Megan (Natasha Lyonne) is a gay. Megan’s parents know she’s gay, Megan’s friends know she’s gay, and even Megan’s boyfriend knows she’s gay. Everyone, it seems, knows that Megan is gay… except Megan herself. Due to her small-town upbringing, catastrophically hetero-normative environment, and affinity for cheerleading, Megan simply assumes that she’s straight. She doesn’t understand that sexual orientation is a feeling, and not an action, and that straight girls don’t lust after the girls in magazines, or decorate their rooms with vaginal motifs.
Unfortunately for her, Megan entertains the possibility that she’s a lesbian and comes out just in time for her parents to pack her up and sent her out to True Directions, a “reparative therapy” camp which uses outdated psychology, a smattering of religious fear tactics, and violently-reinforced societal gender roles to “correct” the sexual orientation of gay and bisexual teens. Megan is determined to put in the work, make her parents proud, and come home “normal”. This proves easier said that done when Megan meets Graham (Clea DuVall), a brooding, mysterious college student who’s at the camp in a last-ditch effort to hold on to her trust fund.
Admitting that you have a “problem” is the first step to recovery, and when Megan finally admits that she’s gay, she starts seeing the people around her much differently. And as she dives headfirst into the toxic, bigoted environment of True Directions, we start see the barely hidden hypocrisy shimmering beneath the surface. Away from her friends and family, and experiencing love for the first time, Megan finds herself further rejecting the environment of True Directions one in which the campers are psychologically, verbally, and physically violated for the sake of “normalcy”, and treated as pariahs by the very families who claim to love them.
Although brimming with stereotypes (i.e. all lesbians are vegetarian and listen to Melissa Etheridge, gay men of colour are all effeminate, out lesbians don’t wear bras, etc.), But I’m A Cheerleader does an excellent job at calling out the gross lack of autonomy so many families afford LGBTQIA youth, and how so many people are more than willing to irrevocably traumatize and alienate those whom need their protection and compassion the most.
As Megan journeys to herself, with so many trusted authority figures standing between her and living her truth, the audience can’t help but cheer for this cheerleader. Combating homophobic bigotry with wit, satire, and truth, But I’m A Cheerleader remains, sadly, incredibly relevant, and remarkably hilarious and poignant after all these years.
I give this one 4.25 stars.