Magic Mike and the True Picture of Masculinity

I have watched with some interest over the last few weeks the comments and opinions of many on blogs and websites concerning the movie Magic Mike.  What got my attention was the number of women (and some men) who are Christians who have gone to see the movie.  I have been surprised at how few female writers have brought up the glaring, horrific double standard in play regarding this film.  If a group of husbands went to see a movie about women working in a strip club, “the claws would come out” as one female blogger put it.

Christians seeing Magic Mike claim that those criticizing them for seeing the movie are being judgmental.  Perhaps that is true in some cases.  However, after reading reviews of the movie (which would make many people blush) and discovering that the film contains many explicit sexual scenes and over 150 uses of the “f” word, those who have cast judgment in an erroneous way have only done so in an attitudinal sense.

This by the way, is the very definition of being judgmental which is very different from making good judgments.  One of the fallacies of a secular worldview is that to tell anyone they are wrong automatically means you hate them.  That is untrue and certainly not part of a biblical worldview.  I can say that what you believe or what you have done is wrong and still love and care about you (we do this with our children all of the time).  That said, too many Christians do have a sanctimonious attitude in their conveyance of the judgments they make which leads them to the sin of being judgmental.

Yet, none of what I have just written is the main point of this post.  In reading reviews and comments about the movie, it saddens me that our culture’s idea of masculinity is a guy who can work at a strip club and has great sexual prowess.  Movies such as Magic Mike and Failure to Launch seem to communicate that the more a man can put off the responsibility of marriage, family, and career the more masculine he is.  To be married, to go to the kids’ recitals, and to go to a regular day-to-day job is being tied to the ball and chain and in effect emasculated.  In other words, responsibility is a bad thing.

A couple of years ago, the New York Times Magazine ran an article on men in their twenties and the growing epidemic of stretching adolescence well beyond the high school years.  This led Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll to note, “the world is full of boys who can shave.”  The result is that our culture is lauding an indefinite adolescence leaving us with, as again Driscoll stated, “a Peter Pan syndrome where men want to remain boys forever.”

Is being a boy, free from responsibilities and free to gratify any indulgence, the true picture of masculinity?  Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 13:11- “When I was a boy, I talked like a boy, I thought like a boy, I reasoned like a boy. When I became a man, I put childish and boyish ways behind me.”  Males are supposed to move from boyhood to manhood.  So what does real masculinity look like?  Man is created in the “image” of God (Gen. 1:26; 1 Cor. 11:7).  This doesn’t mean we look like God the way we physically look like our parents.  It means we are conscious beings able to reflect the truth, love, compassion, and other attributes of God in the way we live our lives.  As a reflection of the image of God we are called to be creators and cultivators.  This is what God did.  He produced the universe and created a world splendidly designed and crafted for a variety of amazing life forms to exist.  Not only did He create everything, but He sustains and cultivates it as well (Col. 1:16-17).

The problem is that culture doesn’t necessarily view masculinity as creating and cultivating (marriages, families, and careers), but rather consuming everything you can to gratify yourself.  Consider this excerpt from the Driscoll post I mentioned earlier:

“The marketing sweet spot for many companies is young men ages eighteen to thirty-four. These guys don’t know what it means to be a man, and so marketers fill the void with products that define manhood by what you consume rather than what you produce.  The tough guys consume women, porn, alcohol, drugs, television, music, video games, toys, cars, sports, and fantasy leagues, as if being a man is defined by how much meat you can shove through your colon, how many beers you can pound, how fast you can drive, how stinky you can fart, how hard you can hit, how far you can spit, how loud you can belch, and how big your truck is.

The artsy, techie types consume clothes, decaf lattes, shoes, gadgets, cars (not trucks), furniture, hair products, and underwear with the names of very important people on the waistband. For them, manhood means being in touch with one’s feelings, wardrobe, and appearance.

A legion of moms and girlfriends enable these boys who can shave. They pay his bills, pick up his messes, loan him their car, and refill his sippy cup. Girls need to know this: you want a guy you can marry and have babies with. You don’t want to marry a guy who’s a baby.  Men are supposed to be producers, not just consumers. You’re defined by the legacy, the life, and the fruit that come out of you, not by what you take in. But most guys are just consumers.

I don’t care if you buy a truck or play some video games or rock out on your guitar. The problem is when those are prevalent and predominant in your life. Some guys would argue and say, “It’s not a sin.”  No, but sometimes it’s just dumb.  You got fired because you were up trying to get to the next level [on the video game]. That’s dumb.  You work one part-time job so you can play more guitar or Frisbee golf.  That’s dumb.  You spend all your money on a new car or truck, or toys, or gear, or clothes, or gambling, or fantasy football. Dumb. Some of you say, “Well, it’s not a sin.”  Neither is eating your lawnmower.  It’s just dumb.  There are a lot of things that Christian guys do that aren’t evil, they’re just dumb and childish.”

With the growing trend of masculinity being consumerism with no responsibility it’s difficult to find a man in his twenties at church.  The call to follow Christ and grow in discipleship is a call to sacrifice, selflessness, and responsibility.  Being a man is not about how much you can consume, but what you create and cultivate.  Being a man isn’t about sexual conquests, it’s about committing to one woman and loving her as Christ loves the church- for whom He loved so much He gave His life.  Being a man isn’t being a kid, but spending time with and nurturing your kids.  Being a man is about giving, not taking, and as Driscoll notes “that’s what Jesus, the real man, did.”

Read the Mark Driscoll post referenced in this article here: Driscoll Post in WP

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6 Responses to “Magic Mike and the True Picture of Masculinity”

  1. Thanks for this post, Todd. I always enjoy reading your perspective on things.

    I want to address a very narrow aspect of this, the artistic one.

    I haven’t seen the movie. Doughy 42-year-old are not the target audience, I suspect. As for “Failure to Launch,” the most damning thing anyone can say is it’s bad moviemaking. All other issues are secondary, to my mind.

    All that said, I think it’s important to give artists the latitude to reflect life as it is, not necessarily as it should be. (The best art, of course, offers something beyond that–a greater insight into our selves, or the suggestion of future change, or something else that elevates it above pure voyeurism, and, again, not having seen “Magic Mike,” I can’t say whether this movie accomplishes any of that.)

    One of the more uncomfortable moments I’ve ever had was standing in front of a library group and answering for all of the F-bombs in one of my novels. I understood that they would upset some people. I knew that I was reducing the potential audience for my book by including them. But in no case did I use those words gratuitously in the context of the setting or the characters inhabiting them, and I knew that leaving them out would wring the book of the authenticity I was attempting to achieve. In other words, my intent was not to glorify; it was to illuminate and reflect, and I tried to structure the book, in its entirety, to be so much more than those angry, violent moments.

    In the end, after the art is made and presented for assessment, we all have to make some choices about whether it holds anything for us. That’s the beauty of it, really.

    Thanks again for the perspective. I knew you were a pretty smart cookie way back when.

  2. Great article!!! Oh how the church suffers from the absence of youth MEN.

  3. I highly recommend reading The Resolution for Men by Kendrick/Alcorn. It nails this issue for men; being the leaders they were meant to be in a practical and encouraging way.

  4. While I certainly agree that our culture is very negative toward men in general, and think it is tragic, I am very leery of the Driscoll view of “masculinity.” He seems to swing to extremes in his patent on the definition of manhood. By his definition, apparently you aren’t manly if you wear pastel colors. I like the main thrust of his article that you quoted, but he has said too many disturbing things for me to really get behind what he has to say.

    I think a man’s manhood is defined by heart, his actions, and his love for the Lord. So all of those other things really shouldn’t matter, and it’s not for anyone, let alone Driscoll, to judge the heart of a man, which seemed to be the point you were making as well.

    I thought your concluding paragraph was fabulous, and enjoyed your article. Thanks for sharing!

    ~Kathryn

    • Thanks Kathryn. I think you are right. Manhood is defined by a man’s love for the Lord and subsequent actions. I think to be fair to Driscoll, he does find fault with what he calls “retrosexuals”- guys who think being a man is how big their truck is and how many ribs they can eat- and not just “metrosexuals.” I appreciate your comment!

  5. Men are ridiculed and made fun of on tv and movies and what the media says is manhood is far from what God expects. We need to teach and show our youth what real manhood is and it begins with having a heart that longs for Jesus….