Ladies and open-minded gentlemen, this is the weekend for which we have been waiting ever so patiently. Years of watching our fellow sisters remove clothing and undulate for the good of “story” has finally paid off, and we will have our day in the sun. Our fearless prince, director Steven Soderbergh, has reached into the depths of his vast (yet dwindling) bag-o-tricks and presented us with a simple masterpiece that has been on the tip of wagging tongues for months. Magic Mike is the product of a genius, and while it isn’t a perfect film, Soderbergh’s dedication to objectifying his male cast is reassuring and welcomed. It is about time ladies get a fluff movie that isn’t about shopping, shoes, or relationships, but instead two hours of glorious female gaze.
These men are hotter than this Texas drought I’m currently suffering through, and I appreciated every moment I had with them. But what makes Magic Mike something of dreams is the film’s playful self-awareness that it is, in fact, meant to be a sort of man droolfest. Soderbergh knows what he’s doing, and instead of alienating his audience he embraces them, offers up a beer, and presents six sexy, shirtless men on a platter for the world to see. I’m sure a discussable plot is in there somewhere (and I will leave that to our film review), but I am more interested in reflecting on a handful recent films that paved the way for this glorious moment of shirtless wonderment.
Crazy, Stupid, Love.
A film about strippers is undoubtedly campy, yet its earnestness is admirable. Last year’s Crazy, Stupid, Love. shares a similar sweetness with Magic Mike when it comes to objectifying its male lead. Dan Fogelman’s script asked for the hunky Lothario, Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), to not only remove his shirt but to also be subjected to Hannah’s (Emma Stone) commentary aimed directly at his 6-pack. When she exclaims “what are you, Photoshopped?” she speaks for us all. Self-aware moments like this break the sexy tension amongst characters, but it also reminds the audience to put their tongues back where they belong—in their mouths.
Let’s be honest, Stephenie Meyer just gets teen girls. She does. The film adaption of the second Twilight book, New Moon, is a perfect example of this. While Meyer had little to do with the final script Melissa Rosenberg pieced together, her ideas contributed to one of the more sexually exploitative (and hilarious) scenes in recent memory. I’m always curious to know how the table read of the infamous motorcycle crash scene went down, but I assume it was met with a lot of sideways glances and teenaged eye-rolling. Because, duh, a sweaty, discarded v-neck is the only reasonable thing to use on a tiny head wound. Regardless, the moment Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) rushed to the rescue of his vampire-loving best friend, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), and saved her life by removing his shirt is enticing until you realize Lautner was 17 at the time. No matter what those Twi-hards and their Twi-moms say, that’s just uncomfortable.
Thor is a more recent entry into my DVD collection (now available on Netflix Instant, you’re welcome), which is a bit pathetic to admit considering my personal admiration for shirtless Nor Gods and their pesky younger brothers. However director Kenneth Branagh made the film worth the wait by squeezing in five seconds of sheer shirtless deliciousness when he filmed Thor (Chris Hemsworth) walking from one room to another in nothing but low-slung jeans. Darcy Lewis’ (Kat Dennings) said it best: “He’s pretty cut.” I doff my hat to you, sir Branagh.
Sexual objectification may not be your first thought when Fight Club pops up in polite conversation (why not?), but it’s hard to ignore the piles and piles and piles of ripped, shirtless men. If the tables were turned and these were scantily clad ladies beating the shit out of each other feminists and fetishists would declare Fight Club a cinematic sexual fantasy (see, Sucker Punch). But these are men, and their war against each others’ faces is meant to portray regaining control and power through chaos. But that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the sweaty, bloodied torso of Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt).
This list isn’t complete without the godfather of female-gaze films, 300. I have never been shy about declaring my superficial love for Zack Snyder’s 2006 adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, but this film paved the way for filmmakers to willingly capitalize on the exploitation of men. From the sculpted King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) down to the retched looking Ephialtes (Andrew Tiernan), Snyder presented a varying buffet of male bodies of which to covet. Spartan men usually fought close naked, so Snyder intended to accurately depict his characters in their battle gear. And I, for one, am ever thankful.
Obviously it’s impossible to capture everyone’s favorite shirtless scenes in one small list, so please leave your picks below.