Magic Mike XXL is a comic book movie about female sexual agency (until Sex Criminals gets adapted into a movie)
The more I think about, the more I think the real protagonists of Magic Mike XXL are the women who inhabit this universe. The women hucking dollar bills at C-Tates and company’s gyrating hips, the wine slurping divorcees talking shit about their ex-husbands who couldn’t treat them right. The woman at the gas station who cracked a smile at Joe Manganiello’s Big Dick Richie asking her how much for the water and Cheetoes after humping and humping and thrusting and thrusting his way through the gas station convenience store to Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.”
With Game of Thrones rape scenes and Twilight fanfiction cum BDSM sexual abuse trilogy 50 Shades of Grey, what made Magic Mike so great was its commitment to the sexual desire of its women as valid as fuck, and goddamn yall deserve a great time to regain yall’s agency. To quote Jada Pinkett Smith’s benevolent sex club owner Rome addressing her customers, yall are some QUEENS. And that enjoyment, that validation, their frenzy onscreen got me rooting for them having fun. I was having fun they were having fun, and if movies are to inspire sympathy for characters, Magic Mike had me rooting for the ladies.
That being said, the first Magic Mike was moody and meditative, a coming of age tale. Magic Mike strips (pun intended) this away, and instead brings us the NBA All-Star Weekend of the world of male stripping, without any of the heady consequences. (there were dozens of metaphors I came up with trying to describe Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL).
Our merry band of lunk-headed strippers with hearts of gold, go into this profession with the goal of making money sure, but their intentions are just to bring smiles to women’s faces. To them sex, isn’t a weapon, it’s a prop (not unlike a clown making balloon giraffes). In a conversation between spiritualist/budding actor Ken (Matt Bomer) and budding emcee Andre (Donald Glover) discussing the work they do as healing was silly, it was no more silly than Tony Stark inventing Iron Man armor to right wrongs.
And that’s what makes it great. The universe that Magic Mike inhabits, sex is silly and corny, but is taken very seriously when it comes to having women’s pleasure attended to*, which we don’t see a lot of in the media. The guys, the guys, they’re just vessels in order to get this going. They are mobile macguffins, really. But goddamn if they aren’t great.
Special shoutouts to Jada Pinkett Smith’s predominantly black sex club, which was a great display of female black sexuality (the ugliness of Eddie Huang’s statements about black women comes to mind).
*this is all in a largely heteronormative context to be fair, with a couple of bisexuality references sprinkled between some of the women, and an act I visit to a drag queen bar (pretty sure it was a drag queen bar?)