by Sarah Cook
Growing up a queer girl in the late nineties and early noughties was a trying experience. One that was rife with discovery and tiling over my identity over and over again. It was a time of discovering lesbian and bisexual media such as Sugar Rush, Skins (Naomily Forever,) and God forbid the movie version of Rent.
Sometimes these movies were blighted by this air of coolness – drugs and alcohol and partying shrouded these coming out stories to the extent that my little awkward self couldn’t find myself in them.
However, picking up Jamie Babbit’s But I’m A Cheerleader, I finally found a story that met my sensibilities and adhered to my movie tastes.
Gloriously, this movie that has shaped my being is finally out on Blu-Ray for you all to enjoy.
But I’m A Cheerleader is a satirical comedy film that aimed to cut down societal gender norms and heteronormativity. The film sees Megan Bloomfield, a popular high-school cheerleader, whose life is turned upside down when her parents send her to the conversation therapy facilities True Directions. Though she is adamant she isn’t gay, she soon finds herself learning how to be straight. All that changes, however, when she starts to fall in love.
Jamie Babbit’s goal to challenge societal gender norms was successful. At the True Directions facility, women and men are separated by a basic way that has been used since birth. The girls are drenched in pink and the men are sporting blue, as though colours could alter a person’s sexuality. Led by Mary, played by the brilliant Cathy Moriarty and her gorgeously distinct voice, the separate genders have to do typical male and female activities. You know, house-making and parenting for the women and sports for the men. Unfortunately, and wonderfully, these plans bring together Megan, and her love interest Graham (a girl.)
Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall are pivotal as Megan and love interest Graham. These actresses are spectacular together, long before they had their fame and respective heydays. As Megan and Graham find each other within this tirade of homophobia. Though Megan resists, Graham opens the cheerleader up and it’s so exciting to see. Almost like the jock who takes off the geeks glasses and discover she is beautiful. With great support by Melanie Lynskey and Dante Branco, these young performers are fantastic.
Plus, RuPaul plays a counsellor who supports Cathy Moriarty all while sporting shirt that says Straight is Great.
But I’m a Cheerleader failed to land with critics, and it stumbled upon initial release. Well, when we say critics, we mean mostly straight critics who had a difficulty with the film, wrongly comparing it to John Waters.
However, it became a smash-hit with LGBT critics and cinema goers who appreciated it. Roger Ebert was right; the movie would eventually become a midnight hit. But I’m A Cheerleader doesn’t challenge norms by being biting or referential.
Bobbit does so by being tender and genuine and sweet; a romantic comedy that happens to centre around queer characters. But I’m A Cheerleader is heart-warming, funny, and relevant for generations of audiences.
And that is something to cheer about!
But I’m a Cheerleader is out on Blu-Ray now!