Today we’re talking about the 1999 film But I’m a Cheerleader.
This is definitely a dark comedy. It manages to highlight the absurdity of these sorts of camps while still capturing the horror of them. I have no experience with conversion therapy, but I’m thankful this leaned into the emotions and contradictions and not the psychological torture.
The message of choosing to be yourself instead of miserable is well done and sad at the same time.
The characters are extremely well-built stereotypes and that feeds the story.
The fact that the camp staff were all repressed made them both more human and sadder.
I’m not sure if it’s because I wasn’t part of the LGBT community in 1999 (being bisexual in a small town meant it was easier for me to hide) or because of the writing, but there were a few characters that I just didn’t understand.
The dialogue vacillated from pseudo-intellectual drivel to deep and loving. Seeing the contrast between the two made everything feel even more surreal.
Visuals and Music
The visuals weren’t flashy, but the thought behind them was impressive. The repressed camp leader spending her evening cleaning flowers, the overcompensation of the colour scheme, the Sapphic curtains, and the large quantity of spandex/pleather add to the hypocrisy of the camp.
The songs had a 1950’s feel to it while being quite subversive. The rest of the score leaned heavily into the songs and it worked really well.
It was fun to see the lesbian and gay characters being portrayed as both the heroes and the more stable characters. I appreciated the bit at the end with the parents joining the support group, giving us a little hope.
I watched it with my wife only and I’m glad. It’s a little dark for a 3 and 6 year old.
It was hard to watch the pain and anguish these poor people went through at the hands of a society that wants them to hide who they are. Even in a watered-down level of hate with a lot of dark humour, it’s still very much on the nose.
It reminded me of all the times I was with people in university and heard someone say, “Bisexuals don’t exist, they’re just gay people who are scared or straight people who want attention.” Every time I heard it, I sank further into myself, and that’s just a fraction of what others experienced.
The movie pokes as much fun at the lesbian and gay stereotypes as it does the bigots who refuse to understand. It’s dark and raw and painful all at once. However, there’s a certain joy and hope in the message of being yourself and the importance of found family.
Final Score: 4 Stars out of 5