27 May Louis CK and the Ending of “Magic Mike”
Louis CK is most men at 49: he just wants a boyfriend.
Unpopular opinion: gay culture has spoiled what it means for men to have sex and share love.
Let me explain: I have met a truly shocking number of men who either discover late in their life that they are desirous of masculine physical interaction, or that they have likely been homosexual all along and it’s finally time to do something about it. Those seem like similar ideas, but pivot on very different, very personal axes.
Discovering (however that discovery happens: the accidental slip of a towel in a gym sauna, late at night alone in front of the computer clicking the wrong link, or watching Magic Mike on cable) that there’s something to the idea of another man’s body that makes you feel ways, isn’t necessarily an indicator that you’ve been “gay” all along and just lying to yourself. As much as it sounds like a millennial nonsense phrase, sexuality is fluid. So is gender. And they are both arguably fueled and powered by chemicals that exist in a delicate balance within our bodies and brains our entire lives. As we age, those chemicals and their balances change. That can result in as extreme a condition as andropause, or simply manifest as subtle changes in our sexual imagination. Noticing differences in what you find enticing or desirable doesn’t necessarily mean that those new desires have been latently present all along.
By contrast, men who are homosexual, but still (for a myriad of reasons that are nobody’s business but their own) marry women, father children, and live externally heteronormative lives according to the man+woman fable that still guides so much of modern society, often seem to hit a breaking point in their late 40s or 50s and decide it’s time to finally put a penis in their mouth. For people who enjoy oversimplifying things or poorly defined societal tropes, this is usually referred to as a ‘midlife crisis.’ But it’s more complicated than that.
Sarah Jessica Parker has a brilliant line in the occasionally brilliant (but mostly drudgey) Divorce, where, speaking to her husband about ending their relationship states “I want to save my life while I still care about it.” In the hands of lots of actors, this would be a defensive, shouty declaration, explaining why they were doing what they were doing. But out of Parker’s mouth, it is a humble and honest affirmation of why it (leaving, discovering oneself) matters now.
This is where I think lots of men (more than anyone would ever expect) find themselves in this 45-55 year old range, looking at the entirety of their life and thinking about what is left. What is still to come. And this is where these two groups intersect: the men who have lusted after other men forever, and men who are discovering that there is more to sex than just women. Many of them decide that they want to find out more about themselves, while they still care.
Which brings me to Louis CK and his masterful Netflix standup special 2017. There is little I can say that hasn’t been said about CK’s abilities as a storyteller and comedian. He is and remains one of the greats, able to read an audience with precision and then gently guide them from the top of a story through the reveal with affable, relatable, good-natured charm. You leave feeling both like you know him and that you are him. He owns his style completely. But you don’t have to take my word for it: 2017 has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
I’m a big fan of watching people who are good at what they do. That’s as true for the mainstream entertainers I choose to enjoy as it is for the porn I choose to watch. There is a quality that comes with masterful performance that can’t be faked by newcomers or flashes in the pan. And Louis CK is masterful.
So much so that he is able to imbue a level of honesty and autobiography into his storytelling that raises the stakes of his narratives and makes the punchlines so much more impactful. The last 1/4 of his Netflix special is dedicated to CK’s analysis of his relationship with Magic Mike, which he initially describes as “just a nice movie about men who strip.” The bit evolves as he describes his confusing feelings, favorite lines, and why he’s never seen the ending. The punchline, as he delivers it, is simultaneously funny and sad and hopeful without being even remotely slanderous or derogatory: “I’m pretty sure that the end of Magic Mike is that I’m gay.” This is met with almost ten solid seconds of applause.
CK manages to make the joke about his own unwillingness to cope with the fact that he might be gay, instead of making “gay” the joke, the way a lesser comedian might have done. This is what I mean when I say that he is masterful.
He continues down this road for the rest of his time on stage, elaborating on why he doesn’t want to be gay at 49 (“this is not the version of me that’s gonna have an awesome time as the new gay guy,”), and even goes so far as to describe what he wants in a “big, tall boyfriend.”
But the joke he uses to elaborate why these things are unobtainable for someone like him, underlines and illustrates my initial point about gay culture ruining male sex for everyone else: “I know I would like it! I’d get to have a big dude in my life, comes up behind me like this, I’m like ‘hiii!’ I know that would be nice! But in order to get all those parts, you have to have a fucking cock shoved up your asshole!”
And so we return to the fear of penetration that men all over the world live with for their whole lives. And the misunderstanding that being penetrated is a necessary and fundamental part of male sex. A misunderstanding that is perpetuated by gay culture and its rigid insistence that you choose your role (top or bottom. I’d say vers, but the implication will always be that you’re lying and are really secretly a top or bottom) and stick with it. A misunderstanding that porn (the largest and most effective disseminator of knowledge – whether correct or not – about what sex is and how it defines ones capacity for physical interaction) continues to pound into our collective psyche like a desensitized circumcised penis desperately trying to reach climax.
Louis’ gentle touch on this topic of men learning more about the breadth of their sexuality in their later years is significant. And that he doesn’t wrap the examination with a condemnation of homosexuality, but rather of his personal limitation in exploring it is even more significant.
If Louis can, through comedy, let a few guys know that they aren’t weird or strange or wrong for having some feelings sometimes that are confusing or contrary to what they know about themselves, then he’s doing what this blog is meant to do as well. He’s allowing men some space to look at themselves and maybe quietly examine why Channing Tatum makes their penis inflate a little bit. I wish he’d do it away from the mantle of “GAY,” because I think that word is toxic in some ways, and absolutely not required for two men to share sexual interaction. But that might be a nuance too subtle for most to embrace.
You can and should take some time and watch 2017. Even if you don’t think you like Louis CK. You will laugh, and you will think about things. And if you do like Louis, go to his website and give him your money.
And, Louis – if you ended up here and read all of that, I’d love to watch the end of Magic Mike with you sometime.