Magic Mike XXL is massively, unapologetically feminist movie we're surprised even exists

Last night, I went to see the movie Magic Mike XXL.

It surprised me, because it ended up being one of the most feminist films I’ve ever seen, and it represents a side of the industry I wasn’t sure would ever exist.

Yes, a film about male strippers, which just barely passes the Beschdel test (do any two female characters have a conversation that isn’t about a man?), is massively, unapologetically feminist.

Ostensibly this is about a bunch of bros going on a road trip to a stripper convention. The plot is irrelevant, though, because the point of the film is really female pleasure.

And it’s not just in the visuals — a non-trivial amount of the dialogue is about figuring out what women want, and finding ways to give it to them.

Magic Mike Lane (Channing Tatum), at one point, explains that the inspiration for his famous solo dance from the previous movie (a reason for a re-watch!) was a woman he saw at a club. He says he just though about what he would do to her and did it on stage.

At another moment, Lane is standing in a kitchen, talking to a woman eating an entire red velvet cake while sitting on the counter (hero), and he says to her “My god is a woman.” This makes up for the fact that he declines her invite to share the cake.

She is dumbfounded. She continues eating her cake (red velvet). Tatum walks out into the living room, where one of his friends is giving a lap dance to a middle-aged woman who has just admitted that her and her husband have never had sex with the lights on.

This is possibly the first movie I’ve ever seen coming from a heterosexual male perspective that recognises that women are independent beings with preferences, and attending to those preferences is sexier than any sculpted ab — although those don’t hurt.

In another scene, at a members only male strip club owned by the fabulous Jada Pinkett Smith, singer-dancer Andre (Donald Glover) asks one of the patrons about herself. On the spot, he makes up a song about her. All of the women in the crowd go crazy for him.

In this movie there are drag queens. There are women, referred to as queens. There are bodies of all sizes and races and ages, all getting properly turned on by men who tell them they deserve it and really mean it.

This is a nearly unprecedented recognition by a major movie studio that women — normal women, half of the population — are sexual beings. And that’s totally cool and normal.

I feel like I grew up in a world that told me sex was scary, and nasty, and should be secret. I mostly got this impression from watching movies, and it took me years to rethink that framework.

Magic Mike isn’t perfect (see: Beschdel test above), but it represents a huge turn for the industry on this front, and I can only hope that it’s not a one-off.

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