LATELY, THE MOVIES have been sending out the overt message
that the sex industry is a lot of fun. Striptease and Show
Girls gave us plucky heroines who bared it all in an expression
of light, acceptable sexuality (and, in Striptease, in
which Demi Moore plays a dancer trying to gain custody of her
daughter, the interest of motherhood). Spike Lee's Girl 6
was a sort of Bildungsroman of a phone sex worker.
Okay, fine. Whatever. But why has this route to profit and self-discovery
been ignored for the male gender? And more importantly, why haven't
the ladies in the audience been treated to the sight of naked
men strutting it on stage, vulnerable and cringing beneath the
lustful gaze of an audience full of sex-starved chicks?
Ah, but now there's Full Monty, a fun, entertaining film
about out-of-work steel workers trying to make a buck as male
Of course, Full Monty doesn't just serve up naked men--that
would be too shocking. The movies, like our culture at large,
support the idea that while men's desire to look at unclothed
women is neat and normal and something to be indulged, women's
desire to look at men's bodies is weak, scary, or non-existent.
But Full Monty at least flirts with the idea that women
like to look. The men undress slowly throughout the film, which
is in itself a sort of prolonged striptease.
But despite a certain level of coyness, Full Monty begins
to do something movies have rarely dared to do: It addresses the
issue of female desire for men, not as husbands or providers or
boyfriends, but as hunks of meat. Okay, so some of these guys
are a little ragged around the edges, but that only made it more
Full Monty begins with an optimistic, '70s tourism film
advertising the wonders of the town of Sheffield--a booming English
metropolis built around the steel industry. Slums have been cleared,
we're told by a deep-voiced narrator, to make way for modern,
concrete high rises. There's a soccer team playing in a world-class
stadium. Women in Quiana wrap dresses and guys in bell bottoms
do the hustle in the discos. "Steel workers work hard, and
they play hard!"
Cut to Sheffield 25 years later. The town still plays hard, but
most people aren't working since the steel mills have closed.
Gaz (Robert Carlyle) and Dave (Mark Addy), a pair of out-of-work
steel workers, are rummaging through a closed factory for salvage,
accompanied by Gaz's sweet little son, who is embarrassed by the
whole venture. These guys are down and out, clearly. But a chance
encounter with a Chippendale's troupe making money hand over fist
at a nearby bar gives Gaz the bright idea to start his own band
of strippers. It's a little contrived, yes, but Full Monty
is a comedy, and a little exaggeration has to be swallowed.
Gaz slowly gathers a motley group of losers. He and Dave discover
one future dancer in mid suicide-attempt in his car (he's having
mechanical difficulties, and Dave helps him get it started); they
have an audition and get a couple of guys there. Between the dancing
and recruiting sessions, the guys go to Job Club--dismal classes
given by the state to help the steel workers find employment--and
pretend to work on their résumés. There they pick
up their former boss, the only one of the group who actually knows
how to dance.
Some of the comedy in this movie is pretty obvious (really, jokes
about the size of a black man's penis?); but some has a sly wit
and goofy spirit that carries it along at a swift pace. The guys
get a video of Flashdance to check out the dancing and
end up being more interested in Jennifer Beal's welding. When
one of the songs they've been practicing to comes on over the
radio in line at the employment agency, the men start unconsciously
doing little dance moves in unison.
"Full Monty" we're told in the credits, is a British
phrase that roughly translates to "going all the way."
Gaz figures that since his crew of dancers aren't exactly Chippendale's
guys, they need an extra nugget of material to offer the ladies.
So they advertise their willingness to do the "full Monty"--to
take it all off, g-strings included. Is this a chance to witness
male full frontal nudity? Ah, you'll have to see for yourself.