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Film / Showgirls

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"You are a whore, darlin. We all are. We take the cash, we cash the check, we show ‘em what they wanna see."
Cristal Connors

Showgirls is a 1995 sexploitation film written by Joe Eszterhas and directed by Paul Verhoeven. It is also the only movie to receive a wide release under the NC-17 rating. This tale of the lives of Las Vegas strippers set to the plot of 42nd Street may have been partially responsible for the rating's decline, as it was basically an X-rated movie that went through the ratings process (which actually isn't required for an X rating; anyone wanting to make an X-rated movie will gladly release it as such on their own). That said: when compared to the explicitness of today's cable television series, even the unrated version of this movie would barely qualify for an R-rating today.

The film tells the tale of Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley), a country girl who hitchhikes to Las Vegas in hopes of becoming "a dancer" and eventually (after a lot of nudity, a lot of sleaze, a little violence, and a lot of choreographed dance numbers) making her way to the top.


Showgirls was—and still is—a rather controversial film. It flopped at the box office, which killed the chances of future NC-17 movies getting wide releases. But it attracted a cult following on home video, chiefly as a "guilty pleasure" film infamous for its excessive sex, even more excessive nudity, and hilariously inane story and dialogue.

A direct-to-video sequel was produced in 2011.

Showgirls contains the following tropes:

  • Alan Smithee: Paul Verhoeven is credited as "Jan Jansen" in the edited TV version.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Virtually none of the straight men in this film have any kind of morals or act in a way that won't ultimately lead to getting in some woman's pants or seeing her breasts. Even the Camp Gay guys talk in almost nothing but sexual overtones.
  • At Least I Admit It: Cristal considers herself a type of whore and calls Nomi out for denying it when she's trying to get the same job.
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  • Baby Trap: James ends up getting engaged to Hope/Penny because he has gotten her pregnant.
  • Berserk Button: Nomi really hates being called a whore and being asked to be one.
  • Black Best Friend: Molly to the white protagonist, Nomi.
  • Book Dumb: Nomi's repeated mispronunciation of "Versace."
  • Book-Ends: The film ends with Nomi catching the same car with the same guy who drove her to Vegas in the beginning. It is implied that she will go back to attacking people and being a hooker, like she did before the events of the movie.
  • Break the Cutie: Molly goes through this when she is brutally raped by Andrew Carver and his guards and no charges are filed because he's a celebrity.
  • Broken Pedestal: Andrew Carver, and how, as seen in Break the Cutie above.
  • Camp Gay: Several of the male dancers, who mock the single straight dancer in the troupe.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The stairs at the Stardust, which are the main (and apparently only) entrance to the stage and which Nomi pushes Cristal down, critically injuring her.
  • Chorus Girls: Almost expected, since the movie's set in Vegas. Nomi looks on starting here as a step toward becoming a famous dancer.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Nomi's primary method of expressing frustration, anger or any other emotion. Given the tone of the film, she winds up doing this a lot.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Nomi. We find out at the end of the film that her father killed her mother and then himself.
  • Crapsack World: Las Vegas.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Zach eventually discovers that Nomi saw her parents die in a Murder-Suicide and spent years hooking in various states (in addition to assaulting someone with a deadly weapon) before she arrived in Vegas.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Part of Cristal's "evil" seems to be in her willingness to sleep with anyone, of whatever gender, solely for the purpose of controlling or humiliating them.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Nomi kicks James in the nuts just because he admitted that she was giving him an erection and said she couldn't dance. Also, after he falls backwards onto a couple, the guy gets so angry over an accident, that he punches him in the face.
  • Dog Food Diet: Nomi is sheepish about having to eat it once. Cristal, on the other hand, is perfectly open about developing a taste for Doggie Chow.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Nomi repeatedly refuses offers of drugs until after she sleeps with Zach, finally taking cocaine in a manner similar to Cristal. It's presented as a sign of Vegas-induced corruption.
  • Easily Forgiven: At the end of the movie, Cristal isn't mad at Nomi for having stolen her boyfriend and pushed her down the stairs. She implied that she herself did something similar to her predecessor though.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Nomi is perfectly willing to do what came down to live, on-stage lesbian sex, screwing her boss to get a higher position, and pushing the lead dancer down the stairs to get her job, but she won't use ice cubes to make her nipples perky. You have to draw the line somewhere.
    • Right around the same time as she's grinding on other naked women on-stage, Nomi seems mortally offended at how Crystal eyes her up and, later, is very reluctant to perform a private dance for her and Zach (insisting that the rules only allow her to dance for one person at a time and "no women"). She seems to be okay with making money off of faked lesbianism, but baulks at the idea of actually being desired by another woman (at least until the end).
    • Two other dancers are in an ongoing rivalry, and one puts up with all kinds of abuse... right up until the other starts swearing at her kids.
  • Fanservice: The movie's sole raison d'être and the purpose of the women's job.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: Nomi humiliates herself in an interview by mispronouncing "Versace".
  • Female Gaze: Zack's butt in the pool scene. Enough said.
  • Follow the Leader: Joe Eszterhas' version of All About Eve.
  • From the Mouths of Babes: Inverted. One showgirl brings her kids into the dressing room, and while neither of them notice or care about being surrounded by topless women, they go ballistic when another woman swears at them.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Nomi's beatdown of Andrew qualifies.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Nomi tends to fly off the handle at other people for any reason— or no reason at all.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: The biker stage show.
  • Hostile Hitchhiker: Nomi thumbs a ride to Las Vegas from a man in a pick-up truck. En route, the man suggests sex-for-mileage; Nomi and her switchblade vehemently disagree. Book-Ends with the closing scene, where Nomi thumbs a ride to Los Angeles with the exact same man and pick-up truck. She shrieks, "You stole my luggage!" and resumes slashing at him while he's driving.
  • Hypocrite: Nomi. See At Least I Admit It above.
  • Idealized Sex: The legendary pool sex scene. Nomi is too high up and far too wiggly on Zach for it to be legitimately seen as intercourse.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Nomi says this verbatim to Zach, after he confronts her with her criminal record and about her long stretch of prostitution arrests, saying she did what she had to survive on the streets after her parents died in a Murder-Suicide.
  • Informed Ability:
    • Nomi is supposed to be a brilliant dancer, but if you actually watch her dance, she's not all that good. Most of her dancing involves flailing her arms, shimmying her breasts, and thrashing her hair around. James even flat-out tells her in the club that she can't dance.
      • Worse, in audition scenes several other dancers are visibly jobbing to dance worse than she is, so that she looks good by comparison.
      • During Nomi's first night in Goddess, Molly stands off-stage to inform a bystander (and by proxy the audience) how amazing Nomi's dancing is.
    • She's also supposed to be streetwise, but she really seems naive at times and falls for things someone genuinely streetwise never would have, such as leaving all her belongings in a stranger's truck, then losing track of the stranger, who naturally is long gone by the time she remembers.
  • Informed Attractiveness: There is a lot of fuss made about Nomi's hotness, particularly her breasts, which actually aren't that special.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures / Mistaken Nationality: In universe: A businessman named Okita (a Japanese surname) is said to be from Bangkok.
  • It's Not Porn, It's Art: This movie is/was intended to be a social commentary on the sex industry (and maybe capitalism in general) and a satire of Hollywood 'rising star' narratives. That's not the reason most people watch the movie, however.
  • Jizzed in My Pants: Zack gets the full treatment when Nomi gives him a lap dance.
  • Karma Houdini: While Nomi beats the crap out of Andrew Carver, the other two rapists are not seen again.
    • They're his security guards, briefly seen when Nomi returns. Mind, Nomi had no idea they were involved.
  • Karmic Rape: Andrew Carver's fate at Nomi's hands.
  • Klingon Promotion: Nomi gets the lead in Goddess after shoving Cristal down the stairs. Cristal apparently did the same thing to get her first lead. It's implied that this is pretty much how the showgirl hierarchy works.
  • Lame Comeback: "You're gonna jump to your conclusion!"
  • Mama Bear: Julie is sort of this. Although she had already had a lot of tension between her and Angie it seems to have taken Angie upsetting Julie's children that caused her to sabotage Angie and thus break her leg.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Almost every man in the film, but Zach and Andrew Carver are the most manipulative, fooling Nomi and Molly in their own selfish ways. Their closeness also counts as a Villainous Friendship.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Cristal, who has no problem jerking Nomi (as well as others) around just for a sense of amusement or boredom. Nomi is also pretty manipulative in her own right, and is arguably even worse than Cristal.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Nomi Malone. Because she's trying to hide her past (No Me) and she feels all alone in the world ((I')Malone).
    • Otherwise, No, I'm Alone.
  • Moving the Goalposts: One poor girl who had auditioned for Goddess earlier in the year had gotten a nose job at the request of Mr. Moss. While he complimented her on the nose and her smile, he still rejected her for the show because her ears were sticking out.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Nomi doesn't know much about the world or life at the Stardust, despite her allegedly being street smart.
    • Penny/Hope is pretty dense as well, to the point of being a downplayed version of The Ditz.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. James doesn't believe Nomi has her period, so she challenges him to check... and he does. With his fingers. She wasn't lying.
  • Not So Different: Cristal is proud of Nomi for having lied, cheated, and backstabbed her way to the top because she did the exact same thing to the lead showgirl before.
  • Only Sane Woman: Molly, who also serves as a Morality Pet to Nomi. Too bad she ends up brutally gang-raped towards the end of the film and from then on is seen lying helpless in a hospital bed.
    • Henrietta, while also an employee at The Cheetah and a pseudo Female Misogynist, is a lot more grounded than her co-workers. It may help that she's much older than the rest of them, too.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Nomi kicks the ever-loving shit out of rapist Andrew Carver.
  • Ping-Pong Naïveté: Nomi, who auditions for a topless show but seems shocked when the producer asks the dancers to take their tops off. (Granted, the guy asks in a pretty sleazy, unprofessional manner.) She also doesn't seem to understand Molly's warning that other girls who performed for the boat show "didn't like it," even though you'd think someone who's worked in the sex industry would recognize that euphemism straight away.
  • Protagonist Centred Morality: Nomi is the main character and is always portrayed as in the right.
  • Rape as Drama: The rape scene is infamous, not only because it comes out of nowhere midway through the final act, but also because it's handled realistically and to the most sympathetic character in the movie.
  • Real Men Hate Affection: Al's parting line to Nomi ("Must be weird...not to have anyone...come on you.") is intended as a heartfelt farewell.
  • Recycled In SPACE: This movie is basically any number of backstage movies (particularly All About Eve and 42nd Street) set in the world of X-rated Vegas revues.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Famous!/Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Andrew isn't charged for raping Molly because he's a celebrity and Nomi's boss helps cover it up. Subverted as Nomi tracks him down and makes him suffer for it.
  • Sex for Services: Most women, apparently, use this to get ahead in life. A few standout examples include Nomi and her boss, James and Penny and heavily implied with Cristal.
  • Sleeping Their Way to the Top: This is a Discussed Trope when Nomi gets told that none of the stage girls try to sleep with the bosses to get ahead. She does it anyway by seducing Zach, who she had given a lapdance earlier on in her previous job as a stripper and becomes an outcast because of it.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Nomi eventually sleeps with her new stage boss to get ahead (she had already given him a lapdance when she was still a stripper and not employed by him). The other girls call her out on this because they have an unwritten rule against it, though it's implied at least some of them have also broken this rule.
  • Spiteful Spit: Nomi delivers one to Zach at the end of the film, after learning the true depths of their betrayal of her and unscrupulousness.
  • Staircase Tumble: The one in this film is infamous. Cristal is shoved down the stairs by Nomi in a fit of pique.
  • Straw Misogynist: Most men, apparently, only see women as sex objects.
    • And then there is Henrietta "Mama" Bazoom who seems to be an in-universe example seeing as what she does at the Cheetah is basically tell misogynistic jokes even though off-stage certain dialogue suggest it's all an act.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: Zach and Nomi have this after the latter is invited to the former's house and gives way to the very infamous pool scene.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Nomi. After puking on Molly's car then being saved by Molly, Nomi still cusses her out and acts petulant when Molly offers her a place to live.
    • She's also thoroughly pissed at James after James bails her out of jail. He is later revealed to be as big a jerk as Nomi calls him, but he'd done nothing so far.
  • Where Da White Women At?: James's two onscreen love interests are Nomi and Penny, who are both white.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Just as Cristal has almost successfully seduced Nomi, she tells her "Y'see, darlin'? You are a whore." causing her to snap out of it and storm off.


Example of: