At some point, you’ve felt hesitant to express yourself. Self-expression can take the form of creativity, sexuality, romance, platonic love, or communication from the heart. The insecurities that prevent the aforementioned actions find their roots in a deeply primal place—the necessity to conform in order to survive, because if everyone did what they wanted, there would be chaos.
Individualistic self-expression is often met with criticism. Yet the heavens right now suggest we make a move towards more personal expression. This is because the Sun finds himself in his home sign of Leo, the Sun being the basic self and divine spark that gives life. Enhancing this energy is Mercury, also in the sign of Leo, the planetary body that oversees roads, travelers, thieves, communication, and language. Leo is the sign of romance and creativity, so these powerful alignments help this shift. The height of these energies culminates on the morning of August 17th as the Sun and Mercury come together, energized by an intense, waning moon having just joined the Sun and Mercury in the sign of Leo.
An example that demonstrates how pure self-expression can be chastised is the film Showgirls. Widely panned for its over-the-top, raw, and allegedly sexist material, the film has, in recent years, been reappraised as a serious satire as it progressed from initial failure to major success in the video rental market. There are many theories about why the film failed. One opinion is that it was advertised as an erotic film. But this was never the intent of director Paul Ver Hoeven as he maintains that he was trying to present an accurate portrait of Las Vegas decadence and the futile struggle to make it to the top through sex and power.
I remember when the film was released. The boys were bragging that they had seen or were going to see Showgirls, subconsciously signaling that having public access to an erotic film, conspicuously consumed, was a badge of honor. But an over the top, non-erotic satire aimed to reveal the true workings of transactional sex and the reach for celebrity was surely set up to fail if audience members were led to believe it was a pornographic film. The boys, and the audience in general, would laugh. The failure of Showgirls was not a failure, however, and it achieved something notable and useful as provocative art is a marker of success, as Oscar Wile explained in the introduction to The Picture of Dorian Gray. Provoking a reaction from an audience at the very minimum disrupts the normal state of affairs, and hopefully thought and inquiry follow. Oscar Wilde also tells us, specifically in relation to Showgirls, that “everything is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” These are all Leo themes, as Leo is the sign that rules speculation, risk-taking, and entertainment. What risks are you taking or not taking? Is there a song you want to sing or a dance you want to dance from which you recently abstained? Showgirls was a way for its audience to skirt this question even though it was being posed directly to them. Director Paul Ver Hoeven’s intent was to create something over the top and hyperreal, and his rendering of the Vegas experience was proportionate to the real thing. It showed the humiliating and hilarious but accurate nature of unadulterated self-expression, self-expression that we all yearn to engage in but oftentimes fail to achieve because we know the forces around us will make fun of us. How many laugh at a striptease but are actually turned on? It doesn’t have to be this way, however, as the Leo energy helps, telling us, “yeah, but so what! Do it anyway! Who cares what anybody else thinks?!”
This is the exact reason for the universal panning of Showgirls, that the protagonist Nomi Malone, played by Elizabeth Berkeley, dares to express herself nakedly, literally and figuratively, with wild abandon, and this is rejected by the audience and critics alike—an actual success, not a failure. Berkeley’s own astrology chart features a similar configuration to the one we’re experiencing right now, having fiery Mars, communicative Mercury, and a radiant Sun in Leo. Leo is the sign of expression, drama, theatrics, entertainment, recreational sex, speculation, and risk-taking, so her own celestial “Inner Makeup” makes her suited for the role of Nomi. Subconsciously, many filmgoers were remembering Elizbeth Berkeley as the teenage goody too shoe character Jesse Spano on Saved by the Bell who famously got addicted to speed and had a crazed meltdown, this being the type of Leo melodramatic style she brought to her performance in Showgirls. This was viewed as bad acting, but Paul Ver Hoeven has always held that he pushed Berkeley to those extremes and that it wasn’t due to a bad performance on Berkeley’s part. Berkeley in fact possesses a serious background in dance and has proven herself a capable theatrical actress, a gift exemplified by the strong planets in Leo in her chart. The character Nomi, by expressing herself in an unrestrained fashion, actually triumphs. In the film, she starts off by finding work as a stripper at a club called the Cheetah (there is a club called Cheetah’s in Las Vegas). Ultimately Nomi supplants Gina Gershon’s character, Cristal, for the lead in a show called Goddess housed at the real-life Stardust Hotel (now imploded) by pushing her down a flight of stairs. There’s a carnal edge to show business embodied by Berkeley’s strong Mars. Thus Nomi, dancing with untrained “heat”, makes it to the top while the haters criticize her cheesy style as she makes her ascent to Goddess status. Getting the lead is a mixed blessing, as the owners of the show Goddess reveal that they have researched and uncovered Nomi’s past run-ins with the law that involved prostitution and drugs. Surviving in the real world is no different than surviving a Vegas show.
I’ve personally experienced Showgirls in an ancillary way, having lived in Sin City for a few years. Fresh out of college, I endeavored to start a non-profit arts organization. I dared express myself but barely made it to the starting line, like Nomi. What would I have had to do to make it the top?
Another theme of Showgirls is the expendability of the dancers, whether at the strip club or a headlining show. No Showgirl is spared from the impermanence of the race to the top, as the Stardust hotel was eventually demolished, a fate similar to the characters Cristal and Nomi. Elizabeth Berkeley’s astrology chart features Pluto in Virgo, the planet of implosion in a servile sign. Nomi for her part does reject and emancipate herself from success, but the end of the film shows her hitchhiking to Los Angeles, indicating that the cycle of surviving, “high” and low, may begin once again.
Nomi’s unique, home-grown dancing aesthetic helps her in the film but caused a fall for Elizabeth Berkeley in real life. As I said, the film was billed as something sexy, but it was nothing of the sort. As people laughed at Nomi, played by Berkeley, they were really laughing at themselves. We all have to sell something in order to survive, and the product each of us has to offer can be alternately outlandish, like an embarrassing dance, or conservative, or some combination thereof. Leo is also the sign of sales, so this applies to everyone needing to sell something through this tough astrological weather. What are you selling? Maybe it’s best to take yourself off the market and put your creative juices somewhere else, like singing in the shower or spicing up your sex life. The Showgirls audience ultimately achieved a catharsis but without achieving a true release of their daemons, good and bad, instead of returning to the cycle of normalcy, the cycle of destiny. The Sun and Mercury in Leo, minus Elizabeth Berkeley’s Mars, offers an opportunity for just the opposite—a chance to simply let loose.