Film: But I'm a Cheerleader
A 1999 comedy lampooning the idea of homosexual reform camps
with the story of Megan, a God-fearing cheerleader who has never paid her homosexual tendencies any thought until being sent to the True Directions camp. While there, she admits the homosexuality that everyone but her had apparently seen
, and falls in love with another of the True Directions members, Graham.
The film carved out an unusual niche for itself as what many have identified as a Lighter and Softer
version of a John Waters
film, combining high camp, dark political comedy and good-natured romanticism under one improbably broad yet tantalizingly candy-colored
Not to be confused with But I'm a Cat Person
Contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Graham's are the emotionally abusive, neglectful type. They're also economically abusive in threatening to cut her off unless she becomes straight.
- Affably Evil: Mary Brown.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: The film exaggerates somewhat the tactics used by True Directions, but some viewers may be shocked at how similar they are to actual conversion therapy programs—mostly in the use of aversion therapy (like electroshock) and trying to make LGBT people act in more gender conforming ways
- Butch Lesbian: Subverted quite brilliantly.
- Camp Gay: Andre. Although almost every single gay male is some amount of camp, except Larry, one of the 'ex-ex-gay' characters. Arguably the point is to demonstrate just how worthless the camp is. Also because it's funny.
- Camp Straight: Jan was just assumed to be lesbian because she has such a strong butch appearance, but she actually likes boys. She leaves the camp when she discovers this.
- Cast Full of Gay
- The Cheerleader: Averted.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment:
Mike: Boys! I ever catch you looking at a man again, you'll be watching sports all weekend!
- Cure Your Gays. The plot of the film, in fact. It doesn't succeed.
- The Cutie: Megan.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Megan is explicitly shown doing this, with her hand just out of frame. It can be inferred that Sinead does this too, but differently (the campers are given small tazers that emit small shocks, and you're supposed to shock yourself if you ever have 'impure thoughts.' When Sinead introduced herself, she said she liked pain, and she shocks herself on purpose.)
- Deadpan Snarker: Graham.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: Dolph's pajamas are a sight to behold.
- Falling in Love Montage
- Feminine Women Can Cook: In the video Megan watches on arriving at True Directions, the girl is described as 'rediscovering her femininity' over a shot of her cooking.
- Female Gaze: The opening sequence, and then the shots interspersed in the scene of Megan kissing her boyfriend, are basically one long series of this from her perspective. Of course, since the female in question is a lesbian, the shots are of scantily-clad cheerleaders with bouncing breasts and copious Panty Shots.
- Gay Bar
- Gilligan Cut: This -
Megan: There is no way I'm going.
Cut to shot of Megan in a moving car.
- Girls with Moustaches: Jan has a moustache.
- Good People Have Good Sex: Played with. Mary is actually perfectly okay with the students having sex! ...as long as it's heterosexual sex in which the man is dominant and the woman is submissive and there's no foreplay and...
- Goth: Sinead.
- Grammar Nazi: Mary
Andre: Shit, Miss Mary, I ain't the only one who don't got no root.
Mary: Andre, we don't use profanity or double negatives here at True Directions.
- Green-Eyed Epiphany: Megan getting angry over Graham dancing with Sinead is the impetus for them both admitting they have feelings for each other.
- Green-Eyed Monster: It's implied that Sinead has a thing for Graham and is jealous of Megan.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Megan. Beautiful, young, sheltered Christian who is determined to see the good in everyone.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Of course.
Graham: You're really manly.
Graham: I like that. Manly is good.
Joel: I feel like the aggressor.
- Heteronormative Crusader: Mary.
- Homoerotic Dream
- I Didn't Mean To Turn You On: Mike occasionally causes this in the boys.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Megan and a few of the others. Averted by Graham.
- IKEA Erotica
Mary: "When it's time for lovemaking, Dan kisses Sue, and touches her breast. Women often find this sensation pleasurable."
- "Foreplay is for sissies! Real men go in, unload, and pull out!"
- The Ingenue: Megan, although it's implied that her pureness stems from her lack of attraction to guys and repression of her attraction to girls - while she stays wonderfully kind and optimistic throughout the movie, she becomes a lot less 'pure' in the traditional sense as her relationship with Graham develops.
- Innocent Innuendo / Does This Remind You of Anything?: While teaching the girls how to clean, Mary guides Jan in thrusting a vacuum cleaner forwards and backwards while repeating 'in and out and in and out'. She doesn't notice anything unusual about the movement but the other girls sure do. Similarly, Mike works on a car with legs and crotch on full display, also repeating 'in and out'...and then asks the boys "Who wants to go down with me?" Almost all raise their hands.
- Inspiration Nod: The whole film feels a lot like a John Waters movie, and indeed Mink Stole, a member of a group of stock actors Waters usually uses in his films, plays the main character's mother.
- Intentionally Awkward Name: The gay bar 'Cocksucker'. It's quite amusing to watch the more straight-laced characters trying to force themselves to say it.
- Internalized Categorism: Most of the gay characters fall into this at least at some point, but Mike in particular counts, having embraced his status as an 'ex-gay' enough to be working at a camp for turning people straight.
- Interrupted Intimacy: Graham's parents found out that she was gay when they walked in on her with her friend. Also, at one point when Megan leaves the bedroom to masturbate after a dream about Graham, she happens upon two of the guys making out.
- Irony: If Megan's parents hadn't sent her to the camp, she likely would've gotten married to a man and had children, either never realising her lesbianism due to the justifications she already had in place or eventually realising it but deciding to continue presenting as heterosexual; most likely, she'd have been miserable. Because they wanted that life for her, they sent her there, and instead, she thankfully emerged as a happy woman who embraced her lesbianism and who would hopefully have a truly fulfilling life.
- Also, the one thing that Megan cites as being evidence above all that she's a 'normal' girl, her being a cheerleader, actually forms the main outlet of her latent attraction to girls.
- Lesbian Jock: Jan plays softball. Though in a subversion, she's actually straight.
- Lipstick Lesbian: Megan. In the credits they actually have Julie Delpie listed as "Lipstick Lesbian" (the girl at the gay bar.)
- Love Triangle: It's subtle, but present: Sinead has the hots for Graham and starts feeling her up at the gay bar, but Graham denies feeling that way about her and hooks up with Megan soon afterwards. Sinead spots them and becomes jealous and standoffish.
- Male Gaze: Mike visibly ogling Rocky in his power vest and tight short shorts.
- Manly Gay: Rock veers between this and Camp Gay.
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: When pressed to find a 'root' for her homosexuality, Megan hesitantly wonders whether the period where her mother was working and her father took care of the house confused her ideas about the proper roles of men and women. It didn't last very long, though, and her parents are otherwise traditional - Mary still leaped on the idea, though.
- Meganekko: Melanie Lynskey as Hilary.
- Men Are Uncultured: Boys are discouraged to drink decently and care about the woman's pleasure during intercourse.
- Mistaken for Gay: Jan is actually straight and likes boys, but due to her short hair and love of sports everyone incorrectly assumes she's gay due to old stereotypes about how only gay women like traditionally masculine activities. It's implied she's transgender
- No Bisexuals
- Of Corsets Sexy: The girls wear purples while they give each other make-overs.
- One Head Taller: Larry and Lloyd.
- Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Taken to hilarious extremes, as basically everything is that color for the boys and girls. This includes painting the windows of a car blue.
- The Pollyanna: Megan.
- Purple Prose: Mary directing the simulated sexual lifestyle:
Mary: He wants to love you, the way God intended, to be inside you, his love muscle thrusting...
- Only Sane Man: Graham is the most aware of how stupid the camp is.
- Queer Romance
- Rape and Switch: Discussed, but averted - the True Directions staff believe that being molested would cause a girl to turn into a lesbian, but the girl in question is actually straight.
- Refuge in Audacity: The film takes ex-gay camps and makes them look as fluffy and inane as possible while playing up every gay stereotype in American culture to ensure that viewers get the message.
- Rule of Romantic: The lighting during Megan and Graham's love scene makes...well, pretty much no sense whatsoever, but damn if it isn't very, very pretty.
- Sarcasm-Blind: When Megan tries to come up with a cheer celebrating straightness.
Megan: Two, four, sex, eight, God is good-
Megan: ...hey, that's good.
- Schoolgirl Lesbians
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Lloyd and Larry appear like this, but deep down Larry is just as sensitive as Lloyd.
- "Shut Up" Kiss: Megan and Graham's first kiss.
- Situational Sexuality: Hilary cites attendance at an all girls boarding school as causing her lesbianism and Dolph claims that he turned gay from too many locker-room showers. Of course, it's made clear these explanations make no sense.
- Sour Prudes: Graham sees Megan as this initially, but the truth is a lot more complicated.
- Smoking Is Cool: Graham smokes as part of her Bad Girl image.
- Staging an Intervention: Megan's family has an intervention to tell her that she's a lesbian and to send her off to anti-gay camp.
- Strawman Political: The ex-gay counselors.
- Straight Gay: Larry, although his brief fight with his boyfriend had him acting less than manly. Otherwise, he almost looks like a survivalist. Dolph is a smaller example of one, being a varsity wrestler.
- Teacher's Pet: Although the movie isn't set at school, Hilary fits the personality type and seems to act as one towards the counsellors.
- That Came Out Wrong: Near the end of the movie, Joel tries to comfort Andre by telling him he's awesome, but his compliments turn homoerotic pretty quickly.
Joel: You're nice, and clean, and smart, and sexy and firm and luscious and-
Andre: Excuse me. The last thing I need right now is some fruit who's just proved he's straight telling my ass how sexy I am!
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Graham and Megan.
- Tomboyish Name: Graham.
- Too Kinky to Torture: The girls are given tasers that give small electric shocks, and are supposed to use to zap themselves whenever they have "impure" thoughts. But as Sinead likes pain, so she uses it for something else.
- Trans Equals Gay: A big misconception of True Directions, to the point where the 'ungaying' process looks more an attempt to make all of the characters live up to their traditional gender roles more than anything else. This is especially mystifying for Megan, who is femme but gay and Jan, who is butch but straight.
- It's implied that Jan is actually trans
- Transparent Closet: Megan is the most prominent. Notably, every character at the camp except for Jan is written to be in one to leave no doubt that the camp is not working.
- Trial Balloon Question
- Troubled Sympathetic Bigot: Megan's dad seems to genuinely have her best interests at heart and at times seriously questions whether he's doing the right thing by forcing her to repress her sexuality. He seems to be falling prey to bigotry in the middle of the movie when he agrees with his wife that Megan cannot return home unless she becomes straight, but at the very end of the movie there is a brief shot of the two of them at a meeting for parents of LGBT children, indicating they are trying.
- Visual Innuendo: Rock walking out onto the grounds with a broom handle in between his legs, rubbing it up and down...
- Who Wears Short Shorts?: Mike. It's especially noticeable in a scene where he is working under a car with only his legs and crotch visible. As a result, the boys he's working with learn absolutely nothing.
- Rock also wears cut-offs, and Andre wears short shorts at the Cocksucker.