But I’m a Cheerleader

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— Guest post by Wolff —

If the last film’s title put me off a little, this one’s title is the reason I wanted to watch it. But I’m a Cheerleader is a 1999 film directed by Jamie Babbit that provides a satirical look at conversion therapy for homosexuals. Bit of a dark subject I know, but I’m a sucker for satires and with a title like that, I was hopeful. Like always if you care to avoid any potential plot spoilers avoid the first couple paragraphs!

At the start of the film we meet Megan (Natasha Lyonne), a cheerleader with an overly affectionate boyfriend (Brandt Wille). When he brings her home from practice one day she finds her parents and a few of her friends have staged an intervention. They cite a number of incidents and behaviors that have made them suspect that Megan is, in fact, a lesbian; and they send her with Mike (RuPaul, in one of his only roles out of drag) to True Directions in order to set her on the straight and narrow. Megan denies that she could be a lesbian, but agrees to go. At the first group session, the other “campers” introduce themselves and, after some discussion, Megan realizes that she is a lesbian after all. She then makes it her goal to be the best straight person she can be, but her growing friendship one of the other girls, Graham (Clea DuVall), a staunch lesbian, could prove to be problematic.

The stakes are pushed higher when one of the boys, Dolph (Dante Bosco), is expelled from the program after being caught making out with Clayton (Kip Pardue), another boy in the program. To complicate matters, Megan joins some of the campers on a stolen night out to a gay bar where she meets people who are “out and proud” for the first time, and shares a kiss with Graham. Now Megan must decide between her burgeoning feelings for another girl and completing the five-step program that will make her “straight”.

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Like I mentioned before, this film is taking a satirical look at a very sensitive topic, one that has the potential to take the movie to a very dark place very quickly. However it avoids this pothole neatly by making the “conversion camp” staff so utterly over-the-top so as to make it impossible to take them seriously. Mary Brown (Cathy Moriarty), the woman who runs the camp and is in charge of the girls is completely ridiculous in her demands, expectations, and theories regarding homosexuality and the campers that it’s hard not to laugh at her. It helps that her son, Rock (Eddie Cibrian) is clearly meant to be gay as well. Mike, who is in charge of the boys, is a graduate of the program, and though he professes to be reformed, we see him eyeing Rock a few too many times to be considered completely straight.

The fundamentals of the program are also laughable, the idea is that by dressing the girls in all pink and the boys in all blue and forcing them to learn and perform tasks and chores that are traditionally associated with their gender, they will become straight. The girls vaccum, sew, and wash dishes; and the boys play sports, fix cars, and chop wood. But all these tasks are performed with an underlying erotiscism that undermines the whole point of the exercise. The campers are also asked to find their “root”, the “cause” of their homosexuality. The concept in and of itself is ridiculous, but it’s made even more so when they come up with reasons like “My mother got married in pants” or “I was born in France”.

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Of course the whole movie is over-the-top ridiculousness and the ending is pure cheese, but it’s kind of endearing, and what it’s poking fun at is a topic that needs to be addressed. It’s a cute movie, and I’m sure it could prove to be an analytical gold-mine of one chose to look closely enough.

“If I catch you looking at another man like that ever again, you’ll be watching sports… the whole weekend!”

— Guest post by Wolff —

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