Hated by some, but loved by many, But I'm a Cheerleader is Jamie Babbit's 1999 movie poking fun at the anti-gay movement with religion and alcoholic rehab sessions also getting a bit of stick. It is thus not surprising that some queued up to attack the film. But ignore them. This is a fun, enjoyable hour and a half of anybody's time.
But I’m a Cheerleader: Gay and Lesbian Movie Classic
Steve Rogerson looks at the fun and controversy surrounding the 1999 film But I'm a Cheerleader
Humour is a funny thing. What one person finds hilarious, another finds dull. Where one sees childishness, another sees intelligent satire. Such mixed reactions were a feature of director Jamie Babbit’s 1999 film But I’m a Cheerleader.
Perhaps one reason for this was the rather sensitive subject of teenage homosexuality. The film is a satire poking fun at anti-gay campaigners. It was clearly meant to be over the top, and that is where its humour lay. Sadly, many of its critics simply didn’t get it.
The story centres on cheerleader Megan (played by Natasha Lyonne), whose parents think her vegetarianism is a sign of homosexuality; she even tried to make them eat tofu toast, what more evidence is needed? Add to that her dislike of her boyfriend’s kissing techniques (he is particularly bad at it) and the case is proved.
Megan, who has had no clue of her latent homosexuality, is understandably confused, especially when her parents decide to pack her off to a camp (called Two Directions) to be cured.
Here, she comes across girls who are openly lesbian, an experience that starts to awaken her own so-far-suppressed lesbianism.
Anti-gays, though, are not the only target for this film’s lampooning. The “rehab” sessions at the camp are a mirror of those ridiculous alcoholic group rehab sessions where people stand up and admit they are an alcoholic while everyone else applauds. Christians also come in for some stick as it is her parents’ religion that formed the base of their suspicions about their daughter’s sexuality (the inmates chanting “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” is particularly memorable). Given these, perhaps it is not surprising that many were quick to criticise the movie.
What Makes it Such a Good Film
Apart from having a laugh at anti-gays, something very worthwhile in itself, the enjoyment of the film also comes from the enjoyment of the characters and how, despite the efforts of those at the camp, they are very happy in their homosexuality.
The boys ogling the odd-job man as he plays with his tools would have brought many a smile, but when we catch the teacher doing the same an early clue into the direction the film is going is quickly revealed.
Megan, meanwhile, feels a growing attraction for Graham (played by Clea DuVall), a butch girl who would be quite comfortable in her sexuality if it wasn’t for her parents threatening to cut off her funding. This unlikely love story is another thread of the film’s magic.
The film is in this list of the ten best lesbian movies of all time.
- But I’m a Cheerleader
- Screenplay by Brian Wayne Peterson.
- Story by Jamie Babbit.
- Directed by Jamie Babbit.
- Running time: 88 minutes.
- Release date: 1999.