It's a hazy assumption that anyone knew exactly what to expect when Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike was released in 2012. A film about male strippers that was loosely based on Channing Tatum's star appeared unlikely to spawn a large and vocal fan base—no wonder the Magic Mike Cinematic Universe (or MMCU for short).
It was clear that a good time was coming from the opening address and the now famous 'I think I see some lawbreakers in here,' drawn enticingly by Dallas' compere. The film centers around Mike Lane, the star of Dallas' show, who is busy day and night attempting to establish his own furniture business. By day he is Magic Mike, the jewel of the Kings of Tampa troupe. And in between, there are drinks, parties, and women.
Adam, 19, is captivated by the lifestyle, which includes his own construction job, but also his own consequences. While the film does provide some entertaining performances, it is firmly grounded in reality and the amount of suffering and agony that accompany it.
That then changed for the better...
Grit is replaced with Good Vibes Glory in Magic Mike XXL.
Magic Mike was a box office hit. It felt complete. The story of this particular life seemed to have been told. However, three years later, Gregory Jacobs directed and produced the sequel, Magic Mike XXL. The tagline alone, which appeared on the posters simply read "You're welcome," teased something different: more strip, less grit.
Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Ernie/Tarzan (Kevin Nash) and of course Mike, have been reunited. Mike, who left his group at the end of the previous film, is eager to expand his business. The call from the Kings of Tampa strikes him at the appropriate moment.
Magic Mike XXL quickly becomes a road trip film as the group travels to Myrtle Beach for a stripping convention and their final hoorah on stage together. There's also a memorable scene of Manganiello's Richie, who is high on MDMA, dancing in a gas station to make the clerk smile.
The women who appear onscreen in the 2012 film are mostly skinny, young, and white. Dallas' stripping instructions are borderline vulgar, and most of what they do is focusing on male stripping cliches and getting as close to sex as possible without breaking any laws. In Magic Mike XXL, they remove old beliefs and discuss what they do without fear of retaliation.
Even when they are mad at one another, they strive to be gentle and come to terms with their issues. They are comfortable sharing beds, being in gay clubs with drag queens, and with women they want to sleep with as well as those they just want to be friends with. They pay attention to everyone they meet, and when they go to Rome's private members club, there is no rivalry, only a sharing of experiences.
Tatum said of the stripping troupe in an interview about XXL, "but the people who saw the first film wouldn't even have a scratch of who they were." This film was about the audience getting to know these performers as individuals, not just their stagepersonas. Toxic masculinity is gone with and replaced with growth.
Tatum said of the quest at the heart of the film: "We're tired of telling you that a cowboy in some assless chaps should be sexy." It's no wonder that on the film's release, the press and supporters praised it as a surprising feminist masterpiece.
Magic Mike XXL gave audiences something worthwhile and life affirming. The men are older, and they still have time to enjoy the unplanned and make the memories that justify all of the effort.
Magic Mike Takes the Stage for Real
Magic Mike Live is a dance show that is based on the second film. It has since opened in London and been toured throughout the world to regularly sold out performances.
From the start, the atmosphere at the live performances is nothing short of enthralling, and it only intensifies from there. The women themselves, though enthusiastic, maintain the "no touching" rule. By the end, the audience is scream-singing along to the music and cheering the dancers on with unbridled enthusiasm.
Every show program feels like a once-in-a-lifetime, one-night only affair, which is no small feat.
Tatum previously said of the live show: "It has a message. We really wanted to make something that just feels right." And it does. It helps that Tatum's voice and a female compere guide everything throughout the program.
Magic Mike's Last Dance and a Chemistry That Drips
The anticipation for the third and final installment of the Magic Mike franchise was high. Directed once again by Soderbergh and titled Magic Mike's Last Dance, the film follows Mike, who has encountered some difficult times since the epidemic. However, his fortune is about to change when a wealthy woman named Max (Salma Hayek Pinault) takes an interest in him and his abilities, and we get to see the fictionalization of the live show.
Hayek Pinault and Tatum's romance dripping off the screen, and during the first dance of the film, which Mike does for Max, you could hear a pin drop in the theater. The performers in the film, all who are currently a part of or have previously been a part of the real live show, do not disappoint, although it is disappointing that we get so little of their personalities.
The reasons for these films are well-known among women and the queer population. There are no shortages of abs or eye candy on screen at any given time. The first film includes modified strip characters, like, fireman, soldiers, policemen, etc. The methods are tried and tested, and the paying customers seem to like what they see. However, for the performers, it allows little room for creativity or growth.
The second film is wary of this notion, claiming that they are not meat to be eaten. They have talents and beliefs that are both valuable and interesting. The heroes' raison d'etre is to make the women in their lives and the women they serve feel special, valued, and loved.
All three films address the issue of straight women interacting with men who neglect their emotional needs in their everyday lives. What these programs and performers can offer is a fantasy; a moment in time where the real world melts away and anything is possible.
The MMCU fosters friendship and general good vibes, for example during live shows, while there are endless screams for the male dancers, the greatest cheers often come for the one female dancer, the female compere, and anyone woman who wishes to be escorted up on stage for a deeper connection.
Even the casting of well-known actresses like Hayek Pinault, Pinkett-Smith, and Andie MacDowell seems to be geared towards women, particularly millennial women who grew up with those stars.
The third film is a continuation of this feeling. Mike is attempting to make a difference in the lives of regular people, but also regular women, much like Tatum is attempting to do in real life with Magic Mike Live (without which, the third film would not exist), and it turns out, he is the perfect guy to do it.
Magic Mike has gone from the bitter truth to deeper, universal truths about desire and performance and escape. The first film ends on a good note, with a spark that is fully ignited by the second, which continues with the live show and goes out with a bang in the third.
Magic Mikesone, two, andthree are incredibly sexy and full of sensuality and intimacy, and for films that have very little sex, they are all very significant and packed with intimacy and pleasure. It may seem trivial, but if the box office or the packed houses in both Las Vegas and London are anything to go by, women's desire is not only lucrative but transformative, and something that has clearly been absent from our screens and stages for far too long.