April 15, 2013
The Full Monty is a humorous, yet profound, story of six men’s search for purpose, financial security and identity that leads them to become a group of strippers. Set in 1980’s Sheffield after the once thriving steel industry is all but finished, this film follows the men from unemployment and depression to purpose and fellowship.
When Sheffield’s steel industry dies Gaz, Dave and their foreman Gerald are left without work and on the dole. Because of this Gaz is unable to pay his child support payments so that he can see his son, Dave feels helpless at not being able to support his wife and Gerald is not even able to tell his wife. Gaz takes the initiative to get together a group of men to form a male stripping group called ‘hard steel’. Lomper, a suicidal security guard, Guy, a man who looks ok but doesn’t know how to dance, and Horse, an older man with a dodgy hip join them. They don’t have obvious potential as strippers but their selling point is that Hard Steel will go ‘the full monty’ by removing all their clothes. Each of the group have their own battles to face and overcomeas the day of the performance approaches. At the end of the film we see six, once depressed and despairing men transformed with renewed purpose and identity.
The Full Monty isn’t actually about a group of strippers as much as it is about six men and their own personal struggles. Many Christians may object to the film on the basis of it’s subject matter or language use but the film goes far deeper.
One of the big issues that this film hauls up is that of a man’s relationship to his work. For all of these men their work is fundamental to their identity. When they loose their work they loose a part of themselves. It could be said that since those days things have changed significantly; a man is not so tied down to his occupation. Yet many people, both men and women, still feel that their value is in what they do rather than who they are. This is the transition that these six men go through. They end up confident that their identity rests not in what they do (however shameful or prodigious!) but rather in who they are.
But what gives these dejected men the drive to move forwards with their seemingly hopeless scheme? Fellowship, relationship and community are the key drive for all of them. This is easily the most significant point of the film. It is the fellowship of this tightly knitted group of men that keeps them going. In fact they learn something that many people die without realizing at all; that our relationship with people is the most significant and valuable thing we will ever have. They learn to loose everything (quite literally) in order to keep their friends. That is certainly a challenge that rings out poignantly even today.
One of the beauties of The Full Monty is that it causes us, while laughing, to think about our culture and ourselves. Where do we find value and purpose? In what does our identity lie? Christians watching this can certainly find much more to be glad about than the film immediately presents. A person who knows God as their Father and the Jesus as their elder Brother is a person who indeed has value, purpose and true identity.
Thomas van den Broek