I sat in the movie theater awaiting the feature film. Four women in their twenties sat in front of me. More small groups of women filed in and sat. Soon the theater was more than half full.
I counted the men in the audience. There were three of us, a guy with his girl down front and sitting next to me a middle-aged husband with his wife. As I had suspected, what was about to come on the screen was a "gal flick." Up came the title: Magic Mike.
The film jumped into some action in a strip club catering to women. The emcee of the club reminded the club’s audience of screaming women that there were certain parts of the performers’ bodies they were not to touch because that kind of touching was illegal. Then he said, “But I don’t see any police in here. Do you?”
The two most marketable of the "deadly sins" are the two that involve our bodies--Gluttony and Lust. I remember going as a young boy to the San Francisco World’s Fair in the 1930s. After some discussion with the women in our group, my father and another man, my mother’s first cousin Harold, bought expensive tickets to enter "Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch," starring the famous stripper who danced behind a succession of waving fans, giving the audience only brief glimpses of the forbidden and the tantalizing.
When my father and Harold emerged from the theater, they were cracked up with laughter. They had been seated near the front, and in front of them, in the very first row, was an older man zeroed in on Sally-with binoculars! Such is the nature of virtual lust. You can never get too close, and there is never enough detail.
The audience in the film Magic Mike was, just like the audience among which I sat to see the movie—well dressed, somewhat tame women mostly in their twenties and thirties. Both audiences were enraptured by what the male strippers were doing, gyrating and twisting and humping to thumping bass beats. I wondered how much of what the women of the audience were feeling could be attributed to the breaking of the taboos of their grandmothers, who kept their sexual fantasies so private.
I once asked a go-go dancer about a young woman performing on the stage at that moment. The performer was especially attractive and seemed to have a vibrant, palpable connection with the male audience. The woman I was talking to said, "Oh, that’s Debra. She is the best. But she’s a lesbian. Actually, she hates men." Her appeal was all in my mind and in the minds of the audience.
In Magic Mike, the director cuts back and forth between the upturned, lusting faces of the women audience and the backstage, calculating behavior and dialogue of the male performers; some of them are patently gay and many of them are hyped up on one kind of drug or another.
For the emcee, who "owns" the show, it’s all about the, ten, twenty and fifty dollars bills that are thrust into the dancers’ skimpy outfits so overflowing with bills that the stage becomes covered at times with all the green money. The day’s "take" is carefully collected by the emcee, but because it’s so large an amount it can’t be banked in the normal fashion. It gets stashed or laundered to avoid taxes.
The movie’s main characters have lives apart from stripping. There is a love affair, and conflict about the moral cost of making a living by pandering to lust. I won’t spoil the plot by giving away the action of the film.
But I will say this: as I left the theater to walk to my car, I saw a group of women who had been sitting near me. I asked them "What did you think of the movie?"
They gave vague answers. But I had the feeling they were all clearly deflated. My guess was that the end of the film had a sobering twist for them, taking them too quickly away from Magic Mike’s fantasy world.