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  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Rife with it.
    • Cristal seems to blow off Nomi from the getgo, but quickly seeks her out again. The movie treats this as villainous behavior, but Nomi's overreactions are more striking in each scene, making Cristal look like an incredibly patient would-be love interest until she crosses her Moral Event Horizon.
    • Nomi and Molly live together, call each other girlfriends, share everything, change clothes in front of each other, and Nomi frequently says she loves Molly... but if they're romantically linked, it's the only such relationship in the movie that's understated. The chemistry between the two actors helps sell this.
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    • While Al's portrayed as a manipulative sleaze who fucks all his clients, his speech to Hope at the beginning comes off as genuinely concerned for her wellbeing until he gets to the suggestion that getting big tips means she should do whatever the client says... which itself may be suggesting something that prevents her from being beaten or killed.
    • Tony Moss is crass and capricious in his opening scene, but is arguably engaging in Tough Love to weed out candidates from a demanding job. This is reinforced when every subsequent scene shows he bears Nomi no ill will, even covering up an embarrassing gaffe for her. While he doesn't think she's a good understudy to Cristal, he correctly calls out Zach for backing Nomi purely because Zach had sex with her.
  • Awesome Music:
    • There's a couple of great Prince songs on the soundtrack: "Ripopgodazippa" when James and Nomi dance together at his place, and "319" during Nomi's first stripping scene.
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    • When James and Nomi first meet, they dance to David Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans," of all songs.
  • Bile Fascination: It's an NC-17 movie that bombed in theaters. Some people definitely want to know why.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: The whole movie is so relentlessly sleazy that it winds up becoming this trope.
  • Cult Classic: Not quite at The Room level, but it has a devoted following who consider it high Camp entertainment, and there are still screenings of the film in major cities today. Elizabeth Berkley herself attended a Los Angeles screening in 2015, and even Kyle MacLachlan was happy that the film took on a strange life of its own.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: From the very beginning of the film, it's very clear that there are very few people to root for. With the exception of Molly, every character is either incredibly sleazy, villainous or both. Nomi finds herself being used and taken advantage of by virtually every male character in the film in some way, shape or form, all while the majority of the female characters lie to her face or act catty towards her. The Gratuitous Rape of Molly is the final straw.
  • Designated Hero: Nomi really didn't even try to be heroic. The Hooker with a Heart of Gold trope is attempted to be played with her job as a stripper/topless dancer, despite the fact that many of her actions in the movie come off as mildly amoral. She gives what is apparently a lap-dance, but is just actual sex while he kept his pants on. She screwed her boss Zack Carey to get higher in the consideration to be Cristal Conners's understudy. Then she pushes Cristal down the stairs, which one character mentions resulted in injuries that would keep her out for up to a year. Sure Cristal was a bitch, but Nomi just stooped to the level of the bitchy dancer who purposely injured another dancer because she yelled at her kids. Even Molly is disgusted at Nomi for having done this... for a whole four minutes before she goes back to fangirling over Andrew Carver, who for some reason gang-rapes her. By the end, everybody forgives Nomi and treats her as some angelic force- the girl she pushed down the stairs, her boss, everybody. There's also the fact that her punishment of Andrew, to kick him in the face a few times, really did nothing to prevent him from raping again. Nomi leaves town at the end after threatening Andrew's life. Nomi was a Vegas star, did she think her disappearance would go unnoticed? What's stopping Andrew from attacking Molly again? Nothing.
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    • Pick any other character with more than two lines in the movie. Odds are good they'd make a better, more interesting protagonist.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Henrietta "Mama" Bazoom, possibly the most likable character in the movie, besides maybe Molly.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: "What'd you win?" "Me." Nomi leaves Vegas scot-free in the same vehicle that brought her there, while Molly is in a coma, and Andrew presumably still a predator at-large (once his face heals up, anyway). And that's not even touching on how Nomi doesn't seem to have really learned anything from her experience.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Nomi and Molly are interpreted to be a couple due to the closeness between them.
  • Foe Yay: Nomi and Cristal mostly, although by the end of the film it's not even subtext anymore.
  • Fetish Retardant: Arguably the Trope Codifier, given the film's reputation. The bad acting and equally bad writing make what was supposed to be a titillating movie the opposite of its intentions. Even disregarding those factors, various scenes in the film, most infamously the pool sex scene, generally just look straight-up awkward to find arousing.
  • Ham and Cheese:
    • Gina Gershon has claimed this of her performance, once she realized just what kind of film she was making. However, reviewers (while they do generally acknowledge her performance as the best in the film) are usually left with the impression that she was fully committing to the material in a way that none of her co-stars could (or in some cases, simply didn't want to).
    • It's clear that Robert Davi is chewing the scenery as much as he can as Al, but he's the only character who gets a halfway-honest emotional scene in the film, even if ends with a hilariously-inappropriate line to Nomi.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • When the guy that drove Nomi to Vegas asks her "What, has no one ever been nice to you?", it becomes a little sad when you learn her past.
    • Molly's fangirling over Andrew Carver is pretty cringeworthy on subsequent views.
  • Les Yay:
    • Nomi and Molly. Nomi even gives her a goodbye kiss.
    • Nomi and Crystal. Quick tip fellas: If your girlfriends idea of a night on the town is taking you to a strip club, her being completely mesmerized by the entertainment and then spends an ungodly amount of money in order to watch while she gives you a lap-dance, it is time to recognize yourself for what you are.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Thanks to The Nostalgia Chick, "Man, everybody got AIDS and shit" and others are getting there. Now a stupid statement mix!
    • "It must be weird, not having anybody cum on you."
    • "I used to love doggy chow."
    • The bizarre sex scene in the swimming pool has also achieved some degree of infamy, given it looks like Nomi is having some kind of seizure.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • When Nomi pushes Cristal down the stairs.
      • Or before that, when she sleeps with Zack behind Cristal's back.
    • For Andrew Carver, it's absolutely when he rapes Molly, which he had no reason to do since she intended to have sex with him anyway.
    • Cristal and Zack conspire to trick Nomi into prostitution at the boat show. Nomi quickly picks up on this with Cristal, but never quite figures out that Zack was involved, too.
  • Narm: There's a lot.
    • Nomi's tantrums in general. Especially near the beginning when she flips out at her french fries when Molly keeps asking her questions.
    • Also near the beginning: she meets Molly in a big slap-fight, and then vomits for no real reason.
    • There's a dramatic pause in a conversation about brown rice and vegetables. That's before Nomi and Cristal start talking about eating dog food and rubbing their snacks together in some sort of odd, ritualistic blood oath.
    • Nomi tells Andrew to be quiet at knife-point, and then screams in rage while kicking the crap out of him. Seems legit.
    • The Edited for Syndication version! The great majority of it, from the mismatched voices to the scenes deleted or chopped down to the point that it doesn't connect to anything else in the film to, most infamously, the digital bras and even clothing put on the women. It almost transforms it onto a different type of film.
    • See also the Memetic Mutation entries, which all qualify, especially Nomi's seizure-gasm.
    • There's now a video that reimagines the film as a sitcom.
    • At the end of the film, Nomi managing to get a ride from the exact same guy who drove her into town in the first place. The Contrived Coincidence is clearly supposed to be symbolic of something, but it's not at all clear what.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The rape scene is absolutely brutal and difficult to watch without trying to cover your eyes. Also afterwards when a badly injured Molly staggers back into the room.
  • Scapegoat Creator: Elizabeth Berkley took much of the backlash for the movie, and she suffered the most because of it. Her agent dropped her and she had trouble getting work afterwards. Paul Verhoeven even said his biggest regret of the film was how it destroyed Elizabeth's career.
    "If somebody has to be blamed, it should be me because I thought that it was interesting to portray somebody like that...I asked Elizabeth to do all that - to be abrupt and to act in that way, but people have been attacking her about for that ever since."
  • So Bad, It's Good:
    • The 2004 DVD release came with shot glasses and a list of possible Drinking Games for the movie.
    • Just having a drink every time Crystal says "darlin'" is enough for most people.
  • Special Effect Failure: The TV version's lousy cartoon bras to cover up women's breasts. See for yourself.
  • Squick:
    • Nomi licking a stripper pole. Mm, tetanus and other bodily fluids that might be there.
    • "I'm on my period." "Yeah, right." "Check."
  • Tear Jerker: Nomi saying goodbye to Molly right before she runs away again.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Siskel & Ebert tore into the film for completely wasting a chance to show that the NC-17 rating wasn't just a way to slip porn into regular theaters. Especially since this was the first, and to date the only, NC-17 film to have a wide release in the US.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously: Several cast members take their roles seriously, which contributed greatly to its cheesy reputation in the intervening years.
    • Gina Gershon comes close to salvaging the film. She's clearly trying her hardest to be emotionally sincere during the hospital scene at the end, and gives the closest thing the film has to a Tear Jerker.
    • Elizabeth Berkley could be said to have taken Showgirls too seriously. This is why she received the majority of the backlash from it. At least everyone else gave the impression that they were trying to distance themselves from it.
    • Kyle MacLachlan was rumored to have stormed out of a screening because he was told by Paul Verhoeven that they were making a serious art film and not... well, Showgirls. MacLachlan himself claims no such event took place; when he did attend a screening, he "suffered through the whole two hours of it."
    • If you watch the "Making Of" featurette included in the DVD, it seems like EVERYONE involved the film took it way too seriously. It's downright surreal, hearing people go on about "complex emotional bonds" and making serious attempts at character interpretation for a movie that turned out to be... Showgirls. Meanwhile, Robert Davi is camping it up for all he's worth as the sleazy owner of the Alligator Club, clearly aware that the material couldn't rise beyond its narrow aspirations.
    • In 2018 a post showing how fifty female characters were described in their screenplays noted that most of them focused on the character's attractiveness. But then...
  • True Art Is Angsty: Showgirls was originally supposed to be a pro-feminist commentary about women who work as strippers. Some suspect the movie's dark tone is a result of the writers and producers invoking this trope. Part and parcel of why this movie is a Cult Classic or filled with Bile Fascination is that there is SOMETHING this movie wants to say, but it has no idea what stance it wants to take nor does it know how or what it really wants to say. For every point the movie makes, there's about three fingers against why that stance is a bad one/hypocritical/naive.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Nomi is supposed to be a sympathetic character but already comes across as being a pretty abrasive, scheming person before getting corrupted by the glitz and glamour of Vegas. At best she's a Jerkass Woobie, and just a plain Jerkass at worst.
  • What an Idiot!: Andrew Carver is too cruel for his own good when it came to Molly, who was a big fan and was excited to have sex with him.
    • You'd Expect: If Carver had some sort of rape fetish, he'd inform Molly, and make sure the whole thing was Safe, Sane, and Consensual before going to town.
    • Instead: He calls his guards, punches her in the nose, and gang-rapes her like a monster. Needless to say, he got his comeuppance for this part, but this was arguably a What an Idiot! moment for Joe Eszterhas, who wrote this scene, since the film helped destroy his career.note 
  • The Woobie: Molly. To most audience members, she's the only character that's not a total dunce despite having it just as rough as Nomi.

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