Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures
Channing Tatum swiveling his hips as male stripper "Magic Mike" was more than enough sugar to make the medicine go down: women attend movies that appeal to them and rain money on the box office. It doesn't have to be a women director, writer, lead or even a 'women's movie.' It just can't be aimed solely at the young male ADD demographic.
Steven Soderbergh's well-made, well-cast, male-driven "Showgirls" with heart grossed an estimated $39 over the weekend. THR's David Rooney was right on the money when he wrote in his review that the movie ""should rake in girl and gay dollars."
So, our water-cooler question today is: why did "Magic Mike" connect with women audiences — and if you answered cod-piece, that's one piece of the pretty picture.
[Related: See showtimes for 'Magic Mike']
"Magic Mike" became an event movie:
I attended the Sunday matinee at my local upstate New York family-owned cineplex. Women to the left of me; women to the right — and I was stuck in the middle of Hollywood's forgotten market. The female movie-goers came in pairs and quartets — mothers, daughters, grannies, best friends. The women of the book club have morphed into the women of the movie club. They run in packs and their numbers are growing. Now that these women have bonded over "The Twilight Saga," "The Hunger Games," "The Help," "Bridesmaids," and "Sex and the City," they have a pattern of attendance. All they need is movies to attend. Ray Subers at BoxOfficeMojo.com confirmed my anecdotal observation: "Late in the game, as the movie was building steam, Warner Bros. ramped up the 'event movie' signals to try and get large groups of women to ditch their boyfriends and head to the movies. As expected, the men didn't really come along: the audience was 73 percent women…." Men: consider yourself ditched.
What do women want?
It's not hard to figure out what women want. Hollywood just has to listen. Fantasy sex turns on the majority of women rather than hardcore porn — hence the enduring success of the romance novel. Watching the Chippendale-style strippers flash their butt cheeks, and shimmy their pecs, with a sly detour down-under, appeals to the female audience. And, because the women spectators in the movie are depicted positively (girls just want to have fun with their fantasies of dominating men as policemen, construction workers or virginal college boys), women movie-goers have a core group with whom they can identify. It's not lost on the female audiences that when a pretty and plump young lady joins a stripper onstage and he goes to lift her above his head and pulls a lower back muscle, that strippers have occupational hazards, too, and the women who go to clubs are 'just like us.'
Women respond to at least one female lead who's not a bimbo:
The hard-working Brooke (Cody Horn) embodies a relatable heroine. She's sick of pulling rabbits out of hats to rescue her impractical brother, the newbie stripper Adam (Alex Pettyfer), from his own mistakes. Brooke's making do with a steady boyfriend who puts her down, and a paycheck that keeps her in knock-off furniture. She has a thick skin and a finely-tuned B.S. detector because she has to: somebody has to be Wendy Darling in a world full of Peter Pans. She's locked away her heart in a gated community and it takes a leap of romantic faith (the movie's payoff) for her to allow Mike to step out of the spotlight and into her life. Of all the characters in the movie, Brooke is the one who clearly knows who she is, and what it costs to be her.
"Magic Mike" also has a very specific appeal to women by inverting a genre as old as cinema — the hooker with the heart of gold. To quote Rooney of THR: "Soderbergh clearly gets a kick out of flipping the gender roles of sexual objectification. The club scenes cater to male fantasies of mass female adoration, while the hordes of delirious, drunken women stuffing singles into jockstraps represent a liberating switch from the usual depictions of sleazy men leering at pole dancers." Soderbergh casts Tatum as the good-hearted sex worker yearning for a committed relationship with a member of the opposite sex who accepts them for who they are, not what they do. And women enjoy this inversion, this role-switching. It's a relief to not always be depicted primarily as the object of male desire.
Sure, sex sells — but not all sex sells equally to both sexes. How do you attract women into the theaters? Hell, they're already there. What they need is a steady stream of quality movies of infinite variety, the variety that kept Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, Mae West and Ginger Rogers in perfume and limousines for many, many years and minted cash for the studios.
The cast of 'Magic Mike' talks to Yahoo! Movies: