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In defense of Channing Tatum

The guy looks more like an Abercrombie model than an actor, probably because he used to be an Abercrombie model.

In interviews, his laugh frequently turns into a giggle, like he’s unconcerned about possessing the protective coating of his more guarded, seasoned Hollywood cohorts.

Not only has he worked as a stripper, but he has a sense of humor about it (check his endearing, funny turn on “Saturday Night Live”) and has turned his experiences into one of this summer’s most anticipated movies, Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike.”

Sure, it would be easy to hate Channing Tatum, if you’re the sort that looks for reasons to chastise people who are successful and attract shrieks from women. Wait, you say, you only disapprove of the “21 Jump Street” star because he’s not a great actor, right? Just like Dustin Rowles of, who claims Tatum’s success is a product of the “millennial mentality” and that the guy has no talent.

Except Rowles also correctly notes that Tatum’s the best thing in both “21 Jump Street” and “The Dilemma,” so why the continued argument that he has no talent? (Google “Channing Tatum sucks” for more people who think so.) If a talentless person is the best thing in a movie, what does that say about the rest of the cast? I haven’t heard anyone sounding off about how untalented Jonah Hill, Ice Cube and Rob Riggle are. Oh, yeah: Because they’re not, and neither is Tatum.

No, the rising star isn’t much in the drama department. He was competent enough in “Dear John” but so out of his dramatic depth in “The Vow” that he sunk every scene in which he was supposed to emote credibly. Yet he's done well in heavy stuff like "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints," and I’m puzzled that an actor who, on screen and off, manages to be appealing even when he’s failing (kind of like a puppy futilely asking for people food) continues to inspire such hatred from people.

Don’t get me wrong: I get as confused and frustrated as anyone when someone invades the big screen without the chops or charisma to back it up. Dane Cook. Nia Vardalos. Even Katherine Heigl. These admittedly easy targets are so grating that it baffles me that they’ve had the cinematic opportunities they’ve had. But it’s hard not to sniff  a certain degree of sexism in the anti-Channing Tatum contingent, which does not seem to mind as much when gorgeous women like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley land big movie roles as, essentially, the hot chick.

Because that’s all many significant parts for women unfortunately require: Beauty over brains, cleavage over character. Men dominate the movies (in a recent study I can’t seem to find, I believe more than 70 percent of films in 2011 revolved around a male main character) and clearly there’s more concern over the acting abilities of the guys on screen than the women. In other words, a smokin' hot woman can be close to front and center, but a beefcake should stand off to the side.

Let's have a sense of scale here. The Situation isn't headlining movies. Great work from people like Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara and Viola Davis is still deservedly being heralded more than Tatum will ever be. So when the star of a comedy makes you laugh (because he’s funny, not because he’s awful), that seems worthy of praise. Not reason to keep insisting that this funny, likable guy should go back to the catalogue he came from.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U @mattpais


Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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