It's not every day that a director as revered as Steven Soderbergh tackles the topic of male stripping. Magic Mike, which stars Matthew McConaughey, Channing Tatum, and Olivia Munn, chronicles the lifestyle of a young man who's an entrepreneur by day and a hustlin' male dancer by night (loosely based on Tatum's experiences before he turned to acting). We asked Christian Woode, a male stripper who's worked at clubs in Las Vegas and Miami, for his take on what Magic Mike got right and what it got wrong about the world of male stripping.
They got the atmosphere right. There's a lot of adrenaline when you're performing. The movie wisely plays up the excitement, the nerves—you can see it in The Kid's (Alex Pettyfer) first performance. They also nailed the club vibe; people yelling, normally because they're drunk, loud music, and some grungy stage and pole that you grind on while admirers shove bills in your underwear and try to cop a feel.
The drug scene was thoroughly believable. It's insane how quickly drugs are introduced to new workers once they enter the scene. The partying can be intense, and there are effects on your body. Magic Mike shows The Kid and how his actions hurt his sister; the ones you love don't always understand why you do what you do or how you even found this lifestyle. No one really understands why you dance. It's addictive, that lifestyle. You make money for being in shape and dry humping. I haven't seen a club where people aren't doing lines in the bathroom or poppin' pills backstage. It's an entire subculture.
The Club Owner:
Matthew McConaughey was fabulous in the Dallas role. He reminded me of a club owner I used to know. He came off as realistically desperate—those vests!—as he got older. Dancing isn't something you can do forever. The conversations he had with Tatum sounded pretty familiar too. He has to prove he owns you so he has some kind of control. The club owner is often just a shark who might pretend to be your friend, but it's always for a reason.
The Revolving Door of Friends and Workers:
There's always a star or main dancer that makes the most money and all that shit, but he gets older and lets himself go, or he hands over the throne to someone newer, younger, and a better dancer. It's a means to an end, or at least it should be. I hope no one is delusional enough to think someone wants to see a 42-year-old stripper (unless it's Matthew McConaughey, perhaps).
Magic Mike made stripping look really glamorous. Unless you work at Chippendales, you don't have the spotlights and the costumes. There aren't lines of women out the door. You have a stage, tables, and a dance floor. Clubs in Vegas get busy like the movie, but how many places are like that? Very few.
There definitely aren't a lot of group-choreographed dances like the ones in the movie at most clubs. In reality, when you're a stripper, there's usually a stage for your solo and a back room for private dances.
The audience they had was a little off. Don't get me wrong, bachelorette parties come in once in a while, but the main audience at most male strip clubs is older men.
—Alec Piliafas and Christian Woode