Yes, that's Taika Waititi there on the left.

Thank you to The Strip, the TV show that inspired my teenage sexual awakening

The strip club-set New Zealand TV series The Strip ran for two seasons in the early-2000s and is now largely forgotten. But Emily Writes remembers it…

We heard about The Strip before we saw it on TV. The advertising had been hot. We knew Robbie Magasiva was involved and my god, we loved Robbie Magasiva with an aching tenderness combined with the kind of ferocious horniness that only a teenage girl can truly understand. We didn’t have Tumblr back in 2002. No porn gifs for us. Robbie Magasiva with his top off on a TV show screening at 9pm was our Sky1 porn.

It was our sexual awakening.

Smells Like Sexual Awakening.

When the big day rolled around and The Strip aired I watched it with my landline gripped in my sweaty hand. I was on the phone to my best friend and we basically screamed the whole way through the show. Every time Robbie Magasiva or Taika Waititi came onto the screen we groaned with lust. This was not normal. We had a strange line we had to walk as teenage girls. In order to not be perceived as sluts, we needed to not be horny – but my god, we were as horny as the boys were. To not be considered frigid, we needed to show interest in boys – but not too much. It was a time of dizzying hypocrisy for us, and The Strip stripped us bare.

If you’re unlucky enough to have not seen The Strip, the premise is this: Corporate lawyer Melissa Walker quits her job and starts a male strip club after finding her husband in bed with his lover. The strip club is called Man Alive.

She has a daughter who has the most ridiculous hair known to the 2000s genre of ridiculous hair (I can’t judge, I cut myself a Julia Deans fringe and looked like a seven-year-old boy) and whom she raises in a house on Oriental Bay. It was all very Wellington. Man Alive was on Cuba Street, as was its rival strip club.

The strippers were teenage dreams. Taika Waititi, playing the inexplicably named Mostin, was delectably topless through most of the show. His tattooed arm band is at least partially responsible for the fact that I had very average sex with quite a few boys who drew arm band tattoos onto their skinny little arms with Vivid that year. Craig Hall was another stripper and was also inherently bangable. I mean let’s face it – they were all delicious.

Jodie Rimmer, the real star of The Strip.

But the star of the show was Jodie Rimmer as Melissa’s best friend Kathryn. Seeing the tattoo that ran through the middle of Kathryn’s chest down to her belly button was basically the first moment I thought “Oh nooooooo I am gaaaaay.” I hid those feelings away each week and then every week Jodie Rimmer would get her kit off and I’d be like dammit I’m going to hell while simultaneously reveling in my sinfulness.

She basically put me, a kid raised in the church, into a spiral of self hatred and relentless sexual frustration every week. Yet I couldn’t stop. And now still, as an adult, I have an obsession with girls with chest tattoos.

Melissa, played by Luanne Gordon, was the woman I always hoped to be. Who doesn’t want to quit their job and run a strip club and have Robbie Magasiva walking around in a towel around their house and showing them how to make a smoothie and then the towel falls down and she sees his perfect peaches over the shoulder of her mushy cop bore who is hugging her (this was an actual scene that is still in my head 16 years later).

I still have dreams that I will open a male strip club. That I will drink cocktails and have outrageous hair. That I will say the things Melissa said like “more oil”.

The Strip was Kiwi female empowerment at its finest.

The Strip was about women’s empowerment. All the women in the cast – including teen daughter Paige – wore their sexuality proudly. They were horny AF and they weren’t ashamed. Watching Jodie Rimmer as the extremely toey Kathryn was a revelation to me as a teenager. She was exactly what I wanted to be (and to do). I wanted to have power and be unafraid of that power. She was sexy and she knew it. She took what she wanted and proudly sought pleasure. To us, a group of teenage girls desperately trying to navigate being viewed as jail bait and pure Catholic virgins at the same time, this was something that broke our world apart.

The boys in our class barely stopped to eat lunch in between sticking their dicks into girls. They would have fucked a hole in a fence if you put a lipstick mark on it. Their pursuit of “getting off” was considered admirable, or at the very least completely normal. They made vicious wanking signs at us and we still fucked them.

We were labelled sluts of course but every BJ they got in the drama room’s costume closet made them stand taller and get more respect. It was like an exchange – they took from us and we were given nothing in return. We became smaller, they became bigger.

That nineties hair, though.

But we had The Strip. And the more of The Strip we watched, the more righteous we became in our desire to expect pleasure, to expect romance, to expect Robbie Magasiva instead of Jeff who wanted a root behind the back of the Pizza Haven in Newtown. We wanted Taika Waititi’s arm band. His sensitive moves, his soft eyes. His explicit and committed passion to please us.

The cast too was mind-blowing for the 2000s. Almost all were women – complex and interesting characters and great actresses. Michelle Langstone played Tre, the pixie manic dream girl choreographer for Man Alive. I adored her character. Susana Lei’ataua played a choreographer too and was mesmerising.

Nicole Whippy stole every scene she was in as Chocolate, a stripper at the Gates of Heaven, a rival strip club. Loren Horsley was perfect as Danielle, another Gates of Heaven stripper. Janice Finn played everybody’s crazy mother Mel so well that I loathed her. Renée Ellwood as Paige, despite her terrifying hair and abominable clothing, played teen angst to the hilt and made the show even campier than its premise suggested.

The Strip was a strange Ally McBeal fantasy sequence/Golden Girls/Sex and the City if it was set in Wellington instead of Manhattan mash up that shouldn’t have worked but did. It ended up going to the States. But somehow, after two seasons, it was gone. Just like that.

Sometimes I say to people “Do you remember The Strip?” and they have no idea what I’m talking about. It was Magic Mike XXL with strong women characters. It was unashamedly feminist but also horny AF. It set me on the road to the person I am today: a committed perve who isn’t remotely ashamed about how much of a horn dog I am.

It’s a shame there’s nothing like The Strip on any more. I know women are desperate to see their horny selves represented on any screen. I guess for now, we’ll have to just stick with nudes.

And also it was written by Don Brash’s son. WTF?


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