I have an up-and-down sorta relationship with the Scissors Sisters. Less because I like some stuff of them and then some other not so much, rather me forgetting about them, rediscovering them, thinking “they are the greatest band evah” and then forgetting again. So recently I re-stumbled upon the gloriousness that is “Invisible Light” from their album “Night Work”. And I really love love love the video which made me actually like the song. Wanna know why? Sure you do!
Yeah, this is the clean version – go and watch the dirty one.
#1 So conflicted
I am really conflicted about the question if I find the video sexist and classist or actually subverting sexist and classist constructions. Ultimately, if that even makes sense, I think it is kind of both? And that is why I love it? Cause, ambiguity, y’all? The author is dead, it’s all in your head. It certainly is a music video that is open for your reading.
I just like the fact that the video can be both this grand narrative and at the same time not. All the bits and pieces can (and are probably supposed to) make the story, but at the same time it can also only be a disjointed mindfuck and be enjoyed as such. Wikipedia teaches me that the video draws inspiration from the nightmares of Mia Farrow in “Rosemary’s Baby” (great movie!) and of Catherine Deneuve in “Belle De Jour” (never seen it, sorriez!).
And there are three small scenes that I love in particular:
#3 Cleopatra, coming atcha
The scene with the Egyptian goddess (the Elizabeth Taylor version of Cleopatra, thanks Wikipedia) taking the gold nugget out of the girl’s hand and “screaming” a beam of light in her face at the 2:32 mark. Love. That. Scene.
#4 Grab dat ass
The scene at the 2:02 mark where our protagonist woman stands there watching the handyman chop the wood and then she grabs her own ass in those skin-tight white equestrian pants. Not that I have ever done it, but “girl, I know what you are trying to say here”.
#5 To the grave
Love the short glimpse on our protagonist lady carrying the coffin along a stretch of beautiful greenery at the 1:44 mark. In equal parts because the nature is beautiful, it’s very Jesus-y in its way and because it is sort of fucked up.
I cheat a little, I admit. I’m just gonna pretend today is the 29th of February, so I can get away with posting my last Alien entry today. If you click HERE you get to the Alien master index, linking to all Alien posts of my “February is Alien month series.” Since the issue of feminism has popped up several times throughout my discussions of the various Alien movies I decided to close this series with talking about Ellen Ripley and her status as a feminist icon. Is it justified, and if so, why?
Looking at the various Alien movies one thing becomes very obvious: the miniscule presence of female characters, crowned by the major Bechdel-test fail in Alien³ where the only female character is Miss Ellen Ripley herself. However, I’ve said it before, I consider it to be an advantage for the overall plot structure and forgive it on the premise that it was a deliberate decision to create a specific dynamic. And that it does in my opinion, so, okay. In Alien we only have one other woman aboard the Nostromo and she gets killed, and I’d argue that part of the reason why she is on there anyways is to provide a sort of anti-thesis to Ripley. She is afraid, indecisive, and ultimately unable to defeat the Alien, while Ripley is all of this sort of not (yay, grammar!).
In Aliens we have two other female characters and they provide some interesting insights too. There is tough Rambo-woman Vasquez who not only saves GI asses several times but also blows herself up heroically in the end, and who serves as a backdrop to what Ripley once was while she becomes something else: a mother. Cause the other female in the movie is a girl and she primarily serves to awake the nurturing instincts in tough cookie Ripley. She still kicks ass, but she does so, cause she has a quasi-daughter now. Which is about to change radically with the beginning of Alien³.
Alien Resurrection is the first film to present a wider cast of female characters. Among them are scientists (who are stupid and afraid of what they’re actually doing), androids who wonder what it is about being human, and captain’s girlfriend who enjoys foot-massages and breaks down badly once her sweetheart is gone. (I will grace the AvP films only with a bracketed comment: those female characters –tough or not – existed only cause they felt they had to provide Ripley substitutes, and we all know it)
So what about Ellen Ripley herself?
She is the sole survivor, multiple times, and she is because she does not bow down to alpha-male-ish nonsense. She is pretty spot on about what is right and what should be done and about what defo should not be done, like e.g. getting quarantined crew members on board, rescuing the cat, blow a colony up, and kill herself. Ripley, just as the Alien, is a metaphor besides being character, and as such she passes through several stages of female experiences. There is the factor of proving one’s own position and qualifications in a sexist hierarchy, there is the issue of becoming a mother, struggling with the feelings this entails, and also the rejection of motherhood (if we consider her to be pregnant with an alien and deciding to, well, abort the “child”). Questions of female solidarity are touched upon, as is the dealing with sexist remarks and objectification by men. And of course Ripley is more than her gender: the issues she deals with are the acceptance of one’s life story, one’s destiny so to speak, embrace it or reject it, and she remains a self-confident and independent spirit til her very end: she ends her own life, cause it is the only solution she deems acceptable concerning to overall situation and developments. Even as a new and “improved” Alien-hybrid clone Ripley stays true to these traits: she remains in charge of her sexuality (even if it means we have to suffer through abysmal one-liners), she is level-headed in situations of massive crisis, she feels empathy with people even if she does not know them and has no immediate profit in caring about them, and she learns what being human means. The hard way. I guess killing your clone-sister isn’t the easiest thing to do. And well, accepting that the being you fought against the last years of your life is now an inextricable part of you, in the literal sense, even. She once more becomes a mother figure, albeit to an alien this time, and once more she rejects the role, with yeah, terribly racist undertones.
I feel I have to point it out once more: I am not against motherhood, no effin way, mothers rule. But I am against the depiction of female journeys as being complete and meaningful only when they are topped off with becoming a mom. Cause ultimately it means that society tells you that you as an individual are pretty worthless, you only gain worth when having kids. And if we follow the thought through it basically means only being a man really counts, cause a as a daughter the same destiny of having to become a mother awaits you. That is why the glorification of motherhood (meaning that all other conceptions of femininity are rejected or deemed of less value) is often ultimately anti-feminist, or let’s just say it: downright sexist. For all the flaws of the Alien Saga in not only the gender department I truly applaud the series for getting the basic conception of a female and truly feminist heroine right. So: Yay! Feel free to disagree with me tough, but then I challenge you to comment! Muahaha.
Admittedly the headline is somewhat misleading, cause this post is more about the overall feminist message of the Alien Saga than just the character of Ellen Ripley. And one super-important yet thus far undiscussed issue is of course the alien.
The depiction of the aliens is highly interesting from a gender-issues-perspective. For once, the alien society is strictly matriarchal. No matter how many the host to a queen might take down, she is still host to a queen, killing her is not an option for the regular alien, since it of course endangers the survival of its species. The whole imagery of having an alien queen, together with her laying eggs (and the complicated mode of reproduction), serves to remind us of some mutant insect rather than an intelligent being or even something resembling human. But this premise is subverted, because in the course of Aliens we witness the alien queen becoming protective of her descendants and finally furious with those who killed them (and yeah, wouldn’t you be?). Alien Resurrection picks up on this, the alien queen literally becomes a mother when she gives birth to an alien hybrid (that is fucked-up-edly white *headdesk*) and experiences what it means to be rejected by your offspring.
While the AvP movies retreat to picturing the aliens as mere killing machines, the overall Alien Saga hints at there being more. They are social beings, and while their whole existence differs considerably from the human experience they are not entirely dissimilar. I’ve talked about the inherent racist implications HERE, but it is less obvious what the message concerning feminism is. In contrast to what the overall series does with the character of Ripley, the alien as a female queen is only valuable because of her function as a mother. However, we never really know about the gender of the other aliens or facehuggers. Do they even have one? Aren’t the facehuggers some sort of omni-gender in that no matter what gender the host, they still always succeed to implant little baby-aliens? Interesting, methinks.
Okay, I’ll wrap it up! The short version of this post could have been: Yup, Ellen Ripley is a feminist heroine for a variety of reasons. I just went out of my way to come to a point about the series as a whole, kinda.
And yeah folks, that’s it for Alien month. I guess we got it covered, huh? Maybe, with future films…. and the comics….. ah, never say never.
Start your engines, and may the best blog-entry win!
Get your queens on, cause I am about to embark on a mini-recap of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 2. There is one simple reason for that: I just watched it within the last few days. Why now? Another simple reason: Could not before, could now. Ha.
For all of those unfamiliar with RuPaul click here or just keep in mind that s_he is probably the most famous drag queen in the U.S., having had considerably more media exposure in the late 1990s. But then there is also Drag Race on the logo channel (and there are other shows s_he’s doing, like DragU).
The premise of Drag Race is fairly simple: A bunch of drag queens are assembled and in XX-next topmodel fashion they compete for the title of “America’s next drag superstar” (and some prizes, of course).
I’ll use this post to write some about what I liked and what I didn’t concerning the show and try to finish off with some commentary on the whole issue of reconciling drag queens with ideals of feminism.
I massively enjoyed season 2 of Drag Race. Which is kind of a surprise, cause I did not expect it to be as interesting. A few months back, when I caught some clips and saw the contestants I was not overly thrilled, but having watched the entire thing I was impressed with the queens.
The major highlight was the top three, or even the top five, or also just the winner. Ha, confusion! There it strikes again. Okay, in order: While Tyra Sanchez, or rather the guy creating her, seemed to be some bitchy prick most of the time and kept me thinking that picking him_her as a winner set a terrible example for all the kids watching (hi kids!), I have to admit: s_he turned it out every fucking week. Stunning looks, awesome performances. And dedication, heaps of that. Plus, now that I watched the reunion show and having seen Tyra Sanchez and her softer side, I’m all forgiving and stuff. Having said that, how incredible were the top three anyways? Apart from Tyra, Raven with her deliberately non-sparkly persona and über-bubbly Jujubee were drag queens with undeniable star potential. And to make matters even better: Pandora Boxx and Tatiana were strong contestants too. Funky personalities and gorgeous looks, just what you expect.
A major surprise is how similar I think the top three this season is to the the top three of season one in my head (Bibi, Nina Flowers and Ongina – even though Ongina didn’t come in third). Dontcha think? Maybe there is a universal pattern that really is the key to getting in connection with the creator of all things alive and whatnot, but maybe it’s just a fun coincidence or statistically inevitable because good queens always come in triplets of black ultra-divas, ice-queeny showgirls and Asian power-cupcakes.
A major turn off this season (again) was how dudes doing drag seem to believe they have to be super-bitches throughout their entire life. Granted, it’s reality TV and they were probably all really nice and loving people. I am just constantly surprised at how easily these people get bitchy and catty out of no reason. Then again, it was incredibly nice to see that they are for the most part able to overcome this. Now, I am not the forgive and forget type. I hold a grudge. I wish I didn’t, but I do, it is hard for me not to take things personal and letting go of that. So I am always happy when I see people who are able to forgive and forget, to overcome their differences and all of that.
Major blah were all the mini-challenges (really? Like: what’s the point? Besides product placement…) and the judging panel. RuPaul obviously is the center of attention when it comes to panel, and s_he is usually the only funny one (and I was really surprised how witty and funny s_he was all the time). The celebrity judges, even my beloved Kathy Griffin, were just extremely boring and Merle and Santino, oh my, at least they have a job. Blah were also all the lipsynch for your life songs. I swear, none of these songs seemed even remotely acceptable for lipsynch performance by a drag queen. Either I am so out of touch with the whole drag culture (which admittedly I am) or these were just poor song choices albeit personal favorites of Ru.
I was majorly sad so see that once again the big queens were underrepresented. I mean, I see so many big drag queens, are there so little talented ones? I can hardly believe that. While Mystique Summers was kind of amusing, she was also kind of a one-trick pony. I’m still hoping for more diversity in body types.
I cannot hold it back any longer now: I was so rooting for Jujubee to win this thing. Though I kinda already expected her not to, she was my favorite. The wit and humour she brought to every situation, coupled with this incredible self-awareness and fearlessness of touching upon topics that were very personal and sad made me laugh and weep and want to hug her_him. Personality wise, s_he was a total winner. I accept her_his third place though, cause when it comes to the whole drag part, Raven and Tyra really took it to another level.
So, off to the social commentary we go. I remember a little conversation I had a few years back about how drag queens don’t really perform in favour of feminist causes versus gender-studies-legend Judith Butler hailing the subversive powers of drag.
Obviously the latter makes some good points. Drag queens call into question the assumption that femininity is inextricably linked to biological sex (if we think of this as existent) and present us with varying degrees of border crossing between male and female gender.
The queens of Drag Race certainly do that. This second season we saw all the queens un-drag-ed as boys/men in their interviews and the host RuPaul sporting a major moustache in the reunion show. At the same time the show revolved around padding your hips and breast and shoulders and bring the funky on in glamorous nightgowns and massive wigs. On top of that we had a contestant (Tatiana) who took it to a level where it was hardly discernible that she might not be what she seems to be, and we furthermore had the revelation of contestant Sonique in the reunion show that she really is a woman, psychologically for now, physically in the future. What this season lacked unfortunately was a ladyboy a la Ongina from season 1, who really brought the glamour as a persona that mixed up assumptions of masculinity and femininity without falling into the put-a-wig-and-make-up-on routine. But then again, we had Ongina in season 1, so Drag Race as a series delivers in diversity (not to mention the diversity of ethnic background with people positioning themselves as white, black, Latina, ghetto, asian, transnational and a hundred things in between – this alone deserves honorable mentioning IMO).
The critique that I encountered a while ago, was that drag queens really undermine feminism because they put emphasis on style and sexuality, reinforcing thereby traditional female “areas of expertise”. This position has some valid points, in that we do not encounter drag queens on Drag Race who don’t change their appearance and say: so now, I’m a woman. It is a TV show after all, catering to standards of reality-TV in that contestants are expected to bring some kind of standardised glamour that is heavily influenced by Hollywood notions of how big your breast, how shiny your hair and how flawless you make-up has to be. Yet at the same time, I’d argue, drag is a performance, not reality, but a deliberate heightening of aspects found within reality, taken to a new level and subverted along the way. Subverted in that emphasis is put on the fact that a drag queen might look like a stylized doll, but is really a man underneath who had to shave off his beard first.
The context in which drag culture takes place is one that is defined almost exclusively by questions of sexuality and sexual orientation, thereby making it hard to escape the sexualized nature of performance and demeanour. Furthermore we have to keep in mind that drag queens are by and large NOT transgender people: Many of them do not intend to step out as a woman and convince you that they are just your regular girl next door. The deliberately take on a role that pursues a specific purpose – commentary upon what a human being is able to transform him_herself into and upon how assumptions directed at looks and gender-performances can be unsettled and overthrown by performing a persona and gender that is but a mere illusion.
Having said all that should make clear, that I do not think that drag queens contradict ideals of feminism, however, I would also like to add that this doesn’t mean that they are all fighting for the feminist cause. Because after all we should not fall into the trap of confusing the performance with the performer. While the performance might subvert gender assumptions and norms set by a male dominated heterosexist social structure, the male performers behind the drag queens might still hold on to sexist or even misogynist views themselves. I don’t assume that this is the case with many (especially the misogynist part), but having witnessed throughout Drag Race season 2 how bitchy and catty some of those boys can get, all the while thinking that this is proper queen behaviour, we should keep in mind that we are dealing with individual human beings. They probably fight for feminist causes in ways we haven’t even thought of before, but they might still make mistakes and confuse the performance of gender attributes with a natural order. Thing is, we’re all just human, right?
I was ready to explode in your face here with a rant about masculinism. I just recently stumbled across the term itself and naïve me thought “ah, yeah, I know that, that is when men join the feminist cause and challenge dominant gender roles that also oppress men.”
Except for: the website I stumbled upon (named genderama) is nothing quite like that. Expressions like “oh so patriarchal Berlin” and “femocratic German politics” are used when referring to how men are oppressed in Germany. Politically. And Socially. And Economically. Of course. What?
Let’s just graciously ignore the fact that polemic expressions never rarely make for a good argument. That still leaves us with the notion that German politics are femocratic. Ermh, yeah, because the last 5 chancellors were women…right? And because the German parliament is famous for its female parliamentarians outnumbering the male ones…right? Because there is a long tradition of German cabinets consisting of more women than men….right? Yes, we all know the answer is no to all of these quassumptions (which is my clever combination of question and assumption, ha!), so how in the world might the author over at genderama speak of femocratic structures?
Because there are quotas to ensure female presence in political parties? Because affirmative action is pursued by actively encouraging women (and people with a background in migration or people with special needs) to not only apply for jobs, but to pick them for the job rather than a man when they are equally qualified for it?
Now mind you, of course I applaud you for being critical of affirmative action. However, we might start asking: In how far does it even work? Because let’s face it: Neither in politics, nor in the media, nor in the realm of economic elites, nor in academics (and let’s not even talk about religion, shall we?) are women OVERrepresented, let alone equally represented. Far from it. So what in the world gives the author of the-blog-that-shall-not-be-named-again the idea that all these men THAT ARE OVERREPRESENTED IN ALL OF THE ABOVE REALMS actually work against themselves and submit willingly to female domination and oppression? Okaaaaay, I admit, writing in caps technically qualifies as polemic writing, which I discredited above (but only to some extent, heehee), so I should rather say… Yeah well, what? The question I just asked is a real question: Does anyone know? Because I don’t fucking get it.
Well, yes, of course I have my ideas (who’da thunk it?), so let me just speculate:
Mr. Blogauthor feels threatened by feminism, because he feels that the power and privilege that he should actually possess based on his sex/gender/whatever, justified by conservative ideologies of patriarchal bliss, are threatened by it. I don’t think he actually feels threatened by particular women per se, only to the extent that they all act up and don’t stay in their place. So discrediting feminism by claiming all it does is discriminating against boys and really just oppress men is an easy way to construct a scapegoat, drag it to the slaughterhouse and shoot it in the head.
It’s just that the bullet misses its target. By about a thousand miles.
The headline says something about the power of labels, and it is important. Because as much as I’d like to slam masculinism as some stoopid fuckery, that would really just be me being super immature, un-reflected and narrow minded. Because of course, masculinism, just as feminism is not one block of unitary wisdom, but a label that groups together the most diverse of opinions and agendas. So there are also those masculisnists, who really are joining a (and not the) feminist cause, in that they struggle to reveal the gender roles and assumptions that inform our lives and create patterns of patriarchy that oppress women, but also work against many things that men should care about.
So, to end this tale, I’ll serve you the morale:
My definition of feminism is of course not THE definition of feminism, it’s really just mine (though I think a few people share it), even if I’d really love it to be The Definition. Ha. But what my definition entails, is the belief that identities are complex constructions and modes of discrimination and oppression cannot be evaluated in a hierarchical system. That means that my definition of feminism tries to incorporate both men and women, because it thinks that gender relations are (as the term itself already states) not one-sided, but work both ways, and they work both good and bad. This means that as a man I might find myself in multiple situations of oppression and discrimination, and although I am not a woman, I firmly believe that it is this brand of feminism that is able to counteract and eventually end my experiencing of oppression and discrimination. I want to make explicit that I did not write about questions of racist structures and questions of dis*ability, but they are integral constituents of my definition of feminism. I’ll elaborate on that in the future, I guess.
So: Yay feminism! And yay progressive masculinism (that really is also feminism with a different label)! Yay!
Ok, I was actually planning on treating you to some fashion eye candy and snatched my crappy digital camera to shoot the hell out of an AnOther Magazine editorial that featured our beloved Tilda Swinton. Heck, was I proud, until I realized that I could also just look if these pictures are available online. And yes, they are, in abundance. So no need for not-so-lazy me to look super-lazy by just coming up with some same old same-old. Thus no Tilda Swinton shoot from me, sorries.
(But yes, I do realize that you are curious now, so just go here and look at the gorgeous shoot)
So to have you enjoy some amazingness nevertheless I give you the three posters of the relatively new LesMigraS campaign that invites lesbian, bisexual and trans* women to participate in an online survey. You find the English translations below the respective poster.
Would you rather have your teeth kicked in or not get the job?
 teeth kicked in  not get the job [X] no
Identity knows no “either” – “or”
Are you a lesbian or a migrant?
 a lesbian  a migrant [X] no
Identity knows no “either” – “or”
What is worse – Transphobia or Racism?
 Transphobia  Racism [X] no
Identity knows no “either” – “or”
copyright to all posters with LesMigraS, whose website you can visit by clicking here (various languages available)
Seriously, aren’t these posters like ice-cream served with all things good?
This campaign is so right, it almost hurts in its utter awesomeness.
Because yes, identity does not know either/or. Oppression creates hierarchies, but there is no hierarchy of modes of oppression. I’ve encountered the tendency to play out one’s own position as a victim of hierarchical oppression against other positions so many times, and it makes me wonder: Don’t you realize what you are doing? Don’t you see that you are not helping yourself by putting your identity above others?
I am a white German gay male. I am a boyfriend, big brother, flatmate, son and student. I am a vegetarian, blogger and need to wear glasses. And I am so much more than that.
Can we all get up now and give that campaign a standing ovation?
Innocent being that I am I opened the newspaper this morning (Süddeutsche – which is one of the biggest nation-wide newspapers here in Germany and considered to be somewhat on the liberal left) and stumbled upon this gem in their “Leute” – people – column:
‘Jamie Oliver, 35, britischer Koch, hat endlich einen Sohn. Ehefrau Jools brachte am Mittwoch nach drei Töchtern ihren ersten Sohn zur Welt, wie Oliver per Twitter verkündete. „Jetzt muss ich so tun, als wüsste ich alles über Fußball!“, schrieb er.’
(translates roughly as: Jamie Oliver, 35, British cook, finally has a son. His wife Jools gave birth to their first son after three daughters, Oliver announced via Twitter. “Now I have to pretend to know about football!,” he wrote.)
My breakfast, which was awesome btw since we had ourselves a nice little brunch with eggs and cheese and fruits and stuff, moved back up a little. Like: What the hell? Even if we graciously ignore their uncontested reprinting of his gender-stereotyping re: the football thing, this is some serious sexist shit. It’s not like they are saying: Jamie Oliver, father of already three daughters now has a fourth child, a son. They say: finally, a son. My guess being, they didn’t write a damn word about him having a daughter before. They make it sound like after three unsuccessful attempts at having children (that is: only daughters, poor him) he finally got lucky and now has a son. Makes me cringe.
Oh, but don’t expect the crap to be over right there. Because our beloved newspaper comes with a free magazine every Friday. Today the whole issue is centered around: men. Progressive, I know. Apart from what feels like a hundred stories about how middle-aged men bond with their fathers (something that I can accept to a certain extent) there is also a weekly column entitled “I don’t understand that” (Das verstehe ich nicht), where four authors take turns at writing about stuff that seems nonsensical to them. Fair enough. But being the androcentric issue that it is this week, Christian Zaschke writes about how he does not approve of how “the new language of equality” does away with “the man” (you can read it here, in German). At least that seems to be the threat that he perceives.
He particularly points at new guidelines in Switzerland where they are apparently trying to introduce gender-neutral language, like avoiding the term “father” and replacing it with the term “parent” (which is somewhat more problematic in German). While he does have a point that language should not deny that there is gender and various gender identities, his conclusion is that the male form is threatened, meaning that the man is about to be erased from German altogether. Which is terrible, in his opinion, because actually the male form (nouns like Lehrer – teacher – whereas the female version is Lehrerin) traditionally encompasses both male and female individuals. It functions as a plural or superior category that claims to be gender neutral – all the while being identical to only the male form of the noun in question. Feminism has come to challenge this, and it’s not exactly a new development.
Christian Zaschke uses the whole page of his column to bemoan the extinction of men from the German language. Like a well meaning paternal nod he admits that non-discriminatory language that addresses both men and women might be a good thing, but what he actually wants to say seems to be: really, this is going too far already. Later on he claims that his complaints have nothing to do with chauvinism, which is like a huge red neon sign screaming “chauvinism” in itself, and he completely fails to elaborate as to why questioning male supremacy in language might actually be a constructive thing for society.
Not to mention that he doesn’t even really bother to point to more recent developments like e.g. the Gender Gap, as in actor_actress (works even better in German: Schauspieler_in, the gap signifying that there is both a male and a female form, plus a space for all them people who don’t feel like they belong exclusively in one or even in either category).
So, that is my Friday: Sexism in both newspaper and its weekly supplement. Way to make a progressive leap into the weekend. Can’t wait for the women’s issue! Let me guess: it’ll be about shoes, make-up and shopping. Oh, and maybe diets.
BARF. Bye, breakfast!
I’m going to get it off my chest right away: I think that Showgirls is a good movie.
There. I said wrote it.
Either you scream “whuuuud?” now or you just scratch your head, because you have never seen Showgirls. But maybe, like maybe maybe, you just silently nod in agreement. For those who don’t: hear me out.
Director Paul Verhoven and script writer Joe Esterhas worked together on Showgirls, practically on the heels of the enormous success of their hit-movie Basic Instinct (aww, fond memories of the crotch-shot, haven’t we?). The movie was widely anticipated, mainly because it was meant to be controversial and marketed to be controversial. Oh, boobies, and oh, sexual references and oh whatnot. It was released to theatres in 1995 and bombed. And ruined the careers of the actors involved for quite a while. But the story does not end there, apparently over time an impressive fanbase was built, people like me, who caught it on TV or accidentally rented the video-tape (yeah, remember those?) and thought: Hey, this is not so bad after all.
Ok, I assume a lot of people actually thought: Oh hell, this is so bad after all, even worse. It’s so bad that it’s actually good. But I am not one of them. Sure it’s corny and cheesy at times, yes, it’s kitsch and over the top, and agreed, it’s a lot about the tittays and the horniness of everyone involved.
Why do I love it so much then?
First of all: I like the story. Yeah, laugh all you want. There is a story and it’s good one. Good because it’s about good old Nomi in all her wide-eyed glory finding out what it means to have a friend, stay friends, understand what foes are and how their evil tricks work and see that even in those you initially wrote off, there might still be a heart of gold. In my head it sounds less stupid, I swear.
“You know the best advice I ever got? You’re up there on stage, hopin’ on a spot. If someone gets in your way, step on ’em. If you’re the only one left standing there, they hire you. That’s about it. Thank you and good night, ladies and gentlemen. Elvis has left the building.”
What complaint could we possibly level at Showgirls?
It’s sexist. Hm, yes and at the same time, strangely, no. Are all the women treated as if they are objects? Yes. But by whom? The male characters? Certainly. But they themselves are treated like objects, stereotypical token devices that the movie uses. But does the movie use its female characters in the same way? In my humble opinion it does not.
Sure, all advertising screamed that it’s all about Nomi in the nude and the movie at some points acts as if the main reason for the female character’s existence would be to make us viewers all horned up by their oh-so-erotic make-out action. BUT, I argue, it’s perfectly fine y’all. Let Nomi explore her sexuality. Get praise for her boobs. Make out with Zach and/or Cristal. It’s a coming of age movie for the universe’s sake, so why not let her make her experiences and get wiser along the way? The movie leads us to believe that there is this character falling into our plot with a backstory and therefore knowing her way around, but what ultimately happens, is that we have a character with a backstory (however constructed that may be) that does not know her way around, but can learn, make mistakes, and learn some more.
And I just take the bad along with the good. Meaning that I’m really not a big fan of the stupid subplot involving James, his dance-troupe-dreams and the impregnation of Hope whose real name is not Hope. I do like Hope though and little fun fact here is, that there have recently been rumours floating around the internet that Showgirls 2 is about to see the light of day, focusing on Hope and her story. Sounds lame to me, but in this very subplot she was the only good thing person. (Just found out: The Hope actress – Rena Riffel – actually indulges in the movie’s cult status. And has produced this trailer for a second installment.)
I’m not a fan of the whole thing because here the movie really tries (hard) to present the characters as round characters, all the while only parading stereotypes and sexist BS in front of our eyes. Does not help (at all) that James is the token black guy who gets effed over by destiny and has to throw out lines that are 99.9% chauvinist and sexist. I do give the film credit for trying to make us sympathize with him, though. But only a little.
“I’m getting a little old for that whore look”
Now you might expect me to hate some on the “Andrew Carver rapes best friend Molly” subplot as well, but no. No, I think that’s rather good. Pretty well handled except for maybe the fact that Molly, as the only black woman in the movie, has to suffer through that when it turns out that she isn’t even the one coming clear. Therein lies a debatable point where you basically have to choose a side. Is Nomi’s beating up of Andrew Carver a good thing? It’s gratifying, yes, but is it justice? Shouldn’t she walk to the next police officer and tell the story even if all her drugs and whore stories might get dragged into broad daylight? Yes I think she should, but, and I see that you might find flaw with the reasoning, I also like to think that she did just that at some point, although the film does not show it. Ok, it might just be wishful thinking, but then again, there’s a lot of loose threads in this movie that you have to bring to an end in your own imagination. Like where does Nomi come from? Where does she go? What will Molly do after getting out of the hospital? I like to think she gets her trial and Andrew is sentenced to 13 years in prison. Happy Endz.
Now what else do we have to wonder about? Yes, right: What will become of Cristal Connors? Oh, she does have a bright future ahead of herself. Why? Because She Is Awesome. Capital Awesome she is. Her diva antics, her worked-myself-up-tude, her lesbian innuendos and the ultimate revelation of how much of a heart she actually has. She is the prime example of what I mean when I say that the women in Showgirls are not mere objects. She is treated like that by the men surrounding her and found herself a place in that system that worked to her advantage for a good while, but what she really wishes for, what she really dreamt of is something that makes all the villain-façade come down within milliseconds. She feeds sexist stereotypes and she sends some assholery down the hierarchy, but ultimately she realizes that on a personal level it didn’t do her any favors. And isn’t this probably the most rewarding scene of the whole movie: Having your villainess realize that it might actually be way better to just be a nice and lovable person for once? Aww, heart shaped cookies for everyone!
I realize that I haven’t said much about Zach. Well, he sucks. Hard. But he does so by design, that’s what the plot requires of his character. There’s also our lovable quasi-parents Al and Henrietta, and yes, I love her flash-the-boobs-trick. Cute. Wikipedia says: the film comes full circle when Nomi gets into the car of the stealing cowboy again. It does to some extent, but hints at there being more stories. While it is always tempting to imagine a sequel, it is seldom a good idea to actually make one.
And you know what: I prefer dreaming of Nomi making her dancer/stripper ways through the U.S., fighting for feminism. Now shoot me.