Magic Mike XXL’s New Sexual Groove: Female Desire and Conspicuous Importance

“All we got to do is ask them what they want and when they tell you, it’s a beautiful thing, man.”

— Andre

As I walk into the theatre I notice two things: first, this is the busiest screening I’ve been to since Jurassic World, and second, the pre-show crowd murmur is a few semitones higher than I’m used to. It’s not unpleasant, but it is distinct enough that I pause to look over the audience. I’ve heard the rumours: based on some survey with undisclosed methodology and little to no oversight, ninety-six percent of this audience should be female. I’m rubbish at estimation, but that seems about right. I briefly consider sneaking into another theatre where I’m less likely to be quizzed on why I, an unaccompanied straight man, am here. I decide that it’s likely someone would see my overwhelmed deference and laugh at me the way girls laugh at boys who misunderstand any aspect of female anatomy or physiology, and so I stay—though this isn’t easy, as few seats are available beyond the first few rows. As any frequent filmgoer can tell you, being at or at least near the latitudinal centre of the screen becomes exponentially more important as you move closer to it. There is a lone empty seat, dead centre of row three, but it is flanked on either side by large groups of friends. I ask a group of about six pre- or barely-t(w)eenaged girls if—sorry, if I could just… ‘scuse, I’m just trying to sorry, sorry, sorry. I make a point not to look at them during or after this procedure, but I get the feeling they’re looking at me. What I hope is that somehow the group of girls to my left will think I’m part of the group to my right, and vice versa. The guy to my right leans over and says “you know, I’m surprised how many men are here.” His pitch is highly varied, his vocal stops are slightly affricated, and he has hyperexpressive sibilance, so I quickly run the odds on convincing the girls to my left that we’re a couple. I realize I haven’t responded yet. I retroactively listen to him. I say something about how Channing Tatum is now a respectable, masculine actor whom respectable, masculine men can appreciate ever since he put on a leotard and rolled around with other men in Foxcatcher. My fake boyfriend doesn’t remember Foxcatcher, and the joke falls flat. I stare at the seat in front of me. I say nothing. I regret coming. The movie starts. I proceed to have one of the most revelatory and downright engaging experiences of the year.

[Editor’s note: for ease of reading comprehension, the first Magic Mike movie will be referred to as Magic Mike. The second will simply be called XXL.]

I first encountered Channing Tatum when I was in high school, and my introduction to him was uncomfortable. As high school chatter has a tendency to do, it ignored something until it emphatically didn’t. For a while there was very little talk of Tatum, and then one day later Tatum had always been here. Tatum was It. Tatum was the One. Tatum was. How could anyone not both know and love Tatum? In retrospect I think the simplest explanation is that one or two groups of girls either went to see Step Up in theatre, or rented it and had a movie night together, and these girls comprised the only female interactions I had at the time. Nevertheless, my perception was that Step Up was now suddenly the only thing that mattered to every single girl at my school, occupying a priority slot just below oxygen, food, and water but above shelter.

Needless to say, I was furious for reasons transparently obvious and illegitimate to anyone who isn’t a high-school version of me—I was jealous, of course, as I had been of Zac Efron and would soon be of Bieber1—but which reasons I worked very hard indeed to intellectualize. Step Up, I said, I would never watch, and nor should you, because it can’t possibly be any better than the work of Kubrick, or von Trier, or Paul Thomas Anderson, or any of the other titans of moviemaking, of whom most people have only a passing familiarity at best. Perhaps one could see Step Up eventually, once all the important movies had been watched, but until that point it was simply illogical to waste time with what was, or should be, lower on absolutely everyone’s list of priorities. Moreover, I said, even if Step Up does by some miracle have any merit in its periphery, its centre—Tatum himself—is doomed to fail, because of course Tatum in no way matches up with Pacino or de Niro or Hanks yelling “Wilson!” or any other actor who is, again, important. And beyond that is the fact that Tatum isn’t even that attractive anyway. “I’m not gay”—the eternal preface—“but I can still tell, and he’s not attractive, let me tell you.” He was too oafish, to dead-faced, and his gait was affected in a faux-cool way that mine would never be. He would be more attractive if he were, say, about my height and weight, with approximately my face, though possibly with a smaller chin.

I would like to convince you firstly that the above fetishization of importance is almost entirely misguided in its assumptions about how movies actually work in general, secondly that it’s a very poor way of understanding them in particular, and also that it’s probably derived from gendered assumptions that could do with some reevaluation. The first point requires I think exactly one point of clarification: I am not arguing that the namechecked filmmakers above are unimportant to film, or that this sort of historical/technical/theoretical/artistic importance doesn’t exist. What I am saying is this: almost no one cares about it. Whether their lack of concern for film history, technique, and nuance is a good or bad thing can be debated, but the fact of most people’s ignorance (including, in large part, my own) is essentially objective. This ignorance is hardly surprising: once a field of knowledge becomes even remotely specialized, it’s by definition quite likely that most people know little to nothing about it. And despite film’s broad cultural appeal as entertainment, it is, as a field of rigorous study, just as specialized as anything else, so to expect a general public which is largely uninterested in the specifics of film history or technique to sit through Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon because of its advances in natural lighting is unrealistic to the extreme.2 In actuality, people decide which movies to watch and to a certain degree which to like based on what is important to them personally—a subject matter they’ve found interesting, a cast/crew member they know or like or find attractive, a social conversation they want to be a part of—and not necessarily based on some abstract notion of cinematic purism. Bemoaning this fact is to wrongly assume that people with completely different tastes would make decisions based on the same (possibly arbitrary) metric you use, which is essentially to complain that not everyone is a cinephile in exactly the way you would like.

Plus as far as the individual important movies go, their importance is oftentimes beside the point for all but the most academic viewings. Being conspicuously important to film history or technique doesn’t somehow make a movie more effective in its dramatic goals.3 Moreover, this importance, justified or not, in no way implies that a movie’s goals are actually worthwhile or good. And besides that, appearing important, either by having numerous fusty New York intellectuals write impenetrable screeds for or against your work,4 or by having a very self-serious tone and subject matter,5 is neither the only nor the best way to do something genuinely important for an individual viewer. Even I, a registered snob, though I might watch a movie for its filmic importance, I haven’t once been moved by it. To move me, a film has to, in some way, interact with something I find emotionally resonant, and I have to say that the praise of some supposed cadre of either scholars or newspapermen does little to excite me. I suspect, though no doubt there are a few printing-press fetishists out there, that others are similarly detumesced by such things.

Worst of all this is the fact that any sense of which movies are important or what an important movie looks like are at this point dictated by a lopsided culture which has discounted and continues to discount the viewpoints of women, anyone in the LGBTQQIA community(/ies), racial and ethnic minorities, the poor, and many others. Directors, screenwriters, cinematographers, critics, and academics are all predominantly white men—which men are not necessarily any worse on a moral level than anyone else, but one must admit this is a relatively narrow selection pool, and as such it’s likely to focus on only a subset of the myriad importances out there. So to base one’s viewing or ranking decisions on what has already been deemed important, be that importance the stamp of critics, academics, producers, or the filmmakers themselves, is in large part to limit oneself to a series of movies which champion a pretty provincial sort of importance, a mostly white, mostly male, mostly straight, mostly upper-middle-class sort of importance.

The above makes the response to Magic Mike XXL both completely expected and also rather surprising. On the one hand XXL’s focus on female desire and letting loose over and above any conflict development or action sequences or deep symbolism would seem to make it the sort of movie critics and audiences would either lambast or else barely even notice. But on the other, the specifics of the criticisms levelled at XXL read, to me, as if they’re coming from a different universe.6 Critics, as one might expect, often called it “dumb,” even in positive reviews,7 while viewers I’ve talked to or read online usually end up saying something along the lines of “this movie doesn’t do anything amazing/surprising/groundbreaking, but if you know what to expect you might have an alright time.” These reactions are reasonable insofar as dangling sexuality in front of an audience is a cheap, unimaginative, and common way to sell an otherwise worthless movie. And on a more abstract level, a movie trying to give its audience exactly what they want, no more and nothing less, is often called pandering, a possibly enjoyable but still artistically lesser path than that of “challenging” an audience.

Which criticisms confuse me, because when compared to the film landscape as a whole, and especially to the first Magic Mike, XXL is one of the oddest, least predictable, least obvious movies I’ve ever seen. Take, for example, a few observations I made on the fly during my screening of XXL, keeping in mind that prior to this, I’d never seen Magic Mike. Ginuwine’s “Pony” is used as a critical plot device—it’s the reason Mike rejoins the Kings of Tampa—and is referenced several times throughout the movie as if it’s Mike’s theme song. Similarly, one of Big Dick Richie’s primary emotional hurdles as a character is to get over his role as a sexy fireman, which is played off as being a rather important bit of backstory. Ditto Ken’s new-agey focus on energy, which is treated as an already-established joke. The entirety of XXL and seemingly every character in it are fully on board with male stripping as a fun, safe, mutually empowering pastime.8 Drug use, in this universe, has few consequences. Commitment-less sexual encounters are a great way to boost the self-esteem of everyone involved. The outside world looks like this:

XXL Outside

I constructed from these observations an imaginary version of Magic Mike which I assumed must have existed in order to a) spawn a sequel like XXL, with all the above attributes, and b) spawn the sort of raucous and ribald cultural conversation that I’d been hearing about it for three years. Surely, if XXL is following the usual sequel path of amping up the attributes of the original, Magic Mike must be, though smaller in scale, generally along the same dramatic and ideological lines as XXL. Imagine my surprise, then, when I watched Magic Mike the week after XXL, and found a movie in which “Pony” is inconsequential enough to not even be included in the soundtrack;9 in which Richie’s sexy fireman outfit is worn as only one of many, including sexy soldier, sexy African-explorer-with-the-hat, and sexy man-in-trenchcoat; in which Ken’s negative energy talk comes up exactly once to my memory, and is much more reasonable than in XXL, since he’s referring to stripping for a crowd that’s just been disappointed by Tarzan’s no-show; in which stripping is seen alternately as fun and rewarding and also the cause of Adam’s downfall;10 in which a main arc involves Mike realizing he has to give up stripping for a more rewarding career; in which drug use almost kills Adam in multiple ways;11 in which Mike is hurt when his no-commitments sexual partner commits to someone else; and in which the outside world looks like this:

Magic Mike Outside

Put simply, XXL is nothing like Magic Mike,12 to the degree that, aside from their titular similarities, I don’t know how anyone would consider them part of the same series.13 The first film in no way condemns stripping as a profession, but is deeply conflicted about it throughout. XXL is, as the wonderful Tasha Robinson described, “a utopian fantasy world full of good feelings, naked skin, huge muscles, shared experiences, and nonstop contact highs.”

That the majority of XXL’s departures from Magic Mike go in a direction away from moralizing of any sort and towards a morality that could be called loose, fun, uninhibited, debaucherous, or hedonistic depending on one’s broader worldview is probably one reason why the label of “pandering” has been thrown at XXL. And this YOLOesque attitude could be why many moderately positive commentary has been couched in language which concedes XXL’s insignificance even as it attempts to recommend it—“it’s fun if you don’t expect anything important.” But to just call this your plain old, unimportant, garden-variety pandering is to ignore the broader social and filmic reality: this isn’t how we usually pander to women. Usually we include romantic subplots or paint something pink or, if we’re feeling really frisky, we’ll mention how we pay them less. A bacchanal, anything-yes-that’s-right-anything-goes dance orgy, penisless as XXL may be, is still profoundly atypical.

Perhaps we should be forgiven for not realizing this. One needn’t look far to find examples of sexual standards differing between men and women. If you haven’t heard any already, ask a woman.14 For my part, I was introduced to this reality at a week-long Christian summer camp, wherein, each Wednesday, the boys and girls would be split up and given a pro-abstinence lecture. The boy were made to construct a raft and shelter from branches and string and were told “don’t have sex” (and probably not to masturbate either), while the girls, I learned, were given the option of having their nails painted while they were told “dress modestly, and don’t let boys have sex with you,” (masturbation was unmentioned). Examples of this catch-22 of modern femininity—being educated on appearing attractive even as you’re warned not to be, being portrayed as the passive and unpleasured recipients of sex even as the responsibility for its occurrence is still deemed to be yours—are rampant and pretty obvious, in other words, but the cinematic equivalents to this aren’t always as easy to spot.

These odd and restrictive standards are there, though. Some are simple deductions from codified ratings policy: if sex is rated more harshly than violence—as is the case in the States as well as B.C., where I’m from15 —and if the female nipple is sexualized in ways the male nipple is not—as is also the case in both B.C. and the States—then basic logic dictates that women’s sexuality in film will be restrained more than men’s, simply because women have a higher number of sexualized anatomical features. Some are more subtle—both Trainspotting and Sucker Punch were reportedly threatened with an American R rating due to sex scenes where women appeared to be enjoying themselves. In the case of Sucker Punch, the MPAA allegedly pushed director Zack Snyder to edit down the sequence in such a way that it appeared the woman in question was being sexually assaulted. This, they said, would secure a commercially crucial PG-13 rating. (Rather than include a rape scene for no reason, Snyder opted to cut the scene out completely.)16 And some are all but impossible for the average, 3.7 theatre movies per year person to spot: do mainstream movies, in general, seem to preach a vision of female sexuality markedly different from that of male sexuality? I would posit, though not without caveats, that they largely do, and that their vision of female sexuality aligns, unsurprisingly, with some of our broader cultural assumptions about female sexuality: it’s clean, proper, fluidless, anorgasmic or at least less motivated by climax, deferent, passive, etc. This is the context in which XXL lands, loud and proud, with a premise that assumes more or less the opposite of the above, to say without reservation, “ladies, if you like this (and we know you do), have fun.” I can’t pretend I know what the perfect response to this message would be, but I can say that we can probably do better than to call it dumb, lumping it in with Furious 7 as if happily sexualized female power fantasies are as dime-a-dozen as a Vin Diesel one-liner.

This perhaps not deep but still relatively non-shallow appreciation of female desire would make XXL interesting enough for a recommendation on its own, but it goes beyond this in several key, if surprisingly unflashy ways. First and foremost on the female-empowerment train of thought is XXL’s enthusiastic and sincere portrayal of women of various shapes, sizes, colours, and ages, all of whom remain sexual despite not all being white twenty-something size zeroes.17 And this isn’t a simple matter of brownie points for admitting the existence of the sort of women who are all around us. This inclusion shifts XXL into the welcoming free-for-all that it is rather than yet another unpalatable cavalcade of—spades being spades—pretty people fucking pretty people, which I think we’ve seen enough of.18

The men of XXL are in contrast almost uniformly attractive, and so in that sense its commitment to representativeness could be questioned, but even here I think the ground is tread much more sensitively than it may initially appear. Yes, there is only one male character in Mike’s crew who isn’t cut from granite, but the mostly healthy yet plain body of a man with perhaps a few extra pounds on his stomach isn’t currently a shape with a dearth of representation.19 What XXL portrays instead is something I’ve seen far less often in film and TV: friends who actually seem to like each other. Such a simple and obvious relationship attribute as affection shouldn’t be uncommon, and yet as I sat watching, I realized I couldn’t think of a single other example of it. Friendship is, in countless movies, an exercise in mutual sniping, essentially a contest for the better put-down. Or else it lasts only as long as necessary in order to set up a contrived argument in which both friends become ludicrously angry with each other over some petty misunderstanding and agree that they’re no longer friends.20 A group of guys who like being around each other, have no plot-based reason for spending time together aside from that they enjoy doing so, and continue to feel that way through an appreciable length of time, is both boring enough in real life to barely be worth mentioning, and yet surprising enough in a movie that it almost made me tear up.

What pushed me over the edge, into actually tearing up—yes, this is the moment where I admit to almost crying during XXL—is how this genial attitude extends from Mike et al. to basically everyone they meet. There’s some light conflict and gentle ribbing between characters, to be sure, but everyone in this universe is far quicker with a compliment than a comeback. The complete lack of spite or grudge-holding does undercut a lot of the dramatic tension and humour that many audience members crave (you really do get the sense from about six frames in that everyone in this movie is in no danger and never will be), but XXL gains in return a fairly glorious appreciation of the power of positive affirmation, which is passed within the Kings of Tampa and without them in equal measure. The Kings have each others’ backs, and like knowing that, because it feels good to know your friends care about you, respect you, recognize your strengths, etc. And the Kings have the back of every woman they meet, who like this because it feels good to know someone cares about you, respects you, recognizes your strengths, etc.21 This all has the effect of granting real legitimacy to the female desire to be appreciated without caricaturing women as needy, sad-sap affirmation sponges. They like to be appreciated because we all do. It feels good. The simplicity and power of this emotional transaction is a large part of what paints the Kings, and by extension all of us, as pseudo-superheroes, blessed and cursed with the awesome power to influence how other people feel about themselves, the world, that thing so-and-so said, and the grave responsibility to use this power wisely.22

All of this is to say that XXL is one of the most thoroughly good-natured movies I’ve ever seen. I genuinely felt like neither the movie nor the characters in it had an ounce of condemnation for anyone, which led me to yet another novel experience: that of having an unconflicted good time. I didn’t worry that this movie or my appreciation of it was hurting anyone. I didn’t feel as if my preferences and ideals were being deified to the point that no others could possibly be heard. I could relax and enjoy myself, content in the feeling that other people unlike me could do so too.

I do still have my own pet issues with XXL. Its casual portrayal of drugs as a basically alright way to bond with your friends strikes me as a step down from Magic Mike’s understanding of drugs’ physiological and social dangers. And for all its admirable attempts at embracing female sexuality in all its forms, XXL ends up only depicting one: a sort of faux-depraved sexuality that engages in most of the same extremes of current male sexuality.23 In all the popping and locking, we never stop to consider the needs of a woman who adores sex but simply likes to maintain a certain level of privacy to it. Nor do we consider a woman who likes oral sex, but doesn’t like R. Kelly comparing her vulva to an Oreo. What if, XXL fails to consider, a woman isn’t as obsessed with voluminous ejaculation as the girls at this stripper convention? What if a woman likes a man who doesn’t like those things? What if a woman likes women? I don’t mean to imply that any of these alternatives are necessarily superior examples of female sexuality, or even that XXL is a bad movie for not containing them, only that they exist, and that as of right now the Magic Mike franchise has yet to satisfy them. And the ridiculousness of XXL’s displays, intentional though it may be, does carry the potential to undermine its authority, especially as characters talk in hilariously elevated, near-spiritual terms about how they are twenty-first century “healers.” Having Channing Tatum backflip his crotch onto your face, or hearing R. Kelly say he’s going to “beat that pussy ’til it’s blue” might actually be one way of making some women feel special, empowered, in control, or just plain turned on, but their immediate juxtaposition with high-minded philosophizing seems like a case of adding words but subtracting communication.

Plus at the end of the day we have to contend with the fact that free love and drugs are, as all encompassing ethics, a pipe dream. Not only have they been attempted already to somewhat middling effect in the 60’s, life’s conflicts and roadblocks fit so poorly into such thinking that even XXL can’t ignore them: Tarzan regrets not having a family; Mike’s phone is presumably still smashed and on the side of the highway; Mike’s custom furniture company is now probably defunct, along with the one employee who was counting on Mike to provide him with healthcare. (The closest thing Mike has to a response to this is to tell Zoe that sometimes you’ve just got to get a little crazy with your friends for a bit, which as a piece of advice is pretty lacking.)24

Probably the biggest real life conflict that defies XXL’s thinking is that of jealousy, which despite my posturing toward progressivism can still infect my judgment. I trust my girlfriend completely, and I want her to watch XXL, but I must admit the thought of her watching two hours and ten minutes of gyrations by men who are far more attractive than I’ll ever be is nerve wracking. Even I’m much more satisfied with them than I am with myself, and they’re at least partly fictional. And while we’re on the subject of satisfaction, it’s worthwhile to consider the undercurrent of spite that informs much of the XXL discussion, namely the idea that men have dropped and continue to drop the ball, sexually speaking. This is present within the movie, when Andie MacDowell’s character expresses a lack of sexual satisfaction to the instant and forceful agreement of all other women in the room, and outside it, like in this article, which trades on the assumption that men are, by and large, incompetent at sex, for nearly every joke. The correctness or incorrectness of these criticisms is neither here nor there, but I can’t help but feel that, if correct, undercutting someone’s confidence by belittling their skills might not be the best way to fix the issue: if this were an active concern for me, I can see being turned off of watching XXL, and of listening to any of the people criticizing me. Instead I just prayed that the men we’re all laughing at manage to find more helpful advice than “be more like Channing Tatum.”

The simultaneous ignorance or deprioritization of these issues in favour of headlining sexual freedom and enjoyment gets at the core of what makes XXL’s sex-positivity so great and also so inescapably dumb. On the one hand, dismantling the Byzantine guilt complexes many people have around their sexuality allows them to finally enjoy sex for what it is, and to enjoy nonsexual situations such as trips to the lake without constantly worrying whether their top shows too much or too little. And eliminating excessive prudishness has measurable positive impacts on public health: allowing for comprehensive sex education programs can reduce teenage pregnancy rates and the spread of STIs25 far more effectively than just telling kids “don’t do it.” But the other extreme, championed by many XXL evangelists as its crown thematic jewel, can result in people feeling guilty simply about having any reservations about sex at all, such that the crowd screaming for acceptance of all types of sex ends up, like XXL, only preaching one: maximum, guiltless, individual choice. Which placement of the self and one’s own immediate wants over and above those of others, though perhaps a necessary overcorrection from the historical deference we’ve required from women, can in many cases comprise a sort of sexual solipsism, and an ethic that amounts to me doing what I want, when I want, with my hands clean of any and all consequences for anyone else, because hey, they wanted to, at the time.

And yet even as I object to that, I can’t get over my experience of actually watching XXL. I never forgot that I personally object to a fair portion of what the movie depicts. I would not do such things, and if someone asked me for advice, I would advise them not to do such things either. But somehow I still had fun. Somehow I still felt comfortable. Somehow I became ever so slightly less obsessed with my own pleasure, sexual and otherwise, and ever so slightly less ignorant of everyone else’s. Somehow, and this is probably the highest compliment I could give any movie, Magic Mike: XXL convinced me to tell my girlfriend that she’s beautiful.

  1. At least until such a time as I could puff up my chest, raise my shoulders, and assert dominance over someone who is, for all I know, taller than me.

  2. That said, you actually should watch Barry Lyndon. The lighting is incredible. They had to get space cameras to do it.

  3. Unless its goals are to be conspicuously important to film history or technique, which.

  4. See: anything by Tarkovsky.

  5. See: Crash, Seven Pounds, other awards-bait.

  6. Except this misogynistic beauty, the last sentence of which is squarely from our own messed up universe.

  7. Not even including synonyms.

  8. The one exception being Tarzan’s regret over not having a family, which is at first deadly serious and then played off like a joke.

  9. Which soundtrack is not nearly as focussed on hip-hop and R&B as XXL’s.

  10. Adam the movie character, not the Biblical one, although funny enough they follow somewhat parallel paths, only with the Biblical Adam’s downfall marked by his sudden desire to put on clothes.

  11. Ibid.

  12. And this isn’t the end of their dissimilarities. Magic Mike’s musical numbers sound largely diegetic. The echoes and muffled sound you’d expect from a sound system blasting in a stripclub are plainly audible. Not so in XXL, wherein the musical numbers are meant to be diegetic from a plot perspective—obviously the crowd can supposedly hear the music, too—but the music the movie’s audience hears is the crisp, clean track, straight to our eardrums. Even the characters’ self-maintenance is different. Magic Mike shows them working out and practicing, while XXL has a brief musical montage of their planning stages and then takes a break to have Tatum explain how much he loves eating cookie dough.

  13. The possible reasons for this are, as with most hypotheticals, basically infinite, but my guess is it was a case of XXL’s creators responding not to the narrative/ideological needs of Magic Mike, but to the conversation surrounding it. Richie’s fireman obsession, in particular, can be seen as early as the 2012 MTV Movie Awards, at which Joe Mangianello presented an award in full half-dressed regalia.

  14. Studies have shown you’re never more than three feet away from one.

  15. This is made quite clear on this page, which outlines the ratings scale in B.C. For our purposes, note that “explicit violence,” including “extreme brutality, torture, tissue damage, dismemberment and/or decapitation” is allowable in a 14A movie, while sexuality, at this rating, must remain “suggestive.” “Explicit sexual scenes,” which are wondrously described by suggesting that “For example, the viewer will be able to clearly see a genital-to-genital connection,” will get a movie an R rating, which is equivalent to NC-17 in the States and is basically a commercial death knell.

  16. Now is probably as good a time as any for me to recommend watching Kirby Dick’s This Film is Not Yet Rated, and to view any and all codified rating systems with several grains of salt.

  17. Or whatever size is really small as of when you’re reading this. I’m given to understand that clothing sizes change both between brands and year-over-year.

  18. This is also yet another notable diversion from Magic Mike, in which a large woman is the butt of a joke when Richie hurts his back trying to lift her.

  19. See: Walter White, Jim Halpert, Arthur Weasley, &c.

  20. See: I think just about every Harry Potter book and/or movie.

  21. Which, yes, apparently can be expressed through sexy dances.

  22. If this all sounds childish, that may be because it is—most children know it feels good to have people be nice to you—but don’t let this seeming lack of grandiosity or importance fool you: it matters.

  23. This is one possible reason why, both online and from people I’ve actually spoken to, I’ve heard more positive reviews of XXL from men.

  24. One possible response to this, to say that behaviour in a movie, even by the good guys, is not necessarily meant to be directly imitated by its audience, loses a fair bit of weight when one considers that the “just get a little crazy with your friends” ethic is already in full, directly imitative force on many a college campus.

  25. Kirby, D. B. (2008). The impact of abstinence and comprehensive sex and STD/HIV education programs on adolescent sexual behavior. Sexuality Research and Social Policy: Journal of NSRC, 5(3), 18-27. doi:10.1525/srsp.2008.5.3.18

    Underhill, K., Montgomery, P., & Operario, D. (2007). Sexual abstinence only programmes to prevent HIV infection in high income countries: Systematic review. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 335(7613), 248-252. doi:10.1136/bmj.39245.446586.BE