Thursday, September 11, 2008

But I'm a Cheerleader (1999)

Catht Moriarty, Eddie Cibrian, But I'm a Cheerleader
The third cheerleader movie I own beginning with the letter "B" asks the question, "What would happen if a cheerleader was a lesbian?" But I'm a Cheerleader explores that question with a great deal of humor, and a little bit of heart. The film stars Natasha Lyonne1 as a cheerleader who is the only person to not realize she is a lesbian. She is sent to True Directions, a camp run by Cathy Moriarty, her son, and her assistant.2 Despite the fact that the majority of the film is set in a gay-away camp, it manages to capture quite a bit of camp charm.

One of the most appealing things about But I'm a Cheerleader is the way color is used in the film. In the beginning, the outside world is done almost entirely in shades of brown and yellow, except for the main character who wears pink. When she is sent to straight camp, all the girls are placed in pink and the boys in blue in an effort to gender the campers. The film also draws on phallic and vaginal imagery throughout. At one point Lyonne is framed by two lams that appear to be ovaries and fallopian tubes. Were this any other movie, some of the imagery might pass as unintentional, but the careful care in planning color schemes and other devices allows for a rewarding time with careful viewing.

But I'm a Cheerleader, Natasha Lyonne
The film has a good time drawing attention to gender and sex norms that seem wildly outdated, but are still largely drawn upon in our society. In some ways it sort of removes some of the power of anti-gay movements since the campers are forced to carry signs with trite sayings that they don't seem to particularly believe. On the other hand, the movie also pokes fun at super-pride gays who have everything rainbow.

In the end the message of this movie is that people should accept who they are no matter what others may want of them. We also see that if you try to change but don't truly want it, you'll never be a full success. This is why the True Directions' director's son most continually go through training again to refresh his memory. It's a political message, but it's packaged in a way that should be palatable to most audiences, and though it may be slightly outdated in some areas, it's still a powerful one in more conservative places.

But I'm a Cheerleader
Joel: Mrs. Brown, what about foreplay?
Mary: Foreplay is for sissies. Real men go in, unload, and pull out!
Rock: Mom!

1. You may remember her from American Pie 1 & 2 or Blade: Trinity. We'll see her again in Modern Vampires. I may even own a few others that I'm not aware of at this time.
2. Played by Eddie Cibrian and RuPaul Charles, respectively.

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