The “fall’s most hotly-anticipated” movie (according to host Michael Strahan and his Good Morning America co-hosts) is supposedly Hustlers, the new flick about strippers who intoxicate and steal from arrogant, rich Wall Street bros because feminism, baby.
GMA has heavily promoted the idea that this movie is empowering for women, even normalizing this part of the adult industry in interviews with the young stars by asking them what their stripper names would be. Does the idea of glorifying strippers make you queasy in this post-#MeToo world? Catch up please. These days, feminism is about sex and power and vindictiveness.
GMA has devoted serious time to Hustlers, plugging for the movie on multiple occasions and featuring interviews with its mega stars. Jennifer Lopez, who plays the film’s lead stripper, is the main star of the film. She’s the head dancer who teaches the other girls how its done, and plans the heist. Actual stripper/robber-turned rapper Cardi B makes her big-screen debut here -- the kind of realism money can’t buy.
The real problem is that the movie — about strippers who drug and steal from rich idiot men (don’t judge, times are tough) — is not just viewed as some twisted dark comedy a la The Hangover but being hyped by major networks like ABC as an earnest portrayal of women “who flip the script.” That’s how GMA couched the movie on Thursday, August 29.
GMA anchor Adrienne Bankert gushed that these ladies are “taking back their power from the men who run the club and their wealthy clients.” There’s a cut to J. Lo’s character justifying the ladies’ criminal actions (based on real “criminal cases,” no less) because the men they’re taking advantage of, “These Wall Street Guys … they stole from everybody.” So sex workers get to rob johns and we get to cheer. Oh, and don’t forget what Bankert says is the film’s “compassionate message about love and friendship.”
These strippers, Lopez insisted to Bankert, are “very strong, very powerful.” She added, “there’s a baring of soul, a vulnerability … it takes a lot of bravery, a lot of courage.” (To strip?) Constance Wu also bashed haters who might look sideways at strippers, saying, “I feel like in our society, once you hear that type of a profession, whether it’s stripping or sex-working … they (other people) don’t get to know them as humans.”
GMA also had a one-on-one interview with Wu about a week later that gave more credence to her stripping-apologetics. She told a rather understanding Michael Strahan that “there are people who do this rather than they’re just strippers. They’re people who strip for a living because they need to pay the bills.” Yeah we get your point, though these “people” strip and drug and steal.” Is that how powerful women “pay the bills?” Strahan responded, “You gotta do what you gotta do.”
And it got even weirder on Thursday, September 5, during Strahan’s one-on-one interview with Hustlers actress and former Disney Channel child star Keke Palmer. Palmer stars as a young stripper in the film so Strahan commented on her stripper name in the film being “Mercedes.” And since this idea that women stripping is charming and at worst, slightly amusing, Strahan had a big laugh over asking her what her stripper name would be. Palmer replied, “it would be something sweet like baby girl, or baby doll.” The audience raved, because who wouldn’t want that to be their stripper name?
It’s just so strange for the media be so cavalier about stripping and sex work and yet claim to be so preoocupied with respect for women. No matter how hard a girl gets to own it onstage or break social norms to “pays the bills,” it’s still a business that exists for satisfying the dreaded male gaze. It’s a terrible message for young women, and to tack on to that some idea that these women are even more “powerful” for assault and theft is ridiculous.
Remember, there’s no honor among thieves, and stripping is degrading to women. There’s nothing redeemable or empowering about this movie’s stance on femininity. That shouldn't be a controversial statement.