MALE STRIPPERS AS HEALERS AND THEIR EMCEE AS GRIOTTE–
WHY MAGIC MIKE XXL IS DEEPER THAN YOU THINK
It was already a good day because it was summer break, and I was eating chocolate malted crunch ice cream from Rite Aid. I was window-shopping, trying to get to my ice cream before the sun did. I silently gloated as I passed by Cold Stone Creamery, imagining the people in line wishing they had Rite Aid ice cream just like me. On a whim, I crossed the street and decided to buy a ticket to see Magic Mike XXL.
I handed my money to the woman in the ticket booth and searched her face for judgment or a mild snicker. Nothing.
I wanted to stay cool, wanted the transaction to be seamless. She handed me the ticket and a gust of wind from the air conditioner blew the ticket out of the slot and I fumbled, trying to catch it with the desperation of single woman catching a wedding bouquet. I caught it and smiled nervously. Sliding the ticket in my back pocket, I looked around hoping I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew.
Across the street was Five Guys Burgers. I went over there to grab some food to smuggle into the theatre. I apologized to the cashier for paying with ones. He laughed and recalled a time he paid for food with a stack of ones and was asked, “Oooo, so what kind of work do you do?”
We laughed at the thought of working for Five Guys by day and a strip club by night. The timing was strangely perfect, making me wonder if Dude somehow found out what movie I was about to see.
I really didn’t know what I was walking into since I’d never been to a strip club, never watched a movie about male strippers, and had no idea this was the sequel to the 2012 film, Magic Mike. But I went anyway out of curiosity.
In retrospect, I’m sure the more mature woman would laugh at my quiet, yet apparent discomfort walking into that theatre; I could see her shaking her head, urging me to break free of any shame imposed by the idea that I was doing something dirty and immoral to satisfy some guilty pleasure that would ruin my good-girl reputation. I could hear that woman’s voice, and I liked her.
The film was certainly filled with sexy, well-sculpted men creating erotic fantasies on- and offstage with the pulse of their bodies. But what was even more intriguing was the playfulness and depth of insight throughout the movie.
Magic Mike XXL features Channing Tatum as Mike Laine (a.k.a. Magic Mike) who reunites with the Kings of Tampa after opening up a furniture business. Together, they go on a road trip to Myrtle Beach, SC for the 2015 Stripper Convention. During one of their stops along the way, Mike solicits the help of Rome (Jada Pinkett-Smith), who eventually becomes their emcee when they reinvent themselves as Resurrection at the convention.
There’s so much I find personally appealing about Magic Mike XXL: women of all body shapes and sizes visible in the audience; plus-size women being centralized, conveying a fat-positive message; frequent references to the feminine Divine; dark- and light-skinned Black women included in the audience and the centralization of dark-skinned Black women, in particular; Black male entertainers being a source of inspiration for the Kings of Tampa; and a recognition of the queer Black and Latino ball scene, including voguers like Deshaun Wesley of the House of Evisu and Javier Madrid of the House of Ninja.
However, the focus of this essay is on: 1) Magic Mike XXL’s multidimensional depictions of the Kings of Tampa and how it humanizes male entertainers, 2) the way the film elevates the performances of male entertainers to the role of healer, and 3) how the emcee’s role is raised to the level of a griot(te), a wise, wordsmith singing praises to women, applauding their sexual and emotional desire, reminding them that the sexual pleasure of women should always be prioritized.
 Magic Mike XXL, directed by Gregory Jacobs (2015; Burbank: Warner Bros. Pictures, 2015), iTunes.
 Julianne Escobedo Shepard, “Magic Mike XXL Voguer Dashaun Wesley Talks, Channing, FKA Twigs & More,” The Muse, July 8, 2015, http://themuse.jezebel.com/magic-mike-xxl-voguer-dashaun-wesley-talks-channing-fk-1716334016.