There really isn’t anything better in life than getting a nice surprise, like finding $20 in your wallet you didn’t know you had or randomly running into an old friend you hadn’t seen in a while. Pop culture is filled with all sorts of gems like that. Whether it was something you went into with low expectations or just something you weren’t really interested in when it came out, everyone has at least one moment where they said “Wow, this is really good!”
For me, that was Magic Mike. As a straight guy who isn’t really into dude-bro culture, my initial reaction when it came out was “Really? A movie about buff male strippers? No thanks.” It didn’t help that it featured Channing Tatum who, at the time, I thought of as yet another movie hunk who couldn’t act (based primarily on his performance as Duke in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra). Also not helping was the description that popped up on IMDB: “A male stripper teaches a younger performer how to party, pick up women, and make easy money.” That sounded more like the plotline to a 90s Skinemax movie than a Soderbergh film.
But then I started hearing and reading that the movie was much more than it seemed. It wasn’t enough to make me go out of my way to watch it, but a combination of easy availability on Redbox and my wife mentioning it to me about 100 times (for reasons that I suspect had nothing to do with the plot) was enough to get me to watch it. Still skeptical, I popped it into the DVD player and sat with my wife, not sure what to expect.
Honestly, I was shocked at how good of a movie it turned out to be. The writing was sharp and the dialogue was done in a way that made the strippers seem like actual honest to god people. Matthew McConaughey was amazing as the boss of the whole operation, bringing his normal charisma to the role. And of course, the wrestling fan in me was shocked to see Kevin Nash attempting to keep up with the younger guys (god bless him).
But the real revelation was Tatum. It was clear that I had totally misjudged him before based on a limited body of work. His work in Magic Mike was nuanced, heartfelt and showed that, with the right material, he can do fantastic work. I’ve now become a fan of most of his work (I haven’t watched the new G.I. Joe movie so I don’t ruin that).
So what are some of your most pleasant surprises in pop culture land? Again, it can be a movie like mine, TV, video game, book, etc.