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Being Naked Without Being Naked: An Evaluation of “Showgirls”

October 25, 2012
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“Nomi Malone is Goddess.” She started as a drifter, found her way to a “topless lounge” and eventually migrated to a topless revue at the Stardust on the Vegas strip. Scene after scene breasts are uncovered, caressed, showcased and pinched– with an exceedingly liberal amount of glitter thrown in for a simultaneously theatrical and “glamourous” effect. While the profusion of full frontal nudity is not accessible to television audiences across the country it cannot be said that the film Showgirls has lost anything in the process. We can thank the Federal Communications Commission— really truly thank those government officials– for the censorship that has made this movie far more iconic than it was destined to be.

Sex scenes essential to the plot were cut and profanity was atrociously dubbed over. Rather than opting for the traditional black bar or pixilation meant to shield areolae from the pure and chaste eyes of the American public, animated bras were painstakingly painted (probably by lackeys) on to every frame to create a sense of understated sexuality. While the former two revisions are worth being celebrated through various drinking games, it is the latter quality that makes the cable version of this film a truly remarkable experience that must be seen to be believed; if a drinking game were to be instated the liver would surely suffer. This is perhaps the only instance in the history of cinema that this kind of censorship manifests itself; the bras move in a very strange manner: shifting almost perfectly in unison with each woman’s body, like a good friend that, at times, decides not to cooperate (it in in this moment that one would/should take a shot).

As most of us know, Las Vegas is the place where the forbidden is more often than not permitted. As an escape for many, it is a city of non-reality with the outside world being nothing more than an easily forgettable late night infomercial. Everywhere else, we are sold this idea of repression and moderation, but in Vegas it is all about excess. When viewing the original film, the nudity is at first quite a shock and quite excessive, especially when it involves showing off every girl’s very well manicured square of pubic hair. Whether or not it is during a private dance scene or one during which two dancers scissor while triumphantly grasping a gleaming chrome pole there seems to be something off but at the same time something that seems very normal (take another shot). Eventually, however, all the naked flesh becomes one and morphs into a very natural aspect of a larger story. Every character is disturbingly cavalier about it, which in turn makes us as the audience feel quite the same. In a country where bare breasts are considered to be inappropriate the idea of such natural acceptance is inconceivable yet unavoidable.

In an attempt to assure a proper flow, every stripping of a bra is cut out, so as to create a seamless transition between the real and the fake (as is the case with the anatomies of many of the characters in Showgirls). One moment, it is a lavender laced brazier, dialogue is added in a strange fragment (take a shot) and then it is a flat scribble that completely alters the raw sex that the movie was meant to both glorify and satirize. This alteration is counterproductive when considering the original intentions of censorship: when the nudity is covered up, whether it be with a fake bra, pair of underwear or even a superimposed bed sheet (yes this happens, take a shot) it is impossible to not think about breasts. Due to the aforementioned blatancy of this censorship all the girls are almost more naked than they actually are. It’s all about implication.

With every scene that was meant to be topless, the hilarity of the movie only increases, as a strapless bra is introduced when Nomi reaches the peak as the Goddess in the show “Goddess.” She emerges from her firey, yonic volcano of unbridled sexual prowess proud to show off her…modesty.

Showgirls was meant to be a sexploitative exploration of the lives of Vegas dancers, more likely than not geared towards a particular niche of the heterosexual male community that blossoms at the sight of lesbionic make outs (take a shot). It is a horrific spectacle that is considered by many to be an excellent representation of the American dream, specifically one in which a former prostitute and drug peddler climbs to the top of a microcosm of celebrity through sexual intercourse and a rather calculated push down a flight of backstage stairs. Surely, the people behind this film were moritifed that their creation would be degraded to the point of comedy so why not push the envelope further and not-so-subtly cover up what everyone else wants to be covered up?

Every woman prances around with her goods out in the open, yet these goods are concealed. At the end of the film, Nomi seeks vengeance in the name of her good friend while wearing a rather enticing leopard number. One moment she is wearing a woolen sweater and the next she is wearing a painted one, which lacks the fasteners that the original had.  In the end, it is as though the censorship sought to make a completely new movie out of a pre-existing one. Perhaps it was crafted into an intelligently veiled commentary on American conceptions of the female body, or… perhaps not.

If this film were to have been made in another country where the female anatomy is neither seen as vulgar nor as inappropriate would this censorship have happened? No, because this movie would have not been created in the first place. It is an American movie that celebrates excess, and somehow becomes only more excessive when skin is covered up. It represents a goal that is truly American: starting out with nothing, reaching the top and realizing that there is so much more to live for. If only this trend in censorship had continued, because then we would all have a library of movies at our disposal for the purpose of helping us to see all that is wrong (or in some cases all that is right) in the world. It gives us exactly what we want: the sexuality that lingers within us all, effortlessly (literally effortlessly) covered in order to appease the authorities that make decisions for us. We are one of the most promiscuous countries in the world, perhaps this is why, in an effort to censor one of the worst movies of the 1990s, it only became dirtier. Take a shot.

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