Katey Rich aside, a significant portion of elite female film critics have gone thumbs-down on Steven Soderbergh‘s Magic Mike (Warner Bros., opening today) and are more than partly responsible for its Rotten Tomatoes grade hugging the low ’80s instead of the low to mid ’90s, where it belongs. As far as I can tell the only extra-brainy, big-gun female critic to come down squarely in support of this Warner Bros. release is N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis.
I noted the same pattern a year ago with Bridesmaids. On 5.12.11 I wrote that (a) “certain female critics and bloggers (including Stephanie Zacharek) have either dissed or gone ‘meh’ on Bridesmaids, to which I can only respond ‘what?” But also (b) “thank God for balance and general perception’s sake that N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis has come down positive.”
Some kind of upscale feminist nerve was touched by Bridesmaids. Something to do with disputed gender identity or an unwelcome mirror-image issue of some kind. I suspect that Magic Mike is pushing a similar button and arousing a similar ire. Maybe because it echoes the depression of female stripping or because the female characters (aside from Cody Horn) aren’t strong enough or something. Yes, I know — women ticket-buyers are going to deliver at least 60% or 70% of Mike‘s expected weekend earnings (possibly $30 million or better), and yet many progressive-minded female critics have a problem with it.
Consider this post by Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson, one of the more seasoned and plugged-in journo-critics with ties to the industry’s most powerful women. Like many others Thompson was impressed by Magic Mike‘s character currents and socio-economic reflections, but she also said the following: “As for Magic Mike‘s place in the feminists’ history books, further thought and consideration is necessary.”
In other words, it’s probably on the mainstream establishment feminist shit list.
The anti-Mike sorority includes L.A. Weekly/Village Voice critic Karina Longworth, Movieline‘s Alison Willmore, Seattle Times critic Moira MacDonald, About.com’s Rebecca Murray and Flickfilosopher‘s Maryan Johnson. Even the mild-mannered, comme ci comme ca-ish Claudia Puig of USA Today said that “when the focus [of Magic Mike] drifts to more peripheral characters, or follows more serious plot threads, it’s a grind.”
This also from Indiewire‘s Melissa Silverstein: “In general, Magic Mike is not exactly the type of film we write about here on Women and Hollywood. It’s a movie about men and directed by a man. But it seems that the audience for this film is going to be pretty much all women so it’s worthy of looking at.”