I sometimes feel guilty for how much I enjoy the Magic Mike series. Without fail, I light up inside every time I see Channing Tatum without his shirt. At times it makes me feel odd, even though I know he’s a willing participant. I have to muster up all my critical thinking skills and remember that it’s okay for me to swoon over him, even though I hate it when men objectify me. I tell myself, consent is a beautiful thing, Akirah. Consent is what makes all the difference.
This is why I felt torn when I was invited to preview showing of Magic Mike XXL. The cognitive dissonance struggle is real, my friends. My mind was telling me no, but my body was telling me yes.** Of course, my body won.
Anyway, this piece isn’t about my black feminist guilt; it’s about the ways Magic Mike XXL surprised me, and essentially alleviated some of that guilt. My best friend and I were both pleasantly surprised, by both the plot and positive messages. That said, here are five feminist lessons from Magic Mike XXL that she and I thought of after watching Channing and Joe do the damn thing.
1. Female sexual desire matters. Duh. This is what the entire Magic Mike franchise is based on. I greatly appreciate that and totally agree. If you’re reading this, you probably do too.
I didn’t always believe this, though. At a young age I learned that my sexuality isn’t something to be celebrated. Out of fear, I committed to abstinence when I was eleven years old and modesty was often preached to me as well. “It’s important not to cause men to stumble,” my Christian mentors would say.
It took many years for me to unlearn those lessons and develop a healthier awareness of my own sexuality. These days, I’m proud to say that I consider myself a lady in the streets and freak in the bed. Magic Mike XXL is just another reminder that I should embrace that.
2. All body types deserve pleasure. All types of bodies are represented in Magic Mike XXL, which I love. In fact, one of my favorite scenes is of Michael Strahan’s character paying “very close attention” to a beautiful, big, black woman. The look of ecstasy on homegirl’s face is priceless and I couldn’t help but feel jealous of her. “Get it, girl,” I thought. She most definitely did, too.
Some folks might think it’s funny to watch a big, black woman grope a sexy man, but Michael Strahan’s character didn’t seem to get the memo. Yes, I know he was on the clock; it’s his job to please any woman who pays him to, regardless of what she looks like. But my point is that Magic Mike XXL shows women of all sizes enjoying sex and expressing desire, which is super cool. Perhaps the body positivity movement is making a difference after all.
3. Men can be vulnerable and loving towards their friends. So often when we see male friendships portrayed in the media, men are either making fun of one another or competing with one another. Refreshingly, this is not the case in Magic Mike XXL. Aside from a little unresolved anger between two of the characters in the beginning, the five dancers seem to really appreciate each other’s uniqueness. In fact, the entire movie is about helping one another be the best male entertainers possible, while encouraging each other to stay true to themselves.
Basically, the most hyper-masculine thing about this movie is all the muscles. I’m definitely okay with that.
4. People of color exist. We really do! Which is why it’s important for us to be represented in movies. This doesn’t always happen, and that's why I enjoyed seeing characters of all colors interacting with each other. Yes, the most of the main characters are white, but not all. And during the last scene, which takes place at male stripper convention, women of all races are featured, giddy with anticipation. Think: the United Colors of Benetton meets Chippendales.
That reminds me. Does anyone know if male stripper conventions really a thing? Because I’m tempted to snag myself a ticket…
5. I’m a queen. Throughout the movie, Jada Pinkett-Smith’s character refers to all women as queens and emphasizes that we should be treated as such. It might sound cheesy, but I like this message.
And not only do I like thinking of myself as a queen, but I like the idea of viewing other women as queens as well. Imagine what would happen if we all started doing that.
Now, I’m not saying Magic Mike XXL is the perfect example of a feminist movie. I’ll be the first to admit that it has flaws. As my best friend pointed out, it’s fairly heteronormative. These men are practically worshipped for being strippers, but if they were women, they’d totally be shamed. Plus, the word “pussy” is used a few more times than I’d like – four to be exact. Yet while I’m pretty sure Magic Mike XXL doesn’t pass the Bechdel test (I need to re-watch it, just to be sure), I do think it’s worth seeing – if you’re into that kind of thing.
I had low expectations, y’all. I prepared myself for a horrible plot, balanced by hot dancing. But then Channing and Joe started cracking me up and Michael and Donald started making my heart flutter. Swoon. Let’s just say, I left the theater a very satisfied woman. All the gals I spoke to afterward seemed to agree.
Anyway, have any of you queens seen Magic Mike XXL yet? Are any of you planning to? Why or why not? Let’s talk about hot men and feminism – two of my favorite things ever.
** You get bonus points if you can name that tune, by the way. Unfortunately, it’s written by a man who’s been accused of rape multiple times. Also, I’m experiencing more feminist guilt for even referring to him. Forgive me.