But I'm A Cheerleader

on July 07, 2000 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
When Megan (Natasha Lyonne), a typical American teenager/cheerleader, is suspected of being a lesbian by her friends and family, she is promptly shipped off to True Directions, a rehabilitation camp that promises to "cure" her of being gay. But things don't work out quite as expected, especially when Megan meets the sexy Graham (Clea DuVall). Certainly, this is a ripe subject for satire, considering that camps like this really exist. And "But I'm A Cheerleader" does have some great gags, like showcasing famous drag performer RuPaul as the butch camp counselor and ex-gay whose job is to straighten the boys out. It also provides an amusing laundry list of reasons Megan's parents think she's homosexual, such as her vegetarianism and her Melissa Etheridge poster. But, mostly, the film misses by a mile. Had it been more in the vein of Alexander Payne's gleefully vicious "Citizen Ruth," which equally spoofed both the pro-choice and anti-abortion movements in order to make its biting satirical points, "But I'm A Cheerleader" might have registered. But it refuses challenge viewer perceptions and prejudices, as it could have done by linking the militant gays who oppose True Directions with the likes of the homophobic camp matron (Cathy Moriarty). "But I'm A Cheerleader" also soft-pedals the fundamentalist Christian thinking behind places like True Directions. Even the film's mild, candy-coated satire is eventually jettisoned in favor of an earnest plea for tolerance and letting people be who they are. If good satire is fearless and takes no prisoners, "But I'm A Cheerleader" is craven and compromised. Starring Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall and Cathy Moriarty. Directed by Jamie Babbit. Written by Brian Wayne Peterson. Produced by Andrea Sperling and Leanna Creel. Comedy. A Fine Line release. Not yet rated. Running time: 85 min.
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