Why StripTease wipes the floor with Burlesque (and it’s lame UK version Make it Happen)

Okay. Yes. I sat through the entirety of Burlesque. It was worse than I thought it would be. Which is really fucking amazing, I mean I thought it was going to be painful, but it was beyond…. a true horror show. I watched it with the slave, we wanted to see if was worth possibly doing commentary on for a new project of his. And while being a source of comedy gold: I will never forgive Steve Antin for making such a huge self important, poorly researched, confused, sexless piece of music video crap.

I was very inebriated while we took it in, so I was more than a little belligerent. I kept yelling “I DON”T UNDERSTAND, THIS IS WHERE THEY SHOULD BE TAKING THEIR CLOTHES OFF. WHY ARE THE LIPSYNKING?! THIS IS DRAG?! WAIT IS CHER RUNNING A DRAG BAR?! THAT MAKES ALLOT MORE SENSE! WHY ARE THEY ALL SO BITCHY!? I WANT BOOBS! SOMEONE SHOW THEIR CANS YOU ASSHOLES!” This is the problem with the film. Despite its supposed understanding of the art of the tease, when we first see the dancers they are already in their lingerie. Which they never take off. Which is of course not burlesque by any definition. Though it is cabaret dancing. But that movie was already made (and way better). By introducing us to the girls already half naked, you loose some tension. By never showing anything beyond a bra and panties you loose any erotic arch at all. Also further confusion was brought on when Cher sings a number describing each of the girls as though they’re harlots on a bunny ranch. And also by the fact that they do perform all dances while lip synching which is far more tethered to Drag Queens, than to the likes of Tempest Storm. Oh did I mention there are 15 numbers in the film? Yeah 15 BOOBLESS numbers.

What this looks like to ME is Christina THE SHOW. Can I see some boobs please?

There are the vague nods to the classic Burlesque aesthetic and over the top female personalities in acts like “But I’m a good Girl”  and “Guy What Takes his Time”…. Which we don’t get to see the entirety of because the film keeps cutting back and forth between acts and Xtina’s riveting daily life. So never once do we really see her build the kind of relationship with the viewers that is so characteristic of the art form. The nods are laughably minimal and can really be summed up in one good eye roll while the newly be-wigged Xtina flirts from behind a feather fan. THAT’S IT FOLKS. Oh actually I take it back, there is ONE strip in the show. Performed by Cam Djigande. Who to seduce the apparently Christ like figure Xtina disappears and reappears from behind a set of french doors, until he’s totally nude. With a box of Famous Amos covering his dick. Yep.

I wanted to give the bare minimum of back ground to make my case. Because in order to wash the terrible taste of idiocy from my mouth I put on a movie that changed my life the first time I saw it when I was 12. Strip Tease.

Yes yes I know its NOT a great movie. Though it IS fucking Citizen Kane when compared to Burlesque. What Strip Tease gets right is: raw sexy feral female sexuality. OH and Demi shows her cans! Burlesque with all its hyper modern Rob Marshal-esque cutting never allows us to just enjoy the sensual nature of the dance. You get the sense that in Anton’s mind as he was story boarding he was saying to himself “and 5-6-7-8 boom and cut, and stick it, and cut, and hair flip, and cut, and swish, and cut… and work it girl!” But Strip Tease gives us long uninterrupted takes to just drink in the sexual deity that is mid 90′s Demi. She prowls that stage, she tempts, she girates, and she does full on classic strips including: a suit strip, a chair dance, a boa strip ect. All classic tropes of the burlesque vocabulary. True she is an exotic dancer, she does do some poll work, and she is of course sans pasties. But the formula is there on full display. You start with at least a little, work your way down to less, and make them beg for it.

Oooohhhh She makes me shiver in my stilettos. Mouth watering.

Another a key distinction is, in Burlesque the bodies on display are uniformly of the Maxim variety. Which of course we all know to be a false representation of what the neo burlesque movement stands for. The new burlesque that cropped up in the early 90′s was and I believe still is about embracing and sexualizing all body types- but especially ones that we might think of as confrontationally female. And there again Strip Tease shames these cheap imitators. Demi’s body though surgically enhanced is fully female, thick, and juicy to the point of vulgarity. Like having a fire bath. Seeing a woman with such an archetypal build be so uninhibited and sensual is powerful. Its overwhelming. Its as some theorists have said: female drag. A hyper representation of feminity where its performed, not inherent. (My favorite theory for obvious reasons!)

Yet another thing that Strip Tease gets right, that Burlesque fails to include are the audience members themselves. In Strip Tease you get a look at some of the dudes that roll in…. some of them are both emotionally and physically moved by what they see…. some act out…. some embarrass themselves. In Burlesque you may get a quick glimpse of a couple enthralled by the lip synching. And though at modern burlesque shows you see more couples than men in rain coats, each audience member is there with their own set of expectations and frequently/hopefully emotional reactions.  The audiences of burlesque shows are just as much of an attraction as the shows themselves… some very interesting and lovable characters show up: sometimes for years. I especially love some my audience members who have seen me from the beginning…. what a lucky thing!

That brings us to “Make it Happen”. The only thing I have to say about this film is: when asked what this salacious art form is…these girls dancing sexily, the proprietress responds with “it’s rooted in Burlesque, but we take it way beyond the traditional stuff…”.  Which I accept and can cope with. Now the idea of taking the art beyond the “traditional stuff” is an entirely different conversation… I personally feel like my journey as a strip teaser has led me from being VERY non-traditional/extreme to being a devout traditionalist/provocateur. But I respect that the film didn’t try to re-engineer the deffinition of an artform simply to suit itself. Otherwise, not very good film- I will always prefer Flash Dance in the genre of “girl just wants to get into dance school and is willing to take it off and learn about herself to get there.”



P.S. I will also say I had a second round of Striptease while in the bath with Ms. Syre and I highly recommend such a viewing. Though you have to get your own hot porn-star girlfriend.

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