It Doesn’t Suck

By Adam Nayman

It Doesn’t Suck
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A new edition of the first book in the acclaimed Pop Classics series

The Worst. Movie. Ever. is a masterpiece. Seriously. 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 ... Read more


A new edition of the first book in the acclaimed Pop Classics series

The Worst. Movie. Ever. is a masterpiece. Seriously. 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 perspective on Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls, analyzing the film, its reception, and rehabilitation. This in-depth study of a much-reviled movie is a must-read for lovers and haters of the 1995 Razzie winner for Worst Picture.

This expanded edition includes an exclusive interview between the author and Showgirls director Paul Verhoeven, as well as a new preface.

Adam Nayman

Adam Nayman is a film critic and lecturer in Toronto. He is a contributing editor to Cinema Scope and writes regularly for Reverse Shot, Quill & Quire and The Ringer. He is one of the writers of the Viceland television series The Vice Guide to Film and has taught classes on film at the University of Toronto and Ryerson. He is the author of two books: Showgirls: It Doesn’t Suck and Ben Wheatley: Confusion and Carnage.


In his essay “Beaver Las Vegas,” critic I. Q. Hunter writes that “Paul Verhoeven’s lap-dance musical Showgirls is that rare object in cultural life: a film universally derided as ‘bad. ’ No one seems to like it. At a time of alleged cultural relativism and collapsing standards of aesthetic judgment, Showgirls has emerged as a welcome gold standard of poor taste and worldclass incompetence. ”1

It is a film that, previously universally derided as “bad,” is now widely suspected of being “good. ” (It even received a single, lonely vote on that aforementioned Sight & Sound poll, from Greek director David Panos, who slotted it alongside Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mirror [1975] and Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil [1958]. )2 Film canons are built and guarded as sturdily as fortresses, but intruders sometimes slip through the back door. Once a ratified anti-classic to rank with the likes of Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) or Valley of the Dolls (1967) on lists of the worst movies ever made, Showgirls has now become the beneficiary of shifting critical polarities, revered both at the “low” end of pop culture as a hardy cult favorite, and at the “high” end by academics as a critical fetish object. Its diverse defenders include feminist theorists, drag queens, old-school auteurists, and octogenarian superstars of the French New Wave, and there’s nary an apologist among them — because, as Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw reminded us in Love Story, love means never having to say you’re sorry.

The attitudes toward Showgirls may have changed, but the movie has not. It has not been re-edited into a “Director’s Cut” like Blade Runner (1982) or Apocalypse Now (1979), to cite two examples of major (and majorly flawed) movies that have over the years required “rescuing” from their imperfect original incarnations. It has not been re-released on DVD with a bevy of additional scenes lifted from the cutting-room floor, which might have implicated studio tampering or an overzealous editor as the cause of the film’s derided original version. It has been edited for television and home video, but only to trim the naughty bits: the film’s stately parade of both scantily and entirely unclad young women had finally earned Verhoeven the verboten NC-17 rating he’d managed to avoid for his previous boundary-pushing hits RoboCop (1987) and Basic Instinct (1992).

Showgirls has the same running time now that it did when it premiered on September 22, 1995: it is 131 minutes long (including credits), which makes it shorter than an average Best Picture winner from the 1990s and longer than any of its fellow Razzie Award winners for Worst Picture except for The Postman (1997) and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009). It is still organized as a guided tour of pre-millennial Las Vegas in the company of burger-scarfing exotic dancers, tyrannical choreographers, callow rock stars, and coke-snorting hotel executives. It still features a trick brassiere, several runaway chimpanzees, and a scene about the professional ethics of applying ice cubes to a dancer’s nipples. And it still begins and ends with a young woman hitching a ride by the side of a crowded superhighway.


“Nayman’s passion is entertaining, like sitting down with a friend who has just realized that you need to watch The Wizard of Oz while listening to Pink Floyd. ” — Las Vegas Weekly

“It Doesn’t Suck isn’t just a book about Showgirls, but about the way we perceive such films and how that perception changes over time. As an extended conversation on one of the most ridiculed films of the past two decades, Nayman’s book is a valuable gift. ” — Slate

“For lovers of Showgirls or controversial films in general, It Doesn’t Suck is likely to be a great conversation piece. It facilitates discussions and inevitable arguments about the film, offers good background and contextual information and equips the reader to carry on the argument with his or her own friends, accepting or rejecting as many of Nayman’s arguments as desired. ” — Paste Magazine

“The book is, quite simply, stiletto-sharp, and succeeds in something extraordinary: It makes one want to revisit Showgirls not for laughs, or titillation, but for (gulp) understanding. That’s some accomplishment. ” — The FilmStage. com

"Showgirls doesn't suck. That's the thesis of the short, entertaining new book It Doesn't Suck, and author Adam Nayman goes a long way towards proving it . . . His book definitely demonstrates that Showgirls is a coherent statement, and that its excess, its ridiculousness, and its tastelessness aren't arbitrary, but thematic. " — The Atlantic

“The scene where Nomi and rival Cristal (Gina Gershon) bond over having eaten dog food is probably the film’s most mocked, but Nayman convincingly illustrates how — even here — Verhoeven purposefully breaks the grammar of conventional film continuity to create the effect that each woman is talking to herself. ” — Cineaste Magazine

"There's no doubt that Nayman has done his homework and comes armed with plenty of arguments as to why [Showgirls] was at least well-made, even if it's not necessarily good. . . . After reading the book, I sought out a copy of the film to follow up. " — DVD Talk

"An entertaining but also intelligent look at the movie with fresh eyes. " — RogerEbert. com

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