AUGUST 11: But I’m A Cheerleader is released (…


On this day in 2000, the movie But I’m A Cheerleader was first released in the United States. Now
a cult classic, the movie tells the story of a young lesbian named Megan who is
sent off to a gay rehabilitation camp – or “homosexuals anonymous” as her
mother puts it. Despite the seemingly heavy subject material, But I’m A Cheerleader pokes fun at the concept of “praying the gay away” and is more therapeutic than any ex-gay camp could ever hope to be. 

The first film from director Jamie Babbit, But I’m A Cheerleader is most remembered
for its genuine humor, John Waters camp-style sets, and the unforgettable chemistry between
its two leads – Clea Duvall and faux-lesbian icon Natasha Lyonne. Played by
Lyonne, the movie starts off by following Megan through her daily routine of
gazing longingly at the cut-out photos of models in her locker, cringing
through makeout sessions with her boyfriend, and, of course, attending
cheerleading practice. The movie’s titular line is spoken when Megan is
bombarded one day by her friends and family in a pseudo-intervention/reverse
coming out; to the accusation that she’s a lesbian, she can only respond “…but
I’m a cheerleader!” However, despite the obvious oxymoron of a lesbian cheerleader,
Megan’s parents insist that she drop everything and pack her bags for the
ex-gay camp called True Directions.

At True Directions, the boys fix cars, play football, and
chop firewood while the girls swaddle baby dolls, wear skirts, and
vacuum monochrome carpets in hopes to become True Men™

and True Women™

. Amongst all the madness, Megan finally
realizes that not only is she in fact a lesbian, but that she also kind of has
a thing for Graham, the only other girl at camp who is unconvinced by the
ridiculousness of these activities. With the stage set and the characters
positioned exactly how you want them to be, the story plays out in a perfectly
fluffy, romcom rhythm. The two girls fall in love by sneaking out late at night
to nearby gay bars and rolling their eyes at various True Directions tasks,
only to ditch the camp’s “graduation ceremony” and officially run off
into the sunset together at the movie’s climax. It’s not in spite of, but rather, because of this expected story line that LGBT folk have kept this movie on repeat well into the
21st century; rarely are lesbians given the type of aesthetically
pleasing, teeny-bopper story that But I’m
a Cheerleader
has to offer, and much less one that continues to make you laugh
with each and every re-watch.