Austin Powers is an undeniable sex god. Look at him: the chest hair, the thick glasses, the obsession with frilly shirts. And don’t forget the teeth! How any female character in these movies can keep their hands off him is a minor miracle!
But how does the unbridled sexuality of Mike Myers play in 2021? Is it possible to be too horny? Can we still get away with calling a character “Fat Bastard”? How come every single Austin Powers movie is about really disappointing fathers?
No one takes the Austin Powers trilogy seriously because, well, there’s a scene where Austin drinks Fat Bastard’s diarrhea because he thinks it’s coffee. Maybe we shouldn’t take that seriously. Or maybe, we absolutely should?
In a new episode of Galaxy Brains, Jonah Ray and I are joined by film writer, actor, and YouTube host Maggie Mae Fish to unpack the true meaning of shagadelic, baby, yeah. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation (which has been edited for clarity):
Dave: I figured you were the perfect person to answer this first question. Is Austin Powers secretly the first simp in movie history?
Maggie: You know, upon rewatch, there are many jokes that age poorly or are things that feel dated about it. However, overall, is Austin not deconstructing his own ideas of masculinity throughout the series? So, yeah, he’s a bit of a simp. He’s playing with all the tropes of being a weird, discombobulated James Bond character.
Jonah: There is something to be said about how Mike Myers puts out the first Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery and then maybe he read some of the reviews about how problematic it was that maybe he was being confronted just like Austin Powers was in the movie. Like, maybe I should start to update some of these ideas and make Austin grow a bit more, or do you think that was always the plan?
Maggie: You know, that’s a great thought. And Mike Myers seems like the kind of guy that would absolutely be responsive to reviews and things like that. And I do have to say what I did. I rewatched all three in preparation for this. So I am your best guest. Thank you. You’re welcome. I especially love the third, not only simply because of the young Beyonce. Watching her act is quite delightful. By the third film, the entire plot is about him and his father and their relationship and, you know, Austin Powers deciding if he’s going to recreate or try and change his relationship with his dad, which I would say is more advanced than the other two, especially looking at masculinity.
Jonah: Kylie, our producer, could you maybe check and see how old Mike Myers was when he made Austin Powers? Because I’m wondering if it’s going to match up with me and a lot of my male friends just hitting a certain age range and just going time to start living and examine life 34. Mike Myers was fucking 34. Fuck that. Fuck him. Wow. Oh, shit. I’m sorry. My male comic bitterness is starting to seep out. I apologize for that.
Maggie: So I guess you guys are both failures.
Dave: Yeah, well, 100%. There’s no question about that.
Jonah: I was thinking about that line from Ed Wood. He says, “Orson Welles was only 24 when he made Citizen Kane. I’m already thirty.” You just can’t. But then you always have it in your head. Well, Rodney Dangerfield was fifty when he made it, so I still got time.
Dave: You can’t help but compare yourself to other people. And I think that’s probably what Mike Myers did all the time his entire life. He’s probably comparing himself to Peter Sellers. And that’s part of why I think he made these movies in the first place, because of that love of his heroes. Comparing yourself to those people is good and fine and wonderful and motivates you in a lot of ways. But it also has a dark side where Jonah might start screaming.
Dave: Like I said, Austin really does seem to appreciate women. Well, he’s also objectifying them all the time. Maggie, what do you make of the gender politics of this movie? I mean, is it subverting the comedy of the ’90s or is it just kind of part of that world of bro comedy?
Maggie: I would say a little bit of both. It does a thing where, while critiquing, there are moments throughout that also indulge in the critique. And I actually watched it with a friend who grew up socialized as male. They were like, when you’re a young boy, the satire kind of goes over your head. So really, you’re just kind of watching it at face value. So I think actually, as you’re older, you kind of get more out of it. And the satire is a lot clearer. And yeah, the self reflection, I think is a lot easier to see when you’re older. But it’s also such a great film for kids. It was the 90s when I first watched these movies and most people I knew who were kids definitely did not pick up on the deconstruction of masculinity. But now, as a modern woman, I love the Austin Powers series.