ever thought Magic Mike had anything to do with Fifty Shades of Grey and furthermore, I don’t think Magic Mike necessarily played to female fantasies. I thought it was kind of a sad movie. I think there was an interesting message in Magic Mike about sexism and double standards – if you changed the story and the stripper was female, she’d be seen as debauched and debased and there’d probably be no happy ending for her, because in much literature and movies, women who stoop to such “lows” become tainted for life. Yeah, she’d meet a man, and he’d think it’s all sexy that she shows her body but…date her? Marry her? Not likely. (Okay Pretty Woman is the exception but that was the gist of that story —fallen woman meets Prince Charming who can see past the tainted exterior to the heart of gold.) Even if she’s working that job to raise money for her bigger life goal, as is Mike. Magic Mike takes it further – these guys can drink and do drugs and have sex with multiple women and it’s all fine. Imagine if Julia Robert’s character did that in Pretty Woman…would she have gotten her happy ending? Would people have looked sympathetically on a female character who was a stripper and slept around and did drugs? Not likely. Yet we did feel sympathy for Magic Mike, especially when he did that heroic act of giving Adam all his savings to bail him out. The female character in the movie (sorry, I forget her name) does look at Mike with some disdain initially, but in the end there’s a hopeful ending for them.

Meg Benjamin said...

Very good analysis, Kelly. And yeah, I love Steven Soderbergh but in this case he's full of it.

Juniper Bell said...

I agree that there's a lot more to the movie than female fantasy, and it was darker than I expected. But it was marketed as a "female fantasy" movie -- the trailer was all about grabbing your girlfriends for a fun night out. I think one of the trailers even said "skip the book club" or something like that. Now I'm wondering if that was a direct reference to Fifty Shades!