Camp, noted Susan Sontag, is failed seriousness, and few films have ever been as campy as 1995’s Showgirls. For the 25th anniversary of its premiere, various pieces have come out this week, so let’s take a look at its legacy, shall we?
First, an intro via Esquire:
If you’ve not yet had the pleasure, Showgirls is one of history’s most infamous cinematic bombs. It was director Paul Verhoeven’s follow up to Basic Instinct, one of the highest-grossing films of 1992, and seemed poised to be another successful erotic drama. Saved By the Bell’s Elizabeth Berkley starred as tough-yet-naive dancer Nomi Malone, who sets out to make it on the mean streets of Las Vegas. The movie was not only critically panned, but thanks in part to its rare NC-17 rating, tanked at the box office. But over the years, it’s gained cult status, become a DVD hit, and has earned sincere praise from some critics as a deeply misunderstood satire.
Here’s the original trailer:
Screen Junkies’ Honest Trailer is a little more accurate about what to expect:
Cinema Sins catalogues everything wrong with films, and their episode on Showgirls is a whopping 23 minutes:
Screen Rant gathered up 10 behind-the-scenes facts that might surprise even the most hardcore superfan:
Charlize Theron also auditioned for the role of Nomi Malone in Showgirls. She reportedly did so well in her audition that she was offered the part. However, she was so incensed by the material that she turned down the movie.
Moreover, Charlize Theron immediately fired her agent for sending her on such an audition without informing her of the salacious details. Having already completed 2 Days in the Valley, Theron was adamant that Showgirls was not the direction she wanted her career to head in.
Other sources state that Charlize was not a big enough name at the time and was not offered the role. You know you’re in the realm of legends when such divergent versions of events exist. Jean Bentley at Refinery29 adds:
Somehow, though, nearly every terrible creative decision comes together in a magical way that makes you literally shake your head and smile every time a character does or says something ridiculous, which is frequently. The main criteria of a good camp classic is complete and utter commitment, no matter how misguided the action — and Showgirls has that in spades.In fact, the perception of the film has shifted so dramatically from critical disaster (it has a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) to cult classic that there’s an entire documentary called You Don’t Nomi about its new life as a “perfectly bad” film.
WOW’s own Jared Abbott reviewed that doc at its release:
The most interesting stretch questions Verhoeven’s artistic intent, and whether this was meant to be an earnest depiction of Vegas life, or instead a tongue-in-cheek satire about sex, fame and American excess. This immediately raises the question as to whether or not the film can be enjoyed as “camp,” and the answer is “fuck yes.” McHale and Nayman bring receipts in the form of Showgirls: Portrait of a Film, a fabulously pretentious book penned by Verhoeven that fully proves the filmmakers were dead serious about the whole thing.
Congratulations to Showgirls on standing the test of time! Here’s to another 25 years!
Image: title card from the original trailer