As the four corners of your coronavirus cell room draw ever closer Queerguru is here for those of you who are thirsting for fresh streams. This documentary ‘You Don’t Nomi’ has a double potential as it’s about a movie that we haven’t seen. If it inspires us to see the movie then we get another distraction from watching the world go to hell second by second on the 24 hour news cycle.
Let’s address the pink elephant in the room first. We haven’t seen Showgirls. It passed us by. Even though it’s one of those movies that we were supposed to have osmotically absorbed with our first over priced cocktail ingaybarsville. In our defence if you had the time to go to the movies in the mid 90s, when this came out, then you were doing the 90s wrong. We didn’t recover from the 90s until the mid 2000s which is why we didn’t see Mean Girls until last year.
Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls was universally derided by the critics as trash, trash, trash and documentary director Jeffrey McHale doesn’t shy away from giving voice to its most virulent detractors. It was considered overly sexual without being in any way sexy. It came across as female focused but only through the eyes of a misogynist. It was experimental in the way a rat is in a lab. The only accolades it got was Razzies. It was the Cats of 1995.
‘You Don’t Nomi’ plants revisionist seeds that blossom over time. Starting with reminders of the striking other movies that Verhoeven has made and their strengths as either less than serious social commentary or poking satires. Nobody took the wide eyed and cartoonish Starship Troopers, RoboCop and Total Recall at face value as dramas.
It goes on to tease apart three prevalent critical claims that Showgirls is either a ‘piece of shit’, a ‘masterpiece’, or a ‘masterpiece of shit’. Here it gets playful with some of the tropes of film criticism and whizzes around the different angles like a shuffle of undergraduate media studies essays.
The appeal to a queer audience is picked apart. Nomi Malone, the central character of Showgirls, is a totem of self-reinvention as she tries to strip her way from nobody to somebody. She is without family but attempts to build her own dysfunctional version of it. She is not enslaved by sex but sex and sexuality are inescapably present in her every social encounter.
McHale arouses an intellectual curiosity in the movie and also a human interest in the main actress, Elizabeth Berkley. Her career was shredded by the casting. Verhoeven admits he insisted on an ever more over the top performance from her and her reputation never recovered. Fresh from her child stardom on teen comedy Saved by the Bell she was seduced into throwing off her squeaky clean image like Miley Cyrus mounting a Wrecking Ball.
In the end it’s not the head or the heart that this documentary excites. It is the eye balls. The glimpses of the movie itself are absurd, gaudy, silly, outrageous, ridiculous and, well, tempting. We could claim it was our intellect or our humanity that was provoked but it isn’t. It’s our curiosity. Will we give Showgirls a go? We could. We should. We shall. We aren’t going anywhere.
Review by Andrew Hebden
Queerguru Contributing Editor ANDREW HEBDEN is a MEDIA & CULTURAL STUDIES graduate spending his career between London, Beijing and NYC as an expert in media and social trends. As part of the expanding minimalist FIRE movement he recently returned to the UK and lives in Soho. He devotes as much time as possible to the movies, theatre and the gym. His favorite thing is to try something (anything) new every day.