Every Little Thing He Does: Entrepreneurship and Appropriation in the Magic Mike Series

Chow, Broderick D.V. (2018) Every Little Thing He Does: Entrepreneurship and Appropriation in the Magic Mike Series. Lateral: Journal of Cultural Studies Association, 6 (1). ISSN 2469-4053


This essay analyses the theatricalized performance of stripping in the popular films Magic Mike (2013; dir. Steven Soderbergh) and its sequel, Magic Mike XXL (2015; dir. Gregory Jacobs). As several pieces about the series have argued, the filmmakers align making oneself an object of desire with an ideology of the ‘entrepreneurial subject’—a versatile and flexible subject suited for a post-Fordist economy—through the figure of ‘Magic’ Mike, a contemporary factotum, played by the charismatic Channing Tatum. Influenced by a critical dance studies approach that attends to the intersection of body and gesture with socio-political, historical, and economic structures, I suggest theatricalized sexual labour in these films reveals the racial exclusions from the ideology of entrepreneurship. Key to my reading is the concept of ‘magic’, part of Mike’s nom de strip. Mike, the hegemonically masculine, heterosexual, white male protagonist, is magic because he is magnetic and effortlessly talented, in such a way that even the material world seems animated by his thrusting pelvis. Magic functions as an ideological device that attempts to hide the labour of training and performance as well as the structures of production in which this labour takes place. Considering the appropriation of black aesthetics in Magic Mike XXL’s performances of striptease, the film seeks to evaporate the spectre of race, that is, the way the white fantasy of the entrepreneurial subject is supported by the appropriation of racialized and especially black labour. While the narrative does not confront the appropriation of black labour directly, an analysis of the performances of striptease shows the film working through the issue on another level, in the complex entanglement of flesh and fantasy, agency and objectification, and racial and gendered desire.


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