Magic Mike has a problem. The problem is that it’s a movie trying to appeal to two very different kinds of audiences: the rowdy I want to see some man candy crowd and the give me a compelling story crowd. These two different crowds choose a movie for different reasons. Magic Mike has been marketed to the man candy crowd. It’s a compelling story movie.
Dangerous waters ahead! There is no way to successfully pilot through these turbulent, conflicting waters. For the man candy crowd, there is too much story. For the story crowd, there is too much “dancing.” I’m in the story crowd. What I saw I wouldn’t describe as dancing, though Tatum can dance. But he was the only one who could. Everyone else simply gyrates.
The set-up is simple. A 30 year old stripper has big plans for his life, and he’s making them work. He thinks. He meets a nice girl, looks at his life differently because of her, changes his life at the crisis point, gets the girl.
That’s it in a nutshell, with all the plot stripped (ha!) away. I saw it as a Rocky type of tale, only the trajectory is in reverse. Here’s what I mean:
Loser living a loser life
Loser meets nice girl via her skeezy brother
Loser tries to change his trajectory, change himself
Loser gains a vision of the life he wants to live
Loser becomes a winner and gets the girl
Winner living a winning life
Winner meets nice girl via her skeezy brother
Winner tries to change his trajectory, change himself
Winner gains a vision of the life he’s really living
Winner realizes he’s a loser, leaves losing life, gets the girl
See what I mean? In structural and thematic terms, the two movies have a lot in common. We see the seedy underbelly of a world seeped in corruption (boxing and stripping). We see men who use their bodies as tools. We see men who are struggling to better themselves and become who they used to believe they could be. And in each movie, it’s a nice girl who is the catalyst for change in that they want to be someone the nice girl would want to be with.
Rocky is a movie with a lot of heart; we are rooting for the hero. We want him to succeed. We find his life sad and want him to do better. Magic Mike doesn’t have quite as much heart and I think that’s because of the man candy “problem.” Does the audience want Mike to change, to become something more than eye candy? If not, then that’s a problem. The man candy aspect distracts from the hero’s journey. It’s been said by some about Magic Mike, “Too much talking, not enough dancing.” If you don’t want Mike to leave the stripping life then that’s true. If you want him to stop stripping then every time he dances you feel a sense of sadness.
He’s trapped in a life that he doesn’t want and that degrades him. Sad.
He’s gorgeous eye candy and he’s good at what he does. Happy.
What is the audience supposed to feel? Happy or sad? Are we supposed to sexually desire Mike the stripper or feel sorry for him?
Your turn. Spew away.