But I’m a Cheerleader

A cheerleader (Natasha Lyonne) discovers who she is in this ’90s comedy, not to be confused with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Jamie Babbit (who would go on to direct Gilmore Girls and Russian Doll) brings John Watersian glee to this gay conversion camp satire that’s more pointed and heartfelt than last year’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post. She uses broad comic strokes to highlight the absurdity of the scenario (why would you keep a group of teenagers in close proximity if you don’t want them to hook up?), making the forced “naturalness” as unnatural as possible.

The camp camp is all garish PVC costumes and bright pastel sets, run by the strict Mary (Cathy Moriarty). The savvy satire makes the teens the normal ones and Mary the freak, enforcing exaggerated gender roles by training the boys (in blue) for war and the girls (in pink) for marriage. This focus on gender as well as sexuality makes the film feel progressive for 1999, as one of the girls shows no signs of homosexuality but is assumed to be a lesbian simply because she looks butch.

Lyonne (a few octaves higher than in Russian Doll) is effortlessly endearing as Megan, but it’s Graham (Carnivàle‘s Clea DuVall) who provides the heart and reality. Most of the characters buy into Mary’s propaganda for comic effect like Butters in Cartman Sucks (“I wasn’t confused until other people started telling me I was!”), but DuVall’s existence in the real world allows the film to grapple with the tragedy of the situation. RuPaul (out of drag) also convinces as an unconvincing ex-gay.

More sweet than hilarious and more straightforward than surprising, But I’m a Cheerleader‘s sensitive satire makes it LGBTcute.

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