Trash and Treasure at the Razzies

Trash and Treasure at the Razzies

Showgirls (1995) arrived in theaters with the tagline “Leave your inhibitions at the door,” but the derision it met with suggested that prudish Clinton-era America still clung to plenty of inhibitions—around sex, yes, but also in matters of taste. Rated NC-17 and marketed as spank-bank escapism for repressed husbands, the film was received accordingly. “Should we pay this ridiculous movie the honor of being offended by it?” pondered the New Yorker’s Anthony Lane, in full dinner-party-raconteur mode. “There is not a whisper of satire in this picture,” he continued: just topless girls, mechanical sex, and lavishly bad acting.

Following its critical drubbing and commercial failure, the film was named the Worst Picture of its year at the sixteenth Golden Raspberry Awards. Among other dubious distinctions, it also received the Worst Director prize, which Paul Verhoeven accepted in person. Now a relatively common show of good sportsmanship from Hollywood players looking to redeem a critical or box-office loss by scoring a PR win, the Dutchman’s attendance at the ceremony was a novel gesture in 1996, and might perhaps be understood as an extension of his, pace Lane, obviously satiric project, and a commentary on Hollywood’s fascination with his film.

As demonstrated by its comprehensive rehabilitation among contemporary audiences, Showgirls pushes at the boundaries of good art and prods at the proper shape of legitimate thought. A glitzy, dishy showbiz saga with debts to camp and pornography, its aesthetics are Las Vegas instead of Los Angeles—a distance of a few hours by car, but light years away in terms of cultural respectability. To Hollywood, the film was an imitator-pretender of disreputable origins, to be disavowed as forcefully as its reigning diva Cristal Connors initially rejects the upstart heroine Nomi Malone. It was trashy.

Top of page: Showgirls; above: Xanadu
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