A Review Of the Audience for Magic Mike
Last night, a “friend” and I decided to go see Magic Mike. If you’re not familiar, this is the much talked about and well reviewed box office smash about a group of male strippers in Tampa. It stars Channing Tatum and is loosely based on his real life past as a stripper in, you guessed it, Tampa.
As unbelievable as it may sound, I was just as interested in seeing this movie for its director (Stephen Soderbergh of Contagion and Traffic) as I was for its “visual effects.” Of course by visual effects, I mean shirtless men in trench-coats dancing to “It’s Raining Men.”
This friend is contemplating going into ministry full time, so asked that I not identify her, seeing as this movie was a strong R. She was apparently the only one in the world ashamed to be seeing it, since the movie theater for last night’s screening was absolutely sold out.
Now, it’s not rare for movies to sell out, not even on a Thursday night. What is unusual is for a movie that’s been out a full week, to STILL sell out a theater. Not on Friday, or Saturday, but Thursday night a week later.
As entertaining and surprisingly funny as the movie was, a lot of the enjoyment from the evening came from the theater itself. My friend and I ended up getting there about thirty minutes early, so we decided to sit and wait in the small cafe near the entrance. After about ten minutes, we started to notice a trend in the people congregating by us. Overwhelmingly female, between 35-40, in groups of at least five. After the, what can only be described as middle aged herd of women went by, we decided we’d better make our way to the theater. Tucked all the way in the back corner (after all the movie had been out a week) right by the bathrooms (smart) was theater number three. Fully expecting it to be half to a third empty, as this was a week night, we were surprised to find that it was almost full.
There was not a man in sight.
Also, at the risk of sounding sexist, it was the loudest movie theater I’d ever walked into. The only thing stronger than the estrogen in the air was the sound of the chattering. With some difficulty we found two seats together at the very top of the theater, which gave us a great view of everyone below.
Normally, if you’re sitting at the very top of a movie theater and you look down, mostly what you see is the glow of smart phone screens. While there was a few of those for sure, mostly what we saw were women excitedly on the edge of their seats leaning in and talking to one another. Women who were friends, and unfortunately, close talking women like the one who sat next to me who want to make friends with whoever’s nearby. I don’t know what made me more uncomfortable, the fact she was with her young teenage daughter, or that she kept leaning over during the stripping scenes to say things like “isn’t this crazy?” to me.
The bathroom next to the theater was predictably packed all night. Some choice things I over heard from the mid-to late forties crowd that entered after me:
“Oh my God, my face is so flushed from that cocktail!”
“How many did you have?”
“I don’t know! Enough!”
“Wait, I thought you were allergic to alcohol?”
And I thought I was getting a little crazy since I had two bags of candy in my purse.
Once the movie started, and not even a minute in we got a full backside view of a naked Channing Tatum, the entire theater erupted in cheers. It took my friend and I two “dance” routines to notice that the loud clapping and hooting and hollering was not coming from the movie itself, but our theater. I can’t be sure, but I think I even saw some soccer moms dancing in their seats.
While waiting for my friend to get out of the humongous bathroom line after the movie ended, I saw one lone middle aged man leaving the theater with his wife. Clutching his popcorn and soda, I overheard him mutter “I’m surprised I didn’t get thrown out of there” before he exited. His wife definitely owes him one.
After dropping my friend off and starting my twenty minute drive home, I started thinking about how different an experience seeing that movie was, than any other I’d attended. I’ve been to half a dozen midnight movies for Harry Potter, a few for Twilight (shut up), and just as many Star Wars/Comic book films, all packed full with eager fans. Still, something about the fact that the theater was filled with women who had gathered all their friends, made me realize a real difference between men and women.
Men go to the movies to see the movie. Women went to this movie to see half naked men, sure, but they also went to share something with their girlfriends. It was like being in a more sexually charged episode of Sex in the City, if that’s even possible to imagine. At the risk of ending on a Carrie Bradshaw note, as I looked around the theater last night, I realized that what’s driving the success of this movie is not just the eye candy, it’s the opportunity for women to have an excuse to connect with each other and have fun. And maybe it’s the overdose of airborne estrogen talking, but it made me also realize I need to get over my phobia of hanging out with groups of women, and start working on my female friendships. They’re important, and as much as I love spending time with Ryan and my guy friends, the fact that it took me a week to find someone to see this movie with made me realize that void I have in my life.
So if a few months from now I’m sitting at a women’s church brunch or Bible study, and they go around asking us what made us decide to attend, I’m going to be honest.
“I’m here because of Magic Mike.”
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