Films that showcase nightlife as a business have a way of settling into their guilt, reminding us that parties have moral consequences despite being the main attraction (think 54, which uses a whole institution to symbolize nightlife’s rise and fall). The first trailer for Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, a male-stripper story loosely based on lead star Channing Tatum’s life, doesn’t waste much time owning up to this sub-genre cliché. After kicking things off with a policeman striptease straight out of a million bachelorette parties, and some fancy stage work from Tatum’s eponymous gyrating hero, the preview quickly veers to the dreamer’s yearning for something more, namely a “respectable” profession and a dollop of love on top. In the process, it wags a disciplinary finger at its own conceit, and reductively promises as many plucked heartstrings as flaunted G-strings.
Conversely, the trailer for 2000’s Coyote Ugly masks the reverie respite entirely, making no mention of the songwriting goals of its young lead ingenue (Piper Perabo), and instead exhibiting every sweet sin of the titular New York bar. The B-Side to the Magic Mike clip’s tips-in-the-pants atonement (“I am not my lifestyle!” Mike promises his sweetheart), the Coyote Ugly preview sells sex to the last shot, emerging as one of cinema’s most misleading acts of marketing. By all evidence, the arc of Magic Mike isn’t far off from that of its cowgirl predecessor, which also paired a risqué job with wholesome career ambitions. But while the former felt the need to appease its female target audience with bathos, the latter abandoned its demo completely to rope in live, rude boys, who surely left the film with a mind to murder producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
These two previews are as hypocritical in their respective messages as they are revealing about gender in advertising. Magic Mike‘s trailer, for all its initial oohs, ahhs, and ab-baring, acts as if its drawing factor isn’t a man-candy parade (which also features Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer, and True Blood‘s Joe Manganiello), but boilerplate romcom developments. It condescends to women or Tatum fans by assuming they need a snuggly love story, and speaks to the unending taboo of showing too much male skin. Coyote Ugly‘s clip more or less lies to its audience, consisting primarily of girls on bars and bars on fire, which in fact only account for about 30 percent of the film. It exploited the permitting of female exploitation to pull a thorough bait-and-switch. That the trailer worked wonders is really beside the point.
Technically speaking, the Coyote Ugly clip is better by a mile, promising a fun and enticing setting and zipping along with ultra-cool construction, right down to the rough-and-tumble font. Magic Mike‘s preview has its moments, but only truly hits a groove when Rihanna’s “We Found Love” sparks a tonal transition. It’s a pity neither of these trailers could find a pleasant medium, for no one wants a movie merely about flesh on display, but they don’t want such an angle to be shoved under the rug, either. The hot rush of naughty nightlife has a massive, vast appeal—it should neither be used as a ruse nor as a cause for a deceptive wrist slap.
R. Kurt Osenlund is the Managing Editor of Slant Magazine’s The House Next Door, as well as a film critic & contributor for Slant, South Philly Review, Film Experience, Cineaste, Fandor, ICON, and many other publications.