A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the 1999 satire But I'm a Cheerleader depicts teen characters having their first same-sex sexual experiences. There's implied masturbation and one sex scene (handled discreetly). Teens go to a gay bar called the "C--ksucker." Parents reject their kids for their sexual orientation, and the teens must find a place to live when they fail to become straight. There's also some cursing ("f--k," "s--t," "ass"), smoking, and underage drinking.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER, Megan (Natasha Lyonne) is an innocent. As she says, "I'm not perverted! I go to church, I get good grades... I'm a cheerleader!" But her parents and friends suspect she has an "unnatural" attraction toward other girls. Their proof? She's vegetarian, she listens to Melissa Etheridge, she has pictures of girls in her locker, and she hates kissing her boyfriend. They whisk her off to True Directions, a campy version of real-life ex-gay ministries, to straighten her out. Surrounded by fey boys and some tough girls, Megan realizes she's attracted to girls and starts a relationship with one of the girls (Clea DuVall). Meanwhile, True Directions instructors Mike (de-dragged RuPaul) and Mary (Cathy Moriarty) try to bring them back into the heterosexual fold with instruction on proper gender roles and talk therapy.
Is it any good?
But I'm a Cheerleader is a satire, and as such, is over-the-top. Girls aren't just girls -- they wear pink and live in sickeningly-pink bedrooms. Boys aren't just boys -- they all should learn how to fix cars and play sports. And they definitely shouldn't be gay. But behind all the camp, this is a love story between two girls. It's the classic girl meets girl, girl loses girl, girl tries to get girl back.
But the obvious creepiness of True Directions gets tiring. Director Jamie Babbitt doesn't trust you to understand their icky tactics. Instead, she has Mary "planting" plastic flowers and everyone wearing ridiculously gender-specific colors (pink and blue, natch). In the end, if you can get past the preaching and the campiness, what you have is a love story and a lesson for teens about being true to who you really are -- no matter how strong the pressure is to be otherwise.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about satire. How does the movie use satire to make its point?
Talk about gender roles and stereotypes. How does the movie use these gender roles and stereotypes to express its view?
This movie was released in the '90s; is it still relevant today? Why or why not?
- In theaters: July 10, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: July 22, 2003
- Cast: Cathy Moriarty, Clea Duvall, Natasha Lyonne, Ru Paul
- Director: Jamie Babbitt
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual situations and adult subject matter
- Last updated: June 7, 2021
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