Magic Mike XXL – More Than Skin Deep

**Spoiler Alert if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

I walked out of the theater after watching Magic Mike XXL with a huge smile on my face and it wasn’t just because Channing Tatum and his crew know how to dance sexy while wearing minimal clothing. Having a mainstream summer movie cater to my female gaze was a refreshing experience. But even more exciting were the other stories playing out within the subtext of this buddy road trip flick.

This time around, you learn there is more to the other guys than their hot bodies dancing for cash. Matt Bomer’s Ken is an aspiring actor and a Reiki healer. Adam Rodriguez’s Tito makes artisanal frozen yogurt and is trying to launch a successful dessert truck business. Kevin Nash’s Tarzan is some kind of artist-magician.

Magic Mike XXL  Wikipedia:

Magic Mike XXL

And unlike in the original film, where the guys’ stripper routines were primarily choreographed to get women to open up their wallets, Mike and his friends are focused on creating performances in which they channel their passions and embody their authentic selves. Gone are the hot fireman, sexy cop, and other characters, which allude to females wanting to be rescued, that typically populate male stripper bars and bachelorette parties. Instead, there is the gourmet dessert maker who wants to satisfy more than your sweet tooth and the hunky lover who will help you make all of your fantasies in the bedroom a reality.

These guys, led by Tatum’s Mike, are not stereotypes of the dudes you typically see in buddy bonding movies and not just because they are male entertainers. No one is trying to score the most chicks or kill anyone or rob a bank. No one is trying to out dude the others, whatever that even means. If anything, they openly support and love each other. Yet as actor Joe Manganiello, who plays Big Dick Ritchie, said in a recent interview, in Magic Mike XXL the men are very much in their masculinity and maleness.

And the women are not just accessories to the male leads. Three of the female characters, played by Jada Pinkett Smith, Andy McDowell, and Elizabeth Banks, are actresses over 40. McDowell is 57. The women they play are confident, in charge of their lives/careers, and know who they are and what they want.

Their characters have not shrunken into invisibility because they are no longer young in years. Time and experience have allowed them to evolve into the most empowered versions of themselves yet. These three are who Mike and his friends turn to for help in realizing their dreams of dancing one last time at the Myrtle Beach Stripper Convention.

It’s with McDowell’s character Nancy, twenty-plus years his senior, that Big Dick Ritchie finally gets to have the “glass slipper that fits his (big dick) ‘shoe’” kind of sex that he’s been looking for. Not once is a MILF joke or cougar reference implied. Nancy thinks Ritchie’s hot and Ritchie thinks Nancy’s hot. They want to have sex with each other, so they do.

From years of stripping, Mike and the guys have become connoisseurs at pleasing women—and not just onstage. As Andre, another male entertainer played by Donald Glover, says to Ken, it’s not hard to figure out what a woman wants: Just ask her. What they can’t understand is why a lot of men don’t bother to inquire.

In less emotionally evolved males, the ability to find out what a woman wants could easily be abused, used as a tool to exploit or manipulate—but not Mike and his friends. In this movie they use their powers for the greater good by tapping into the different turn-ons of women and giving that to them through their stripper routines.

At the convention, Tito slathers artisanal yogurt onto the bodies of two willing audience members. He pretends to lick it off their skin as he removes his clothes. Ken sings to one woman “You can decide, if you want me. I can provide everything you desire. How does it feel baby? I want to know. How does it feel?”

My favorite was Big Dick Richie’s dance number. Manganiello is all 6’5 hunk of handsomeness in his black tuxedo as he pulls a woman from the crowd and gets down on his knees pretending to propose. But it’s what comes after that I really loved. He flings her onto a sex swing while metaphorically pleasuring her to kingdom come—no pun intended. As someone who is getting married soon, I’m all for stable commitment coupled with steamy passion.

I know that Magic Mike XXL is a far cry from the real lives of most male entertainers. The first movie, based on Tatum’s experiences as a stripper back in the day, does a more accurate job of portraying that world and its many pitfalls.

Wrapped within this female-pleasing movie is a different paradigm of what is possible between (and for) men and women. I know guys like Mike and his friends. I also know women who continue to deepen into their power with every passing year. But I don’t usually get to see stories about people like them on the big screen.

It’s as if the makers of Magic Mike XXL tapped into a bunch of my desires and hopes, sexual and otherwise, and served it up to me in joyful, sexy, and honoring ways. That, for me, was the real turn on.

54 Comments on “Magic Mike XXL – More Than Skin Deep”

  1. BroadBlogs says:

    So it sounds like these guys are still strippers. Who knew a stripper movie would actually have some depth?

    You know, I tried to get my husband to watch the first one simply because turnaround is fair play — I mean we see women playing strippers all the time and I was wondering how he would experience seeing the tables turned. I’ve never been thrilled with the female stripper experience and I was wondering how he would experience the other side. Somehow we have never gotten around to watching it.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Yes. A stripper movie without the usual seedy stuff… am wondering if this movie would/could have been made if the strippers were women. I didn’t enjoy the first movie because I didn’t think the story was that great. This one had even less of a plot but all this other stuff was going on with it that made it way more enjoyable. The overall story itself was besides the point.

  2. KS says:

    Yes!! To all of this!!! Love that paragraph about commitment and steamy passion. Thank you for writing this. I couldn’t articulate what is was that made me so happy. Your essay does!!

  3. Well, I never thought I’d want to see a movie “because the overall story is besides the point!” But you’ve really intrigued me now, Diahann. And what’s this about soon to be married? I believe I need to catch up on some blogs, perhaps!! Congrats!!!

  4. I’d been catching some buzz about this film, but didn’t even know what it was about so thanks for filling me in. Your description of the older female characters sold me. I’m in.

  5. SirenaTales says:

    Diahann, As a lover primarily of indie and foreign films, I didn’t have this one on my radar, but am so heartened to hear that the creators plumbed greater depths in character and plot than what is so often done with this kind of film. Reminding us both of the value and power of good storytelling, and of delving beneath superficial ways of thinking and judging. Thanks so much for the intriguing discussion. And, again, happy wedding! Love to you….

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Chloe! Yes- it made me think about how the movie was by no means perfect but there was an aliveness to it. Reminded me of acting class and how the most compelling work would involve students messy and imperfect in their work but totally alive.

  6. Alice says:

    From one die-hard Roxane Gay fan to another, did you read this interview??


    Ok, done now. (brb — putting Magic Mike on my “must-see movies” list…)

  7. Peter Schreiner says:

    Your candor is always much admired with me. And too, I would like to offer you congratulations on your soon to be married, congratulations.

  8. christianears says:

    I LOOOOOVE YOUR POST! I miss reading you, I admit I have been slacking but I come back and what do I find – just more of the awesomeness you are. I think most men don’t ask what women want because they don’t care. They are too selfish. They won’t ask unless they are committed to pleasing their significant other. BTW I love your writing.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you so much 🙂 Your post made me smile. I feel that if more men and women could have such conversations the level of satisfaction for both would go up exponentially!

      • christianears says:

        I definitely agree. I’m glad I put a smile on you face it’s the least I could do since you put a smile on mind and open up my mind.

  9. livelytwist says:

    First off, congratulations, soon-to-be married! 🙂
    What came through as I read your review was that you enjoyed the movie and found jewels to mine. So, there’s more to it than meets the eye? Thanks for sharing.

  10. ledrakenoir says:

    “Just ask her” or “Just ask him” – what a world it could be… 🙂

    Upcoming wedding.? – what a lucky bastard – just for fun, you know.
    Congratulations… 😉

  11. Not something I expect I’ll ever watch Diahann, but it’s good to know that occasionally something gets made that has a more intelligent portrayal of and for women.

    • diahannreyes says:

      hi Andrea, yes, it was an unexpected surprise. I want to see more movies – not with strippers – but where the men and women are portrayed expansively.

  12. Jean says:

    Well, a different male stripper story. Sounds like a fun movie. But still it’s guys with 6-pack abs.

    Even my partner in his most fit phases didn’t have that. But yea,….steamy still.

    I did go to male strip show with a bunch of women….about 30 years ago. Did I find it sexy? No..

  13. katherinejlegry says:

    Hi Diahann! It looks like you found a good bachelorette-party film!

    I have to admit when I saw the movie trailer, I thought, so… they want women to feel we have achieved our equal rights via mutual objectification…

    Only a movie recommendation of this sort, coming from you, would I give a chance. 🙂

    You’re wonderful.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Hi Kate 🙂 thank you. In the film there definitely was lots of gazing at the men and celebrating that but there was something about the exchange – not so obvious to the eye-that made me think not so much about objectification but about how witnessing a body move especially when the person is embodying themselves – can be transformative, “healing” even, as one of the dancers even spoke of. Again speaking to the erotic when it isn’t per usual distorted. If you do watch the film would be curious to hear your thoughts. xo

      • katherinejlegry says:

        Well, Diahann, I just told my husband we should go to a movie matinee again sometime… and I think I know which one I’m picking! He’ll indulge me. 😉

        I love your insights. Thanks again for the recommendation! I’ll let you know my response(s) sometime soon to be sure.

  14. That was a fun read. =) I dare you to watch a summer flick without dissecting it. LOL.

    “Time and experience have allowed them to evolve into the most empowered versions of themselves yet” Wonderful. Gives me hope!! =)

    • katherinejlegry says:

      Howdy Holistic Wayfarer… how can anyone go about modern life without “dissecting it? You’ve probably heard the saying that goes something like, “the unanalyzed life is the life not worth living.”

      anyhow, not to argue… but “pure” enjoyment without questioning, seems the realm and or privilege of childhood anymore.

      Best wishes to you. Not meaning to be too intense! 🙂

      • i am familiar with the quote on the unexamined life, KJ, and that was almost an inside joke with Diahann given how she and I turn everything inside out and over on its head before releasing it. =)

        Take care and thx for connecting. =)

        • katherinejlegry says:

          Ah yes… inside jokes,

          well it’s particularly important to analyze film and images and point of view in narrative and story-tellling… for me. I took alternative film history in college and had to watch films that predated the narrative film. It began as just seeing what the medium could or would do… but anyhow, Onward with “the turning of everything inside out and releasing” for both of you then! 🙂 LOL! Have fun.

    • diahannreyes says:

      “I dare you to watch a summer flick without dissecting it. ”

      LOL- what would the fun be in that, D? xo

  15. reocochran says:

    I have not seen this but talked three coworkers into seeing the first one, but our local theater has not had this come yet. We have Ant Man, Minions and the really great Train Wreck. I will need to see this one, I knew it would have sub-plots and fun involved. I bet I may not even miss the too skinny Matthew McConaughey, either.
    He had just come from making the best and excellent movie, “Dallas Buyers Club.” Diahann, did you ever talk about that movie and how it told a true life story with such a humane way of his dealing with the Jared Leto character who was outstanding in his portrayal of a cross gender person. I feel I would benefit from seeing that one again…. Hugs for your wonderful review of Magic Mike XXL 🙂

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Robin 🙂

      I definitely did not miss MM although he was great in the first flick and seems to be on a creative role. I loved him in Dallas Buyers Club for sure and Jared also did a great job. Love and Mercy is another great (it’s pretty recent) one that captures the human condition so well. Beautiful acting all around.

  16. Aquileana says:

    It seems like fun is knocking at your- our doors… I still think that stripper are the major turn on for most women… What I think it is paradoxical is that many times they are gays!… Ha… Anyhow, I am more in the skinny model type… Or not so skinny… But not as much hormonal and sexual as these guys seem to be!.-… All my best wishes. Aquileana 😀

    • diahannreyes says:

      Apologies for my delay in responding, Aquileana. I was away tying the knot and just got back. Your comment made me laugh. For me it’s the eyes or some other quality that keeps my gaze.. although I’ve been known to be awestruck at male beauty many times.

  17. Jay says:

    I don’t care for JPS, but I did enjoy seeing some seasoned ladies up there!

  18. Leave it to you to pick up on many, if not all, the aspects of the movie I relished. Although I enjoyed the first one, definitely not for plot, but because it served as a backdrop for getting 15 glorious women together for an evening of fun, we all found this one so much better for all the reasons you noted. We had another blast, and I definitely enjoyed reminiscing through your insights.
    Awesome, as usual, Diahann!

    • diahannreyes says:

      hi Robyn! Sorry for the delay in responding. I got married a couple of weeks ago and the month leading up to it and the weeks after have been super hectic. MM XXL is definitely a great female bonding movie. I went alone but wished I’d gone with friends. (I saw Trainwreck with girlfriends which made it even more enjoyable.) I’m still not sure whether Tatum is some male genius tapped into the female psyche or a bunch of women (uncredited) were involved in the story development. I’m just starting to catch up on blogs now so look forward to discovering what you’ve been up to!

  19. What a good movie review! I had decided before I read this post that I wouldn’t see the second Magic Mike movie. I came out of the first one rather depressed because of the sad aspect of the men and how their lives became more depressed (with drugs, bad sex, etc). All I wanted was a fun stripper dance movie. But this second Mike movie sounds more like what I would enjoy. I also like the ‘older women’ aspect. The movie is on my list now.
    Congrats on your engagement and your happiness – nothing, nothing is better than love.

  20. eliang says:

    Finally commenting b/c I finally saw MMXXL a few weeks ago with 2 friends, both women, and we all agreed that it is a cinematic masterpiece. 😉 It caters to so many straight women’s yearnings and is just good fun to boot. Thank you for posting about it–I’ve been wanting to see it ever since and am so glad I finally did.

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