5 Guilt-Free Reasons to Watch Magic Mike XXL!
Initially, when I learned there would be a sequel to Magic Mike, my first reaction was, "But...why?" I enjoyed the first movie, but didn't understand the reasoning behind making another. However, after seeing some positive reviews and hearing great feedback from respected friends, I reconsidered. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see it in theaters this summer because we'd just moved to Denver and were busy getting settled, finding work, etc. Thankfully, I was able to catch it on Google Play a couple weeks ago and watch it with my husband at our leisure. As soon as the credits rolled, I knew I wanted to write something, but wasn't sure when or where to pitch it. In the end, it came together at this moment, and as luck would have it, Magic Mike XXL comes out on DVD and Blu-ray today!
As an aside, I must confess I hesitated to share this piece because I was worried about what some might think.
She's a married, Christian woman recommending a movie about male strippers?! She should be ashamed!
I get it, I really do. But, part of my journey here is to do things that scare me, and believe me, this qualifies! In spite of the trepidation, I couldn't shake the desire to share my thoughts on Magic Mike XXL because the themes I mention below took me completely by surprise. Moreover, please know that it takes more than eye candy to hold my interest for two hours. If that were all this movie was, I would have stopped it within the first 15 minutes and gone about my day. Instead, I was immediately hooked because I actually cared about the characters involved. No, it's not Shakespeare, but there were more than a few moments of sincere honesty that deserve to be celebrated.
**Not sure if I should issue a spoiler alert, but I'll err on the side of caution and do so**
1. The relationship between the men is genuinely supportive.
Rather than the showcasing the usual tenets of traditional masculinity like derision and humiliation, they look for ways to bolster each other during times of struggle. There's no need to question anyone's sexuality because he is showing sensitivity or a desire for romance. In fact, Channing Tatum's character verbally expresses his love for his friends, and instead of taking shots at his manhood, the men immediately echo his sentiments, supporting him all the more.
In particular, I loved the scene in the convenience store because it shows how far they'll go to encourage Richie, whose "dry spell" is making him feel a bit insecure. Again, rather than kicking him while he's down or attempting to procure meaningless sex on his behalf, the guys band together to pump him up so he can regain his confidence. The combination of the men watching through the window (and cheering like they're at the Super Bowl!) and Joe Manganiello's efforts to bring a smile to the stoic woman behind the counter makes this the funniest scene in the entire movie!
2. Matt Bomer's magnetic rendition of Heaven + Donald Glover's sweet rap serenade prove men are capable of heartfelt gestures of romance.
These two scenes are among the most powerful in the entire film and there's not an ounce of nudity in either one. Through a series of unlikely events, the guys end up at the home of a wealthy southern divorceé, played by the lovely Andie McDowell. They arrive while she is having drinks with her friends, all women in their 50s. During a discussion about sex, fantasies and other topics, one of the women confesses she's never made love to her husband with the lights on. At this, Matt Bomer's character begins to serenade her with one of her favorite songs, Heaven by Bryan Adams. It is such a beautiful moment because he confirms her desirability, something our youth-obsessed culture tends to stop doing once women reach about 30 or so. Also, it speaks to the hang-ups many straight men of previous generations still hold and the ways in which those mentalities negatively affect their partners.
In the same vein, Donald Glover's character, Andre, does the most charismatic improvised rap I've ever seen. After asking one of the patrons of Domina (a club owned by Jada Pinkett-Smith's character) a few questions about herself, he discovers she's recently divorced and out for the first time since her marriage ended. Using the information she's just shared with him, he creates a personal and unique song on the spot, bringing her much-needed joy in the midst of stressful personal transition.
3. Women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages are shown genuine attention and affection (and none of them get naked).
I was struck by this because, so often in media, women who don't fit our culture's narrow ideal of what is attractive are relegated to the background (if they're present at all). Not so in Magic Mike XXL; ladies across the spectrum had their sensuality affirmed and encouraged, without explanation or judgment. The men, understanding the importance of this, took their jobs quite seriously. Which brings me to #4...
4. The guys are proud of and passionate about their job as male entertainers!
They bask in the opportunity to focus on the power of female satisfaction, which is incredibly rare for a mainstream movie of this budget. Still, in 2015, there's so much fear of and resistance to women having freedom, whether it be sexual, financial, social, or any other facet of the human experience. Having been raised in a strictly religious family, I remember feeling like the enemy when I hit puberty; suddenly, my growing body was something evil that needed to be suppressed and controlled. Despite being a grown woman who knows better, I sometimes find myself wrestling with the damaging messages I received. Feminists Jones touches on this and similar themes in her fantastic piece entitled, Magic Mike XXL Is Really About the Magic of Women. (Disclaimer: There are spoilers in her post, so hold off until you've seen the movie.)
Further, when women are free, we can see the positive effects this can have on men, too! As I mentioned in my first point, because they're not so burdened by harmful notions of manliness, they're allowed to laugh, cry, show affection, express vulnerability, and experience the full range of human emotion, not just that which is "acceptable". Equitable, unbiased freedom to live on one's own terms is a concept that benefits everyone.
5. There's no schmaltzy love story or unnecessary drama.
Because the first Magic Mike took a darker turn, I kept expecting a villain or other serious situation to interrupt the fun, but it never came! They let it be a light, breezy road trip movie about friendship and killer choreography, and I appreciated that.
That concludes my list, good people! Have you seen Magic Mike XXL? Did you have a favorite part? I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, so leave a comment below!