Both Magic Mike and it’s sequel Magic Mike XXL are films about male strippers. They’re also great examples of the female gaze and giving women permission to look and to embrace their sexuality. You could say the latter film embodies an objectifying but fun-loving female gaze.
The first Magic Mike tells the story of a jaded male stripper hoping to get out of the industry. While the film has a lot of enjoyable beefcake dance sequences that acknowledge the female audience, it’s primarily concerned with working class issues. The sequel, Magic Mike XXL is more comedic and also much more skewed toward the female gaze. Mike longs for the good times as a stripper, gets the gang back together and they go on a road trip across the USA. Along the way, they encourage thousands of women to embrace their own desires.
Magic Mike XXL As A Female Gaze Film
Magic Mike XXL features a lot of dance/stripping sequences that are very deliberately aimed at a female audience, both as part of the plot and through the framing and cinematography. The film is perfectly comfortable with the idea that it’s titillating its straight female viewers and objectifying its male characters. At the same time, it takes its time to show who the guys are and to really emphasize their personalities and their friendships.
The film also features Jada Pinkett Smith as the feminist MC, happily referring to the female audience as “queens” and encouraging them to take control of their sexuality and get what they want. In a way she is the personification of the female gaze in this film, enjoying her own power.
Male Friendships and Female Empowerment
Zoe Margolis, author of Girl with a One Track Mind told Dazed in 2015: “It’s an almost revolutionary portrayal of men as people who actively like and care about women, rather than positioning them as competing for or domination over them. It’s not mocking masculinity – it’s embracing a portrayal of men and male sexuality which is positive and real and three-dimensional.”
“It’s also a covertly intelligent film written, produced and directed by men which places all the female roles in a position of power over the men – and, instead of being critical of that status, it applauds them.”
The film has also been praised because the film celebrates male friendships and shows men “being nice to each other” for once. One might argue that this approach to masculinity is a form of “the female gaze” because it rejects the patriarchal requirements of manhood such as competition, domination, violence and aggression.
The “I Want It That Way’ convenience store scene featured above does a good job of capturing the female-friendly perspective of the film. Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) feels like he’s lost his stripping mojo. His colleagues encourage him to get back into it by challenging him to make the convenience store clerk smile. The result is a very funny scene that is both sexy and incredibly charming. Richie’s friends are super supportive through the window even as the clerk seems unfazed. Perhaps the best part of the scene is that Richie’s goal isn’t to conquer her or exert power; he only wants to make her laugh. There’s a generous wholesomeness to the scene that permeates the entire film.
Magic Mike and its sequel were based on star Channing Tatum’s real-life experiences as a stripper. Magic Mike was directed by Stephen Soderbergh and written by Reid Carolin. Magic Mike was directed by Gregory Jacobs.