Hang on to your stripper poles and bad wigs. You’re about to feel older than Cristal Connors did when she was pushed down the stairs and broke her hip. The 20-year anniversary of one of the most notoriously terrible cult classics ever, Showgirls, is upon us.
It was on September 22, 1995 that the not-quite-yet masterpiece made its way into (reluctant) theaters. Its NC-17 rating and raunchiness was already causing controversy, and its scornful reviews were certainly not helping its chances for success. It wound up becoming a box-office bomb, leaving fingers pointing at director Paul Verhoeven, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, and (quite unfairly) star Elizabeth Berkley. In the following years, however, it started to build a steady fan base. It eventually became one of MGM’s top 20 best-sellers of all time, and special screenings are still held to this day for loyal fans.
Whenever I’m flipping channels and I discover that it’s on, I excitedly giggle like a teenybopper at a One Direction concert. The only exception of course, is when the channel it happens to be played on is VH-1, and they’re showing the lame-ass edited version where all the strippers are conveniently covered in computerized bras. Because really, folks, what the hell is the point?
If you were to look up the term “awesomely bad” in an urban dictionary or a pop culture reference guide, you would see a still from the movie Showgirls. Probably from the scene where Nomi pushes Cristal down the stairs, because no scene is more epic than that one.
Then 22-year-old Elizabeth Berkley decided to take a huge risk in order to be taken seriously as an actress, and unfortunately for her, the plan backfired and she became shunned in Hollywood, even being dropped by her agent. People weren’t ready to accept Jessie Spano as a stripper in a Vegas show. I give her credit for being brave enough to go where this controversial flick took her. However, if she wanted any chance of a lengthy movie career, she should’ve gradually eased into it, by starring in romantic comedies like fellow sitcom alum Jennifer Aniston did.
Roger Ebert was one of the few critics who was able to recognize the camp and gave it a mediocre, as opposed to scathing, review, awarding it two out of four stars. He actually praised Berkley’s performance, and declared that Showgirls “is not, in short, quite unredeemably bad.” At the time, that was about as close to a compliment as it got, so don’t spit in his face.
One of the best things about this flick is that it boasts some of the most cringe-worthy yet fantastic quotes ever. Just check these out:
“It’s not champagne, it’s holy water!”
“Nice dress.” “Thanks, I bought it at Ver-sayce.” (Nomi’s innocent mispronunciation of Versace)
“I like your songs.” “I like your ass. Call me.”
Ever since it swept the Razzies in 1996, it became the movie that all the Anacondas and Battlefield Earths of the following years strove to be. None of them have seemed to solidify a status of fabulous repulsiveness quite like Showgirls did.
After years of comparing her experience of the aftermath of the film’s release to The Scarlet Letter and sometimes refraining from mentioning its name, even Nomi Malone herself has finally embraced the place it now holds in cinema history, as Berkley made clear at a special screening of the film earlier this summer.
You should make a point to watch it some time in the near future. You can even make a drinking game out of it, such as taking a swig of beer every time a topless character appears on screen, and taking a shot of Fireball every time Nomi erupts into a fit of anger and storms out of the room.
If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it. Preferably for free. I promise you won’t regret it, darlin’.