Mmm beefcake! How could something that sounds so delicious cause such a stir? Or am I just getting all caught up in the marketing campaign for Magic Mike? The new film by Stephen Soderbergh definitely has some critics raising that straw man of a question: isn't this just woman having their beefcake, and, well...having their beefcake?
Honestly when I first heard about Stephen Soderbergh's film exploring the personal travails and dancing prowess of some male strippers in Tampa Bay Florida, I didn't immediately think "oh my poor, sexually exploited, male brethren." I was like "rock on, dudes!" After Hollwood's endless stream of man-child roles — in which our sometimes pudgy and always ditzy male hero gets knocked around by life, but picks himself back up and finds some semblance of an adult existence — isn't the opportunity to play a very grown up, very sexy, very hard working male lead kinda sorta progress?
But male emancipation doesn't come that easy: Turns out the man-child is still alive and well in Magic Mike, only this time his tighty whiteys are either tear-aways or stuffed with dollar bills.
Listen to Alison Cuddy discuss Magic Mike and other beefcake movies on Eight Forty-Eight:
Channing Tatum's moves puts Flash Dance and Dirty Dancing to shame. Still, his character has to figure out that stuffing his earnings into a wall safe, however fast they add up, doesn't amount to a hill of beans in the oddly provincial world of small business loans. And he needs to learn that true love is not found in the polymorphous perversity of Olivia Nunn, but in Cody Horn's uptight, bookish, principled way of life.
Hey that plot line almost sounds a little feminist! But...also true to those eternal sexist stereotypes: Brunette bad and untrustworthy, blond good and baby momma candidate! Dang it!
I think the women of Magic Mike actually fare worse than the men (with the exception of Joe Manganiello, who I swear is given less than 10 words in the entire film, and Alex Pettyfer, who has to make furious beard scratching — the male verison of the hair toss? — look emotive). The women who go to see the "expletive-deleted kings of Tampa Bay" do their thing are pretty much interchangeable: dressed up and semi-drunk, literally dollar bill-dispensing props in the stripper's routines.
The's film definitely a star-turn for Matthew McConaughey, or at least his lower abdomen, which looks like a geological formation - all taut ridges and vales. This is his "Demi Moore in Charlie's Angels" moment — his chance to prove that despite two kids, an awkward encounter with bongo drums and a wayward career, he's still got the six pack (and the back pack, and the butt pack) — to make a go of it. The man is ripped!
Sorry, is that sexist of me? Well if so, then let me pile it on. Here's a bit more beefcake on film — or as close as Hollywood allows — for your visual stimulation.
1. The Matinee Idol. Tyrone Power across his short film career epitomized the matinee idol — like Joe Manganiello a looker whose acting skills maybe aren't quite as easy on the eyes. Power's own cohort included Rock Hudson, Kirk Douglas and Charlton Heston. But many male actors took just a quick dip in the matinee idol role before breaking out big time; hello, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, James Dean?
2. The Pecs and Glutes. Arnold. Or Sly. Playing Conan. Or Rambo. Those one-name wonders, who work a major amount of cinematic magic out of that little bit of dirty, torn loincloth. And they're baaack, thanks to Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Taylor Kitsch (John Carter) and Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian).
3. The Thinking Woman's Beefcake. Hands down, Richard Gere in American Gigolo. Despite his Buddhism, community activism and real-life relationship with the smart and lovely Carey Lowell, Gere will always carry a hint of those gravity boots and other compromising positions. Only true old age — as it has done with Warren Beatty — will dim his sex appeal.
4. It's Complicated - really! This might be a stretch for some, but I think Ewan McGregor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and the eternally hot Christian Bale (men in tights by the way deserve their own category) are hipster beefcake in Velvet Goldmine. Maybe it's the recent details about the alleged sexual attraction between Mick Jagger and David Bowie, but glam rock just seems like a gussied up or refined version of the male bombshell.
Come to think of it there's plenty of glam, body glitter and heartfelt male affection — in Magic Mike. Beefcake perhaps, but wrapped around a soft little caramel of a boyish heart.