“But I’m a Cheerleader” so profusely exaggerates its entire premise that the picture crosses the line from being merely satirical of an already much-satirized society to being downright stupid. The continuously hyperbolic nature of the film would be offensive enough to draw complaint from both homosexuals and heterosexuals but for the fact that such protest would be dignifying the absurd and thus shedding unneeded light onto what really amounts to no more than sheer silliness.
Megan (Natasha Lyonne), the captain of her high school’s cheerleading squad, is, on the surface, as spunky yet typical a teen as one could imagine. Her parents love her and her boyfriend is obsessed with her. But Megan has a secret that not even she has come to terms with: she is a lesbian. When she kisses her boyfriend, she thinks of fellow cheerleaders; rather than loosely-clad guys, her posters feature well-endowed women and when she sees her pals with little on, her mind wanders into clearly homosexual territory.
Actually, it seems that Megan is the only one who isn’t in on her little secret. Imagine her surprise when her family and friends confront her one morning and not only explain that they understand her sexual preference better than her, because they have noticed her Melissa Etheridge posters and vegetarianism (both, we are told, are clear signs of lesbianism) but that they are sending her to an expensive, yet highly reputable, program called “True Directions” to literally straighten her out.
Studio: Lions Gate Films
Release Date: July 7, 2000 (limited)
Budget: Not Available
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Director: Jamie Babbit
Producers: Leanna Creel, Andrea Sperling, et all…
Writer: Brian Wayne Peterson
Stars: Natasha Lyonne, Mink Stole, RuPaul Charles and Clea DuVall
“True Directions” is very much akin to Hollywood’s fictional mental institutions in that it sends a person to your house to pick you up, houses its occupants in dorm-like buildings with little supervision and features Clea DuVall (Georgina from “Girl, Interrupted”) as its most attractive female occupant. Like many Hollywood loony-bins, you can tell right off the bat that the place is full of phonies. RuPaul, out of drag, plays Mike, the head male counselor (actually, the only male counselor from what we gather). Mike wears a shirt proclaiming “Straight is Great,” drives a pink van and, at one point or another, goes through all of the stereotypically gay movements. Yet, Mike insists that he is “an ex-gay” even though our suspicions suggest otherwise. Those suspicions are confirmed when he gawks at another male.
Of course, Mike is merely an example of the filmmaker’s message: you are what you are and nothing can change that. Megan is a lesbian, whether by genetic predisposition or choice is irrelevant, and she will remain a lesbian at heart no matter how much propaganda “True Directions” preaches into her ears.
But it isn’t Megan vs. The World or even Megan vs. Goliath ” she does have allies. To begin with, the program’s leader makes the mistake of housing a bunch of teens with raging hormones together ” all of whom share the same sexual preference and hoping that the simple “no sex” rule will actually be followed. Ha! Also, aside from her roommates” support, Megan discovers what she refers to as the “underground homo railroad,” two gay men who dropped out of the “True Directions” program and, from time to time, take its current pupils out for a secret night field trip to “Cocksucker,” the local gay bar. To and fro, they preach anti-conversion the message that director Jamie Babbit is clearly endorsing.
Yet, for reasons unbeknownst to this critic, Babbit feels the need to further ridicule Megan’s fictional “True Directions” by making it into the ultimate stereotype training facility. The girls “dorm is pink, the guys” is blue. The girls learn housework, the guys study auto-repair. And if the guys misbehave, they have to spend the whole weekend watching sports. The whole thing feels like something Lewis Carroll might have written.
The last few scenes of “But I’m a Cheerleader” exercise a set of clich’s as old as pompoms and ridiculous as Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri’s Spartan Spirit cheerleaders. But hey, given the ridiculous nature of the previous 70-someodd minutes of the film, the cast could have joined arms, formed a chorus line and pumped out a rendition of “Springtime for Hitler” and I doubt that anyone would be surprised.