(Literal) Anatomy of a Scene: Magic Mike vs. The Full Monty

You may be wondering, “Which is the best movie about male strippers?” Well, wonder no more. Here’s the skinny (or not skinny) on the two films that most people think of when they consider the topic in question.

Magic Mike (2012), Steven Soderbergh’s ode both to male strippers and to the sun-drenched paradise of Tampa, uses its trailer to focus on the two boring parts of the plot: the lackluster romantic subplot and Mike’s desire to build custom furniture (instead of, you know, shedding his clothes in front of hundreds of people every weekend). The scenario is almost a male Flashdance update: construction worker (instead of welder) by day, stripper by night.

The “It’s Raining Men” scene features the main five members of the dance revue. The number is slickly done, as choreographed as any upscale music video. I’d like to point out now that Magic Mike is the only character onstage whose story is told during the film; the other guys, attractive though they might be, are only there to be eye candy.

The scene showing the first time that Alex Pettyfer’s character has to strip was amusing for me to watch after it was discussed (though not shown) in a screenwriting class I recently took. There is something so sadly quotidian about the way he takes his hoodie and shoes off, not knowing how to act in that situation. (Lucky for him that this is a Hollywood film, so it’s a world where all actors portraying male strippers have the bodies of Greek gods and disrobing would never have “bad” results.)

In comparison, the trailers for the English comedy The Full Monty (1997, directed by Peter Cattaneo) highlight how funny that film is, emphasizing humor over sexuality. The men of The Full Monty are so much more likeable than the guys of Magic Mike, not because of better physiques – Magic Mike obviously trumps all in that department – but because the average person can relate to Monty’s characters. They’re blokes who are down on their luck, desperate both for money and for something to raise their spirits.

The “You Sexy Thing” scene, in which Robert Carlyle tries out his ideas of seductive dance moves, is comical more than anything else. The dance is less than a minute long but gives a pretty accurate summary of what the film is about: sexiness not out of trying too hard but rather because it’s silly and fun.

This scene also points out a lesson in objectification: “And they won’t say nowt about your personality neither… bollocks to your personality – this is what they’re looking at, right?” It’s true that these characters have what might be described as “normal” builds, which is to say, definitely not the hyper-chiseled look popular in Magic Mike. Personality does make a difference, though, and The Full Monty’s determined fellows will win you over.

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