The film follows the five men in the troupe as they train to be strippers with UK Hen Club faves The Adonis Cabaret and choreographer Jo King from the London School of Striptease. Helmer Havana Marking said in the piece in the Guardian that she hoped with the film to challenge the idea that the sexuality of disabled people should be ignored or censored. My initial reaction to this was that's it's a bit exploitative -- the men involved say in interviews that they found the experience liberating, but I have to wonder if the women who flocked to the show came expecting to be titillated as they would with any other cabaret show, or if they came only for the curiosity factor -- "Oh look, a naked guy in a wheelchair, how quaint."
Seattle has a lot of burlesque shows, and one of the shows regularly features a very overweight erotic dancer. I've seen her a couple times, and on the one hand, watching her perform was kind of cool, because she was clearly into her routine and wasn't worried (at least to all appearances) about how her body was perceived by the audience. On the other hand, though, I could hear all around me people making callous and cruel remarks about her, and that made the whole thing feel vaguely disturbing.
I kind of feel the same way about the idea of this documentary (which I haven't been able to see yet, but it is showing at the Sheffield Documentary Fest, if any UK readers want to catch it and let us know what they think). The issue for me isn't a guy in a wheelchair stripping or being seen as sexual; it's the perception that people coming to see them perform would be coming for a completely different reason than they might normally attend a male strip show -- that the men aren't being perceived as sexual, but as oddities. Then again, that's pretty much what Brit films The Full Monty and Calendar Girls did with blue-collar, overweight guys and older women, respectively, so maybe there's just this whole Brit theme lately of unlikely people doing edgy things. What do you think? Is it possible for a film to be exploitative, even if the subjects of the film don't feel exploited? Or is it just way cool that this group of guys pursued a dream, let it all hang out, and had a blast while doing it?