Magic Mike XXL follows up its 2012 predecessor, taking you on the road to a stripper convention with the Kings of Tampa. The central character Mike (Channing Tatum) rejoins the group of ‘male entertainers’, ditching retirement to reunite with his brothers.
Perhaps surprisingly, a lot of time on the road with the ‘Kings’ is spent in conversation about love, spiritualty, and brokenness.
Much of the screen time is giving to the guys discussing issues of intimacy, exploring sexuality, and pondering their role as “healers”.
Pitched as a flick for a ‘girls night out’ or ‘grown ups dance movie’, Magic Mike XXL has enough fun and innocence to attract audiences to the film (I’m not going lie, the guys can really dance).
But it all pales in comparison to weightier messages laying underneath: messages that I, for one, am at odds with.
1. If You Feel Loved, You Are Loved
I remember in a church service I was at once, the youth minister asked us to “make our visitors feel welcome”.
The sentiment seems nice but my spirit cringed within me and I thought, “No, I don’t want to make them feel welcome – I want them to know they are welcome.”
It may seem subtle, but we can ‘feel’ a bunch of things that are in fact untrue. For example, feeling like no one notices you, only to discover that your smile made someone’s day, or feeling that someone’s your friend and then getting confused when they betray your trust.
Nice words can be said, and feelings of love can be evoked, but is there follow-through?
The Kings’ solution to ‘love women right’ and remedy the wrongs of their husbands and beaus, is to simulate sensations of love, value, and beauty.
They say (and sing) all the right things; give their best sexy gaze – and the ladies love it. But, at the end of the day, what do they have to show for it?
After such an extreme high of attention, all the ladies are left with is a severe comedown to nurse, and an even worse sense of loneliness.
True love is more than a feeling. It’s commitment, it’s follow-through, and it isn’t simulated.
2. Purity Is Passé
Choosing to have only one sexual partner and remain faithful to them through marriage is a lifestyle that’s always under attack.
Even in the dating phase, modern society’s understanding of ‘freely expressing your sexuality’ seems to sneer at the notion that freedom could be found in sexual purity.
Magic Mike XXL paints a very glossy, fake-tanned picture of experimentation, but it fails to look beyond immediate pleasures and into pain.
Sitting in the lounge room of a wealthy divorcee, the Kings are told that “purity is a mistake”, and their host believes it was the downfall of her marriage. Had she known better, she wouldn’t have stuck it out so long.
Encouraging her daughter to play the field, Tarzan (one of the Kings) pipes up and says “no”, and that all he longs for is to go home to a wife and kids, but he missed his boat.
The room goes quiet, then the rest of the lads grab a drink and cover over the sadness of what Tarzan’s expressed.
Purity may seem passé, but it’s the foundation for the true heart connection that we all want – kids or no kids.
3. Loving Someone Means Accepting Their Behaviour
Someone may have once said to you, “If you really loved me you’d let me…”.
The guilt-laden message is that if you love them as you say you do, you’ll let them make the choice they want to, or behave the way they want to, confusing love with permission.
I’ve no doubt I said it to my Dad when I wanted to get a razor scooter and ride it down my street with no helmet. But it was because he loved me that he didn’t let me.
Magic Mike XXL needs some of this kind of love.
Casually letting anything go, Mike’s God is a woman, Ken’s is the universe, Zoe “isn’t in a guy phase” right now, and it’s all very “lah-de-dah, each to their own”. The Kings and their crew are sold as a ‘safe space’ for any worldview or inclination to be expressed.
The danger of their cultural sales pitch though, is that in their representation of acceptance and tolerance, truth has no foundation. Therefore there’s no security.
When Jesus whittles down the 10 Commandments to two, he says we’re to love God and love people. From the context of loving Him, we learn how to love others; our knowledge of His character and perfect love is the reference point for how we treat our neighbour.
Don’t mistake true love and security for all-out behavioural acceptance.
4. To Be Loved Is To Be Worshipped
All of us have a desire to be seen, noticed, and appreciated. It’s part of our nature to seek admiration and be recognized for our efforts, and it’s healthy to receive that affection.
But when it comes to being “worshipped” and “exalted” as Magic Mike XXL promises, we need to take a step back and get perspective.
With Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith) MC’ing, promising her audience male adoration, she negates the fact that only One should be worshipped and exalted, and it’s not us.
Yes, women need to be appreciated, they need to be shown love, but as Kris Vallotton so rightly says, “truth out of order leads to perversion”.
Yes, we are called to love one another, but first we are to love Christ.
Overall, Magic Mike XXL is gorgeous and glittery, and well-choreographed, but it presents a very superficial solution to issues of the heart.
Pushing the boundaries of how we view porn as entertainment, it risks desensitising viewers to what life as Mike would really be like.
– First published on Laura Bennett’s blog, The Connect Press. Reproduced with permission.