Magic Mike XXL: strip-teasing the feminists

Otto Squire

Topics Culture

The second instalment of the Magic Mike franchise sees the Kings of Tampa (Channing Tatum and his buff bros) together one last time for a stripping convention. It’s kind of like Sylvester Stallone’s Eighties classic Over the Top – but with stripping instead of arm wrestling. Magic Mike XXL has ditched the grittiness of the first film, recognising that most punters are just there for the dong. But this hasn’t stopped the film being swamped by feminalysis.

Of course, the film caters to the sexualities of women and gay men, and even contains the odd bit of pro-feminist semantics (they ask each other ‘She bang you?’, instead of ‘You bang her?’). But the claim, made by one Time writer, that the film is ‘helping to usher in an era of “man-jectification”, in which women can judge men’s bodies openly — the way their male counterparts have long done for women’ is ridiculous.

Far from being an instrument of female emancipation, Magic Mike XXL is just a bit of fun; there’s really no need to get your knickers in a twist about it. But if you can bring yourself to watch it without an agenda, it’s a surprisingly entertaining film, albeit one that, at times, tends to resemble a group-therapy session.

In the first of a series of ups and downs, Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias), the lardy Latino club emcee, knocks himself unconscious when he crashes the group’s shag-wagon into a tree. Needing someone to fill in, they find themselves visiting Rome (an old flame of Mike’s played by Jada Pinkett Smith). They show up at a mansion she runs as a subscription-based pleasure palace. Leading the guys downstairs, they gyrate for flabby singletons in one of the film’s many choreographed strip scenes – which, if you’re new to Magic Mike and not here to ogle, are a lot more enjoyable to watch than they sound.

In another pit stop, the boys unwittingly enter a cougar’s den. They go there intending to meet up with an old conquest, but instead they are greeted at the door by her mother. She and her friends ply them with expensive hooch, but, less than one glass in, they begin to crack. ‘Only one penis in my entire fucking life’, says one. ‘My husband won’t do me with the lights on’, says another. It’s an entire scene of middle-aged women taking it in turns to speak about their insecurities. Ending with a rendition of ‘Heaven’ by Bryan Adams, it’s pretty pathetic, but at least it gives the lie to the idea that this is a flick about girl power.

In fact, it’s when the film tries to titillate the fellas in the audience that things really come unstuck. In the only scene written for straight men, Rome has a girl-on-girl moment with the woman on the door at the convention. While it’s nice to be included, the scene is unnecessary and their relationship is never explained.

The finale is a crescendo of nauseating baselines, expert choreography and whipped-cream innuendo – a perfect ending to an imperfect film. It’s silly, sexy and completely lacking in substance – but that’s the point. Magic Mike XXL doesn’t take itself too seriously, so you probably shouldn’t either.

Otto Squire is a spiked intern.

Watch the trailer for Magic Mike XXL:

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