Flashdance (1983), a Slumber Party Movies favorite, is a complex movie to contemplate. When I watched it as a child, all I saw was the dancing (and the ice skating), but it seems a lot creepier now. And I figured out why: Joe Eszterhas wrote it.
It’s pretty obvious that Eszterhas hates women. His filmography includes lady-lawyer-in-distress dramas Jagged Edge (1985) and Music Box (1989), lady-FBI-agent-in-distress lemon Betrayed (1988), widow-in-distress misfire Nowhere to Run (1993), fictional snuff porn Sliver (1993), hooker murder porn Jade (1995), and the truly execrable Basic Instinct (1992). But his greatest achievement in misogyny is Showgirls (1995).
Watching Flashdance again after seeing Showgirls was a revelation for me, and not a happy one. Some of the parallels:
- The Dancer: Ingenue who is not as innocent as she seems. Flashdance‘s Alex is a girl without a family who holds down two jobs, only one of which involves lingerie. Showgirls‘ Nomi is a girl without a family who holds down two jobs, both of which involve lingerie (for the first few moments, anyway). Lady loners making their way in a man’s world, nipples akimbo.
- The Boss: Both films feature a creepy boss who fucks The Dancer. Flashdance‘s Nick owns the steel mill where Alex does not take off her clothes, so he pressures her into taking off her clothes after work instead. Showgirls‘ Zach is a lying pimp who owns nothing but terrible clothes and deluded whores, but at least he buys Nomi flowers that one time, right?
- The Best Friend: In Flashdance/Showgirls, the poor innocent-ish Best Friend gets sexually assaulted. In only one of these movies, however, does the Best Friend get hospitalized as a result. Guess which one.
- The Rival Boss: In Flashdance, the owner of a sleazier strip club (where the girls actually strip instead of just dancing in their underwear) tries to recruit Alex, but she resists. In Showgirls, Nomi actually works for the Rival Boss first, essentially hooking in the VIP room until she lands the coveted (topless) chorus line slot at the casino.
What’s distressing to me is how far The Dancer fell between 1983 and 1995. While the outline is the same for both movies, everything has been degraded or escalated: Instead of aspiring to be a ballet dancer, Nomi aspires to be a topless showgirl; the scummy job descends from dancing in lingerie to lap dancing; the Best Friend goes from being groped to being violently raped. Little wonder that at the end of Showgirls, The Dancer’s victory is not holding her own at a ballet audition and learning to accept favors, but beating a rapist unconscious and getting revenge on a suitcase thief.
Maybe Showgirls is a sequel to Flashdance, and Alex turned into a hooker after not getting into the ballet company. Maybe the world is that terrible. Maybe everyone has to eat dog food now and again. I can live with that. I totally love Dog Chow.