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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
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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.

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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. By contrast, take a look at the 1967 film, Blowup, that took the opportunity to deal the final knockout blow to The Hays Code and didn't foul it up by becoming a hailed film classic.

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


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Showgirls contains the following tropes:

  • 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.
  • Always Someone Better: Christal warns new girl Nomi: "There's always someone younger and hungrier coming down the stairs after you".
  • Anatomically Impossible Sex: When Zach and Nomi have sex in his swimming pool, since she's perched far too high for intercourse to be possible.
  • 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. She eventually becomes obsessed with trying to get Nomi to realize she is a whore herself, setting up different scenarios through the film that all lead to a sexual outcome. Nomi never agrees or admits it.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Nomi who is attracted to men but shares a lot of closeness and tension with both her friend Molly and her rival Christal.
  • 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.
  • The Beard: Zach is this for his girlfriend Cristal, who ogles Nomi through her show and while Nomi delivers a private lapdance on Zack.
  • Betty and Veronica: Nomi (the Betty) competes with Cristal (the Veronica) over her boyfriend Zach (the Archie). They also compete with each other for the lead role in the show.
  • Bi the Way: Christal, who is attracted to many male and female clients including her rival Nomi.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Nomi hitchhikes to Las Angeles and is implied to be returning to prostituting and inflicting violence on people just like before but she makes up with her friend Molly and makes peace with her rival Christal before leaving.
  • 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.
  • Bowlderise:
    • When aired on VH 1, the networks not only dub over bad language and edit out most of the scenes of sex and violence, but use digitally-rendered bras and panties (most of which look as if it were rendered by graphic artist majors doing this as part of their college internship) to cover nudity. It was required to have a broadcastable version in which the plot (what little of it it has) makes any sense at all (there are plot-relevant scenes that take place while the main character, Nomi, is topless or in the nude), but really, the film's better off not being aired on television at all.
    • The UK version cut the scene where Molly gets punched and raped by Andrew and his men, as UK censors will still edit an 18-rated movie if it has scenes of sexual violence (i.e. rape and child molestation), animal abuse, dangerous stunts that can easily be imitated, and any content that condones or glamorizes drug abuse.
    • The film is rated NC-17 in the United States, though an R-rated cut was made available for some video rental chains. It runs three minutes shorter and either removes the more explicit footage or use tamer alternate takes in some cases.
  • 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 where 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.
  • Colorblind Casting: Molly was written in the script as a chubby Caucasian girl. In the film, she's a slim, athletic African-American.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Nomi. We find out at the end of the film that her father killed her mother and then killed 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.
  • Digital Bikini: On a non-PPV channel (like VH-1), all the female nudity is covered with obvious computer-rendered bras and panties.
  • 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.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Nomi attracts quite a few admirers, including her rival Cristal Connors.
  • 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.
  • Fake Shemp: That's not Kyle MacLachlan when Zach walks nude into the pool.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Nomi getting her period and James "checking her" to make sure she isn't lying and is left with bloody fingers.
    • The pool sex scene between Nomi and Zach, complete with unrealistic impossible sexual positioning and the climax looking like a seizure.
    • Nomi licking a pole during her dance looks titillating, until you think about all the germs and diseases on that metal pole.
    • Molly's gang rape.
  • 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".
  • Feelies: The 2004 "V.I.P. Edition" includes pasties, shot glasses, playing cards, movie cards, and a poster.
  • Female Gaze: Zach's butt in the pool scene. Enough said.
  • Forced to Watch: Inverted. Cristal wants to watch Nomi perform a private lapdance on her boyfriend Zach and pays her $500 to do so.
  • 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.
  • Gratuitous Rape: Molly is beaten and raped by Andrew Carver...just before she was about to have consensual sex with him! It came right out of nowhere.
  • Groin Attack: After impressing a man with her dance moves, Nomi kicks him in the groin doing a dance, causing him to stumble back and accidentally cause a fight to break out on the dance floor.
  • 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.
  • Hood Ornament Hottie: Nomi is hired for this, and is not amused when the businessmen assume she's going to sleep with them afterwards.
  • 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 who denies being "a whore" despite her various roles as a showgirl, including stripteasing, private lapdances, simulating sex onstage, faking lesbianism, stealing Christal's boyfriend, doing drugs and sleeping her way to the top. 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.
  • Immodest Orgasm: Nomi and Zach both achieve this in the swimming pool, complete with a lot of splashing.
  • 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: Zach 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!"
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: One of the girls auditioning for the Vegas dance troupe has short hair and is told: "I hope you have a good collection of wigs, sweetie". Cristal also has quite short hair (albeit just above the shoulders) but wears a long hairpiece whenever she's performing.
  • Lost Aesop: The film seems to be trying to prove something but neither the viewers or the movie itself seem to grasp just what that message is. At first it may seem like it's trying to say that a person should never compromise their morals, where Nomi is shown refusing to put ice cubes on her breasts to make her nipples stand up and refuses to do something that's implied to be prostitution... But this would only work if the character were a legitimate Stripper With A Heart Of Gold, in that stripping was the worst thing she did. She had no problems pushing the lead dancer down the stairs to injure her, sleeping with her boss to get higher in the position to be said dancer's understudy. She seemed to be very happy with the idea of doing extremely graphic things on the stage of the old strip club. So "don't compromise your morals" can't work because the character's morals are borderline psychotic. Her interactions with other characters seem to indicate that the message is something about how Nomi really is a bad person at heart, that Cristal was right and Nomi really was a whore, who while at first denied it, began to accept it willingly or not. But then every other character in the entire movie acts as if Nomi is an absolute saint, no matter what she does. Even the girl she pushed down the stairs calls her a whore as if it were a compliment.
  • Mama Bear: Julie is sort of this. Although she had already had a lot of tension between her and Annie it seems to have taken Annie upsetting Julie's children that caused her to sabotage Annie 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.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Nomi and Zach in his swimming pool.
  • 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.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Nomi Malone ketchups the fuck out of a plate of fries.
  • 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.
  • Platonic Kissing: Nomi visits Cristal in her hospital bed after getting the lead role in a topless stage show via a Klingon Promotion. Cristal seems to bear Nomi no ill will, and states that she's content to do nothing while collecting Workers' Compensation. The two kiss, tongues a-wigglin', suggesting Les Yay, but really they're just toying with each other. Both women are morally bankrupt and fiendishly catty.
  • The Pollyanna: Nomi Malone is a more believable and seemingly more cynical version of this trope. Nomi carries a knife, appears street savvy and effectively confronts a truck driver for hitting on her. However, she is shown to be ultimately trusting, to her detriment, leaving her luggage in his car to be stolen. Throughout the film she is betrayed for her trust. The callous Las Vegas show director Tony Moss mysteriously refers to her more than once as looking like a "Pollyanna", the first time for no apparent reason, the second time possibly due to her dress (though this still gives us no clue as to why he would name her as such).
  • Porn with Plot: Surprisingly, the film was supposed to be this... It... fell a little short of their dreams.
  • 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 Zak 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.
  • Single Mom Stripper: A dancer in the nude stage show has to chase down her son running through the dressing room. This appears to be a frequent occurrence.
  • 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.
  • Token Black Friend: Molly. The second person main character Nomi meets, she immediately offers her shelter and helps her get a job. She then serves as the voice of reason, though she is constantly ignored. She is the only character with no hidden motive, and the only character of moral integrity. By the end of the film she has been violently gang raped and beaten and is barely alive in a hospital.
  • Topless From The Back: Before entering the stage for her show, Nomi catches a glimpse of Cristal topless in her underwear.
  • Two Decades Behind: The major news coverage of Cristal being hired as the lead of Goddess might have been plausible in prior decades, but by the mid 1990s the popularity of Las Vegas showgirls was waning and the kind of shows featured in this film would die out a few years after the film's release.
  • 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 he bails her out of jail. He is later revealed to be as big a jerk as Nomi calls him, but he'd done nothing wrong at that point.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Molly and Nomi constantly cast longing glaces, become inexplicably close friends almost immediately, lounge around in their underwear and intimate that they have masturbated together. This is parodied in the off-Broadway parody Showgirls: The Musical!, in a song called "Best Friend Song". Lyrics include: "Men don't know how to write female intimacy/unless we are finger-banging or scissoring/So let's hang out in our underwear, let's hang out in our towels/We'll spend all night masturbating because we are best pals!"; and "We're best friends now, we probably should have sex/'Cause that's what best friends do when the writers are men!"
  • Where Da White Women At?: James' 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.
  • Your Makeup Is Running: Averted. Somehow Nomi's makeup stays on perfect even after having sex in Zach's pool and getting soaked.



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