A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that But I'm a Cheerleader depicts teenage gays and lesbians in their first sexual experiences. There's kissing and making out by boys with boys and girls with girls. There's also implied masturbation and one sex scene (handled discretely -- you don't see anything). Teens go to a gay bar called the "C--ksucker." Parents reject their children for their sexual orientation and the teens must find a place to live when they fail to become straight. There's also some cursing, smoking, and 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 their feelings about homosexuality and efforts to change gay kids' sexual orientation. What do you think about homophobia and discrimination faced by gay and lesbian teens? How have cultural opinions toward gay people changed over time?
Talk about gender roles and stereotypes. Teens: Do you feel the pressure to conform to specific gender standards?
- 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: September 20, 2019
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