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Why I’m Taking My Tween to see ‘Magic Mike’

As soon as my 12-year-old comes home from summer camp, I’ve promised to take her to see the film Magic Mike.

In fact, I was first made aware of the film by my (Channing Tatum fan) tween and her friends. They showed me the trailer on a pal’s laptop at a sleepover party and launched a plot to see the film as early as humanly possible.

There was a lot of squee-ing and sighing and OMGing. I listened in.

“Channing is sooooo hot! ”

“Midnight premiere! Lets go in our pajamas!”

“Do you think your mom will let you go?”

“Totally, my mom said she would drive”

“You’re so lucky, my mom won’t even let me watch PG-13 movies…”

Alas, my daughter is at camp this week and cannot go to the late-night show with her friends (the few who are allowed) and the intrepid cool mom braving the crowds. She’s going to have to wait to see it with me. I will probably be forced to sit two rows behind her and some friend with parents as liberal as I am.

I have mixed feelings about this movie. On the one hand, I’m happy to see the playing field leveled a little bit. We’ve all seen too many movies about female strippers and some of us still have the wardrobe to show it.  If you’re my age and you didn’t practice dancing on a backwards chair or own a Flashdance-inspired sweatshirt, you probably were raised by missionaries without cable.

My daughters don’t have to see a stripper movie or even go to a theater to understand the objectification and sexualization of women in our culture. They have the Victoria’s Secret Runway Show on primetime and giant arched-back, scantily-clad, push-up-bra wearing women in a mall window telling them what to believe that men really want to see.

Now two genders can play at that game, it seems. Perhaps the mall had a part in it. Perhaps director Soderburgh took a note from the Abercrombie stores that put half naked males in the doorway and sell more shirts. To girls. Teenaged girls, and their moms.

Before deciding whether I would take my daughter to this film I researched the plot a little. The story is really about a search for identity. It may glorify what goes on in the club, but for at least one character (the main one) the story is about his decision to pursue a different life.

I have no problem with sexuality. I was raised in a liberal household and saw plenty of “racy” movies from a young age. It did not make me promiscuous or deviant. My family was pretty frank in their discussions about sex and sexuality. As a parent, I’d rather have my children watch a sex scene than a murder scene any day.  I believe in the beauty of the human form and find no shock or shame in nudity.

My conundrum is this: I do have a problem with the complete and total objectification of people, male or female. This to me, feels a little like violence. When people are reduced to parts, their humanity is a little stripped. It’s not just the strippers, its the shoppers of parts as well, who are reduced. This is why I’d be uncomfortable if my husband went on about the VS models’ cleavage and buns in the same way that I suspect he might look at me cross-eyed and shocked if I gushed about Channing Tatum’s package.

There’s so much more than that that I care about more in a man.

I’m frankly a little shocked and cross-eyed by the way some of my friends are talking about this film. Crudely. Objectifying-ly. It feels like payback for all the girl stripper films, but I’m still not sure I’m OK with it.

I’m pretty sure I will face criticism for taking my young daughter to see this movie, but who are we kidding? The images and messages are already all around her. The air is seething with sexual images and mixed messages and little help to navigate that minefield.  I’d rather be there when the impressions are made and the discussion is had.

It’s thin ice and I know it. I don’t have the answers about sexuality and politics and culture even as an adult. But I don’t think keeping her from seeing this movie is going to save her from our overly sexualized society.

So now that I’ve made that decision I’m looking forward to the film. I’ll probably enjoy the “mancandy” factor some — it would be impossible to ignore, but I’m betting I’ll enjoy the discussion afterwards more. My daughter is bright and wise beyond her years, thanks to our culture.  She’s going to inherit the media culture she’s growing up in. I’m interested to hear her thoughts.

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