It Doesn’t Suck: Showgirls by Adam Nayman Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

It Doesn't Suck: Showgirls

Enough time has passed since Showgirls flopped spectacularly that it’s time for a good, hard look back at the sequined spectacle. A salvage operation on a very public, very expensive train wreck, It Doesn’t Suck argues that Showgirls is much smarter and deeper than it is given credit for. In an accessible and entertaining voice, the book encourages a shift in critical pers
Mark Palermo

Sep 01, 2014

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Toronto critic Adam Nayman’s defense of the artistic merit of Showgirls is a noble pursuit, because even the cult audience it finally attained is wrong about it.

First things first, Susan Sontag’s definition of “camp” has, in my view, lost its relevance in recent decades. If camp was once defined as a work that’s so bad it’s good, it now denotes a self-conscious jokey style. In camp, gags aren’t allowed to unfold as straightforward drama. They’re underlined with a wink and a nod and an irritatin

First things first, Susan Sontag’s definition of “camp” has, in my view, lost its relevance in recent decades. If camp was once defined as a work that’s so bad it’s good, it now denotes a self-conscious jokey style. In camp, gags aren’t allowed to unfold as straightforward drama. They’re underlined with a wink and a nod and an irritating “isn’t this wild?” flamboyance. Showgirls has been adopted by this circuit, as though it were TV’s Glee, a Charlie’s Angels movie, or the training sequences in Kill Bill: Volume 2, all of which fit the modern 2014 understanding of camp.

But calling Showgirls camp is as blind a misreading as the film’s initial critical dismissal. It’s startling because it really isn’t a complicated movie. Or, its technique is complicated, but its overall aim is clear. Nayman does a good job of illustrating how audiences may have been misled by the Verhoeven/Eszterhas habit of revelling in the behaviour they seem to condemn–to declare the film either intelligent or stupid is to miss half the picture. By necessity, it’s both those things.

It’s just hard to imagine how a thinking audience can miss the cultural-disgust that’s central to the movie (was its Fall 1995 release when thoughtful criticism finally made way for an era of pure snark?) The view of soul-sick America is a continuation of threads begun in director Verhoeven’s RoboCop and continuing into Starship Troopers. Aspiring dancer Nomi (Elizabeth Berkley) hitches to Vegas, and learns to survive in a world populated by a**holes by becoming one.

Ascending the food chain of Vegas “dancers” (she’s repeatedly seen scarfing down fast food, subsisting on a diet of corporate cancer) becomes a lesson in underhand dealing and backstabbing. Berkley’s plastic look and performance were criticized, but she’s absolutely as good as Showgirls demands her to be, an emblem slowly losing her humanity.

In questioning the film’s poison reception, though, Nayman loses sight of the simple truth: Showgirls for all its glitz, nudity and trashy dialogue is often deeply unpleasant to sit through. Verhoeven and Eszterhas knowingly pile on scenes of human degradation in the movie’s first half, as though they’re making an American pop culture equivalent to Pasolini’s Salo. It’s a movie that lives in extremes, and doesn’t care if you like it. (Frankly, many of its more straightforward attempts at humour fall flat.)

What Nayman’s book does right is express that while Showgirls is no buried masterpiece, it continues to not be given the benefit of serious consideration. Had that happened years ago, big budget movies would be more interesting, and might have reason to think more highly of us.
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Philip Bardach

Mar 24, 2014

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I guess if there is an issue to be had with the book, it is that considering the brevity of the Pop Classics series’ format, there is little room to draw out much of the analysis that Showgirls calls for, and it is clear that Nayman has plenty to say about the film. However, as is the book is a little gem. It is a work that contrary to the cheeky title is less about assuming a defense against naysayers, but more of a response to the camp that have reclaimed it as something of a “so bad it’s good

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