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‘Magic Mike XXL’ and the Rise of the Female Gaze

Magic Mike

“I think it’s appalling that for a long time only women were objectified, but I think if we really want to advocate for equality, it’s important to even things out,” said recently beefed-up Jurassic World star Chris Pratt last week. “Not objectify women less, but objectify men just as often as we objectify women.”

As I sat in a press screening for Magic Mike XXL and heard the unapologetic hoots of women journalists greet the first thudding notes of Ginuwine’s “Pony” and the shouts continue to crest while Channing Tatum gyrated and welded, moving in sync with his power tools (“He could really hurt himself!” I thought, ever neurotic, before I let the moment take me with it), I couldn’t help but acknowledge that Pratt’s dream of equal-opportunity objectification is rapidly coming to fruition.

magic mike

After centuries, nay, millennia, of the male gaze reigning supreme (shoutout to  Titian and Courbet, legit great painters!), the female gaze is finally on the rise. “No one does sex for women well — not in film and not on TV. Women are accustomed to seeing distorted images of themselves reflected back by way of the male gaze, but media that operates from the nexus of a woman’s desire is still so rare,” Transparent‘s Jill Soloway told Ms. Magazine last year. “We’re essentially inventing the female gaze right now — not just myself, but also showrunners like Jenji Kohan,” she added. To this, I’d add that this gaze inversion isn’t just happening  in sophisticated, queer-friendly shows like Transparent and Orange Is the New Back, but has leeched out into popular (and often dumber) entertainment, too.

Pratt feels objectified. Outlander turns its kilt-clad, brawny, tortured male star, Sam Heughan, into an object in more ways than one. Not to be outdone, Masterpiece Classic is broadcasting the BBC’s Poldark, which highlights its male star’s abs in an upcoming half-naked scything scene that our friends across the pond really enjoyed.

poldark gif

Broad City‘s gals stand by the basketball court to ogle dudes in basketball shorts until their gaze subjects are made uncomfortable.

abbie and ilana

Bob’s Burgers‘ Tina Belcher has the healthiest libido and female gaze in the cartoon universe — she’s a pop-cultural teenage girl who is as horny as the cartoon teenage boys who have come before her.

tina belcher


And Magic Mike has shimmied, on the strength of its stars’ pecs and good nature, into a popular franchise —  while Channing Tatum has developed something of a specialty in appealing to the ladies.

Bare chests and man-thongs are only the beginning: Magic Mike XXL is explicitly geared to women. The male strippers talk constantly (and to me, a little dubiously) about how their work involves healing women, listening to their customers as other men don’t, and multiple plotlines involve making sad women happy once more or bringing sexual satisfaction to women who haven’t had enough.  Joe Manganiello’s best moment is a convenience-store striptease that gets a sad female clerk to grin; Channing Tatum works on a forlorn photographer who’s lost her smile. The other men claim to see beauty in all women — the camera pans across strip-club clientele of all shapes, colors, and sizes — and don’t mind being surrounded and mobbed by this diverse array of adoring, leering fans. Jada Pinkett Smith, hamming it up as a fabulous proprietress of a fantasy strip club in Savannah, calls all the women who come to her club “queens,” and her eyes rove for the ones who need a confidence boost, and will then get serenaded by Donald Glover’s soulful singing self-esteem-bestowing stripper. In Magic Mike’s world, women come first.

A few quick caveats before I praise this trend: the bad kind of objectification, which entails not just lustily appreciating someone sexually but reducing them solely to their looks, isn’t great if it’s taken to extremes either direction — furthermore, claiming that all women like a certain kind of entertainment is reductive. Obviously, different eye candy strokes will work for different folks. All that having been said,  popular entertainment, which exists to spin fantasies onto the screen and page, really ought to cater to tastes beyond the stereotypical male ones, which might not even be what all men like. “I think obviously women have been starved for quite a while because all of these films and shows that are coming out right now that are catering to that, you see the voracity of the audience,” Outlander star Catronia Biofe told Salon, after the mid-season premiere’s extremely lengthy sex scene that emphasized female pleasure. “I think if it’s some kind of mini-revolution of sexual awakening for women in the media, then that’s fantastic.”

In fact, this mini-revolution in taste goes beyond sexuality and reversing the gaze. As I sat through Magic Mike XXL, alternately entertained and bored, I kept thinking about another big sequel I saw earlier this year, Pitch Perfect 2. Both of these films managed to last nearly two hours with only a few wisps of actual conflict — which almost made them feel anarchic for their near-rejection of a traditional plot — and nary a genuine hurdle for the protagonist. Each was ostensibly framed around a competition, yet both undercut that structure by emphasizing togetherness, hard work, the quirks of the weird members of their ensembles, and the sheer fun of their respective art forms — female a capella and male striptease. Each film’s prevailing mood was goofy, with humor ranging from absolutely corny to genuinely cutting  and completely positive in spirit.

Thinking back about other “surprise” hit films that puzzled critics but that women loved in box offices, from Mamma Mia! through Twilight (which gets prodded at in Magic Mike XXL) through today, you begin to see that “the female gaze” may not just consist of the camera panning down the male body, or putting women in traditionally male roles, but also about embracing aesthetic preferences that disrupt linear, conflict- and violence-ridden storytelling structures with lingering romantic awkwardness, offbeat humor, earnest themes, and occasionally fanciful song and dance routines that defy reality. But hey, how much less realistic is solving a plot problem via choreography than solving one through blowing things up, after all, and walking away casually? The point is, the doorway is widening. And the more diverse ways we have of telling mainstream stories, the more likely audiences  will find something that speaks to them, irregardless of gender expression or identity.

Eugene Mirman Purchased Ad Space to Righteously Object To a $15 Parking Fine


Eugene Mirman, the voice of Gene in Bob’s Burgers, was fined $15 for parking in the wrong direction in Portsmouth, NH, and he didn’t take it very lightly. In protest to the city’s stringent parking laws, Mirman bought ad space in a local newspaper, addressing the town of Portsmouth for large-scale injustice.Signed “With great disappointment,” the letter placed in the ad space thoroughly defends Mirman’s freedom to rightfully back into a spot. He even uses the state’s motto of “Live Free or Die” to ironically make his point — which went viral on reddit as “The Best Full Page Ad Ever.”

If it wasn’t clear following his letter to Time Warner Cable in a previous cable debacle, Mirman has very little patience for bureaucratic nonsense (especially that which will cost him $15):



‘Bob’s Burgers’ Will Keep Flipping for Two More Seasons

TV STILL -- DO NOT PURGE -- BOB'S BURGERS: Join the Belcher family for Season Five of the Emmy Award winning BOB'S BURGERS  Sundays on FOX.  BOB'S BURGERS ™ and © 2014 TCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Fox’s animated darling Bob’s Burgers will continue for at least two more seasons.The network announced it will keep the Belchers in business for a seventh and eighth season Wednesday.

“Six seasons in, the Belchers have become one of America’s most beloved TV families and we are so happy to keep them in the fold for another two seasons,” said Fox Broadcasting Company President of Entertainment David Madden. “Bob’s Burgers is hilarious, warm, smart, inventive — critics love it and so do fans. Loren, Jim and the brilliant voice cast continue to surprise us in the best ways, and we look forward to seeing what Bob and the family will cook up in seasons seven and eight.”

The renewal shouldn’t be much of a surprise: the show won an Emmy for “Outstanding Animated Program” in 2014 and was nominated for two Emmys in 2015.

The sixth season of Bob’s Burgers currently airs every Sunday on Fox at 7:30pm Eastern.

Aziz Ansari Tackles Race and Relationships in Trailer for ‘Master of None’


Netflix has released the trailer for Aziz Ansari’s upcoming, semi-autobiographical series, Master of None

Ansari stars as “Dev,” a thirty-year-old actor trying to figure his life out in New York City. The trailer covers both Dev’s romantic (he feels pressured to settle down but is overly selective: “Whoever you’re dating now at this age, it could be who you end up with—it’s a big decision”) and professional (he auditions for roles but is relegated to typecasting) lives, and the way the latter is impacted by casual racism.

Other cast members include: H. Jon Benjamin (Bob’s Burgers; Archer); Eric Wareheim (Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!), Lena Waithe (The Comeback); Noël Wells (Saturday Night Live); and Kelvin Yu (writer for Bob’s Burgers). Claire Danes and Noah Emmerich will also make guest appearances.

Ansari’s show will be his third collaboration with Netflix — the first two being standup specials (2013’s Buried Alive; and Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden from earlier this year).

Master of None will premiere on Netflix on November 6, 2015.

Watch the trailer:

Kal Penn to Spoof Fox News With New Comedy Series: Links You Need to See


Kal Penn has a new series — made with his Harold and Kumar collaborators, Hayden Schlossberg and Jon Hurwitz — in the works for ABC. According to Deadline, it follows Penn’s character, a wannabe NPR reporter who instead takes a position at a Fox News-ish channel. (The show, titled Fair and Balanced, gets its name directly from Fox’s slogan.) The content of the show is inspired by Penn’s own time in Washington, D.C. where he worked both for Obama’s National Arts Policy Committee and as an associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; he’s also a VICE News correspondent. In other ABC-related news, the showrunner of the new Muppets series is leaving, and the second half of the first season is allegedly being considered a relaunch (which may not be a bad thing).


Credence, a film by British director Mike Buonaiuto, is described on its Indiegogo account as “the first Sci-Fi of its kind to challenge the way gay characters are portrayed in film.” As Wired explains, the crowdfunding effort proved to be a success (fueled by a clear desire to end the dearth of rich portrayals within the genre), as the film earned 370 percent of its initial goal, and was recently completed: it launched this week on Vimeo on Demand. The 30 minute apocalyptic film sees a couple trying to send their daughter into space in the last evacuation of a dying Earth. Watch the trailer here. 


You may not have known that Gummo/Mr. Lonely/Spring Breakers director Harmony Korine is also a painter of massive abstractions. But because of the disappearance of one such ($120,000) massive abstraction (made using masking tape, squeegees and house paint) from the lobby of a building in Manhattan this week, his painting career is being publicized all over the web. In other (pop culture-adjacent) art news, The Creators Project published an interview with Jay Howell, the illustrator behind Sanjay and Craig and the Belcher family on Bob’s Burgers, detailing his “colorful career and work.”


333sound released their list of the next books in the 33 1/3 series. The upcoming releases of books based on albums will come from 16 proposals (selected from 605); Highlights include a book by Clare Nina Norelli on Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks soundtrack, a book by Amy Gentry on Tori Amos’ Boys For Pele, one by Andrew Barker on The Pharcyde’s Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, and one by Emily MaCkay about Björk’s Homogenic. Check out the 333sound website for the full list. 


The Weirdness and Warmth of ‘Bob’s Burgers” Thanksgiving Episodes


Thanksgiving is one of the big three sitcom holidays, along with Christmas and Halloween. These holidays lend themselves well to comedies: families coming together, over-the-top costumes, awkward and hilarious conversations, and sticky-sweet emotions. Each holiday has its comedic benefits, but Thanksgiving might be the best for family-oriented sitcoms — and no comedy does these episodes better than Bob’s Burgers.

The very basic elements of Thanksgiving are built right into the series’ DNA. Bob’s Burgers is a series that loves blending completely absurd situations (and occasional gross-out comedy) with the warm fuzziness that comes along with a family who truly love each other. (It also helps that it can be a food-centric sitcom; the Thanksgiving episodes really play up Bob’s love, and talent, for cooking.) Nowhere are these elements more apparent than in the series’ Thanksgiving episodes: “Turkey in a Can,” finds Bob sleepwalking and placing turkeys in the toilet night after night, while also stressing about Tina growing up — and growing away from him, as teenage daughters tend to do — because she’s trying to prove that she’s adult enough to take the leap from the kids’ table to the adults’. “Dawn of the Peck,” a wacky half-hour that features Linda and the kids trying to survive a group of wild, murderous turkeys while Bob gets drunker and drunker at home, alone and stressing out about not cooking dinner, because the family ditched him, even though he really wants to cook. The stories brilliantly converge (Bob potty-training a turkey as he reminisces about potty-training Tina; Bob running into his family — and the evil turkeys — while giving in to his overwhelming desire to cook), effortlessly blending the weird and the warmth.

This is because the weird is the warmth in Bob’s Burgers. They are not separate aspects of the series; they’re two characteristics that can seem conflicting on the surface, but instead cleverly work together to heighten each other’s impact. It results in uproariously funny storylines that ultimately evoke a feeling of drowsy, peaceful happiness — sort of like the post-dinner, turkey-induced nap that calms your body after the stress of cooking a feast or sitting through family tension at the table. Bob’s Burgers often employs the same mishaps as many comedic programs on television, particularly family-oriented sitcoms, but with its own unique twists. The turkey doesn’t just get burnt in the oven — it gets tossed in the toilet, rolled in a litter box, and puked on by Linda; Bob doesn’t just get stuck in a blizzard trying to be with his family on Thanksgiving — he is stuck pulling his annoying sister-in-law and her sick cat on a makeshift sleigh down the snow-covered roads. Bob’s Burgers can take the most overdone Thanksgiving episode cliches and flip them into something refreshingly original.

bobs_burgers_thanksgiving_2048_legacyThe heart of the show remains in the eccentricities of Linda pecking at a turkey to gain control over it, or Tina struggling to “play adult,” or Bob climbing into a tree to save a cat who doesn’t seem to particularly like him. The sitcom can be emotional and sentimental, but it’s all juxtaposed with some ridiculous moments (and lots of scenes featuring a very drunk Bob and/or Linda) that make sure it doesn’t go too far into either direction.

Bob’s Burgers actually does all of its holiday episodes right, whether it’s a Halloween episode where the kids go trick-or-treating without their parents or a Christmas episode that doubles as a horror movie on the road. Yet it’s Thanksgiving where the show most consistently shines, perhaps because of the holiday’s emphasis on love and family. Strip away the more complicated controversies surrounding Thanksgiving, and it boils down to family togetherness, whether it’s a blood relation, friends, or the landlord who hires the Belchers to pose as his family to impress his ex. The point isn’t who makes up the family, or what mishaps they encounter on the way to being together. The point is that they all end up together, embracing and celebrating the idiosyncrasies that make them special.

This ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Christmas Song Pays Tribute to the Lifeblood of Holiday Spirit — Booze

Bob's Burgers Christmas Song 2015

Just in time for Christmas, Bob’s Burgers production house Bento Box Entertainment has released a stocking-sized holiday jingle for the fans. “The Spirits of Christmas,” as performed by Bob’s landlord Calvin Fishoeder (voiced by Kevin Kline), sings the praises of an essential component of any great holiday gathering — hard liquor.

“On bourbon, on vodka, on scotch and on gin!” Fishoeder croons. “Take me back, let the north pole dancin’ begin.”

There’s also some disturbingly complimentary figure skating provided by Felix Fishoeder. (Normally voiced by Zach Galifinakis, though he’s purely a visual fixture here.)

The sixth season of Bob’s Burgers will resume after the mid-season break, beginning January 10, 2016.

The National and Låpsley Become ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Characters and Sing About Bathroom Shame in New Video


The National and Låpsley have covered a song from Season 6, Episode 19 of Bob’s Burgers, in which the titular animated burger chef gets his hopes for world renown very high when he hears that his restaurant will be profiled in Coasters Magazine. However, just before he’s set to be interviewed, he gets a case of the “panic poops” — but then finds himself glued to the toilet when it turns out that his daughter Louise had put goop on the toilet seat as part of a pranking battle with her brother. Alas, in that episode, dejected by the seeming dashing of his dreams via sticky toilet seat, Bob Belcher sings a mournful — and then hopeful! — song called “Bad Stuff Happens in the Bathroom.”

The National and Låpsley’s just-released (surprisingly listenable as a non-joke, and even a little dark) rendition of the song comes accompanied with a video, in which the band and singer are transformed into Bob’s Burgers-ish characters. Matt Berninger is cast, both in his vocal role and his animated one, as the Bob character, stuck atop the toilet, while Låpsley takes Louise Belcher’s lines from Kristen Schaal.


And here’s the original:



Spoke Art, NYC Pays Tribute to the Many Personalities of ‘Bob’s Burgers’


The Belcher family has been given a fine-art makeover. Gallery Spoke Art, NYC is hosting an exhibition in tribute to the animated Fox television series Bob’s Burgers. “The personalities of each Belcher family member resonates on a large-scale,” explains Spoke. “Tina’s anxious yet hopeful outlook, Louise’s blind and courageous attitude and Bob’s constant attempts to just keep it together are compelling and universally relatable.” Look for prints, paintings, sculpture and more from artists including the familiar Tom Grillo, the whimsical Ana Aranda, and Rezatron, who created the uncanny family portrait of the Belchers (featured in our header image). The exhibition will be on view through Sunday, October 16. Catch a preview in our gallery, below.

Adorable Illustrations of Pop-Culture Couples


Nan Lawson’s “Meet Cute” – in which the illustrator captures the profiles of iconic pop culture couples – was a big hit at L.A.’s Gallery1988, so like anything successful in that city, now there’s a sequel. “Meet Cute 2” features inspired pairings from the likes of Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Buffy, Bob’s Burgers, and more; Lawson’s marvelous images of visages are on display through Saturday, which means we just figured out a great Valentine’s Day date for you L.A. folks. But if you can’t make it, we’ve got a few of our favorites to share.

“Do you like sex, Mr. Lebowski?” by Nan Lawson
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