“Magic Mike XXL” is the Body Positive Stripper Movie You’ve Been Waiting For
By Casey Cipriani
So-called “sexy” movies can be rather disappointing if you don’t see yourself in any of the characters or can’t even picture yourself on screen in a similar situation. For plus-sized women, women of color, or middle-aged women, watching someone like Margot Robbie lure Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street” or Scarlett Johansson in just about anything can be pretty alienating. There’s no doubt those women are beautiful and good actresses to boot, but women who aren’t young, white, thin, and typically hot would like to see women who look like them enjoying themselves in the sack or getting a lap dance from Channing Tatum too.
The first “Magic Mike” suffered a bit from trying to balance its exposure of man abs by throwing a few hot women (and their bare breasts) into the mix. Thankfully, “Magic Mike XXL” not only abandons that charade (as well as the first’s dour sub-plot), it also features a greater variety of women in its club goers, and the film provides some serious body positivity along with its amazing man imagery.
Spoilers ahead for “Magic Mike XXL”
When the team of male entertainers heads out on their road trip to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach (which, by the way, is the entirety of the plot), they make a comedic, drug-infused pit stop at a gas station convenience store where they spy a miserable female clerk. In order to help find new inspiration for their upcoming show, Mike (Tatum) encourages Big Dick Ritchie (Joe Manganiello) to perform for her. The female convenience store clerk isn’t typically “pretty,” but nor do the guys go into the situation thinking that she’s kind of woman who would never get her freak on either. Rather, the entire point of Manganiello’s hilarious and amazing Cheetos-filled performance to The Backstreet Boys’ “I Want it That Way” is to get her to smile. Manganiello’s success didn’t stem from giving the girl a peak at his perfectly chiseled body that she would otherwise never see, and her smile wasn’t one an embarrassed one of demure, good-girl shame, rather one that said, “That was freaking awesome.”
The convenience store clerk is far from the only “normal” looking woman that the “Magic Mike” men gyrate for. Plus-sized women, average-sized women, short women, and more women of all shapes, sizes and facial features become the focus of many a lap dance and strip routine. And the best part about is that the presence of these plus-sized women isn’t played as a joke.
When the guys arrive in Savannah, they visit a private club run by Mike’s former flame Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), whose club caters almost exclusively to black women of all sizes whom she treats like queens and everyone calls beautiful. In one dance sequence inside the club (and there are a good few), a surprisingly nimble Michael Strahan gives a private performance to a woman whose size might immediately suggest that the scene was played for laughs, and it would have, had it been given a quick glance and done with. Instead, the scene lingers not only on Strahan’s utter devotion to giving her the best performance he can, but also on the pure pleasure she’s experiencing as a result. Her enjoyment isn’t a joke. No woman’s enjoyment is. That honest take on how women experience pleasure and that these men take their sexuality as seriously as they do is the heart of the film.
In Charleston, the guys head to a gothic mansion in search of a girl that Tito (Adam Rodriguez) met on the road only to be greeted by the girl’s mother Nancy (Andie MacDowell) and her gaggle of middle-aged girlfriends who go through bottles of wine with such a quickness I can only aspire to achieve one day. In any other film, these women would be predatory cougars whom the boys would immediately abandon for their younger, more taught daughters. But instead Mike and his merry men plop themselves on the sofa, grab themselves a glass and listen to their stories. When one of the women reveals that her husband will only have sex with her with the lights off, Ken (Matt Bomer) declares that, “He’s not showing you how beautiful you are” in all sincerity and then serenades her with Bryan Adams’ “Heaven.” And MacDowell, as it turns out, is the only woman, as of late, who can handle Big Dick Ritchie’s…well let’s just say there was a bit of trouble finding the right Cinderella to fit the slipper.
And the women aren’t the only beneficiaries of a little more open mindedness in “Magic Mike XXL.” These guys aren’t so macho that they’re afraid to visit drag bars. They may laugh at Ken’s new age beliefs but also actually listen to his advice. They eat frozen yogurt and each have their own mini story line about what they want to do after the convention. There’s a tender moment hinting at a previous relationship between Rome and Elizabeth Banks’ Paris that isn’t, for once, played for the guys’ titillation. “Magic Mike XXL” is definitely a fan service film that caters to women and gay men by providing a great show of glistening man meat, but it went the extra step by making its show cattle have actual depth and by including women who actually exist in the real world on the receiving end of their expertise.