You probably wouldn’t know it from looking at the box office grosses, but the late 90s was a fruitful period for queer cinema. A few mainstream successes broke through – The Birdcage, To Wong Foo, In & Out – but there was also a slew of future cult classics that initially struggled to gain much traction beyond the festival circuit, but endured as future cult classics thanks to DVD and late night TV screenings.
These movies included Edge of Seventeen, Beautiful Thing, Bound and possibly the most beloved of them all, Jamie Babbit’s But I’m a Cheerleader, which blended John Waters-inspired camp with a disarming injection of heart and soul, winning the affection of LGBT viewers for decades to come.
But I’m a Cheerleader stars Natasha Lyonne as Megan, the titular cheerleader who finds herself packed off to a gay conversion camp by her religiously conservative parents (played by Bud Cort and Mink Stole, two of the numerous casting in-jokes the movie makes).
Once there she encounters a host of bizarre characters including ‘ex gay’ camp counsellor Mike (RuPaul) and the tyrannical Mary Brown (Cathy Moriarty) who rules the camp with an iron fist wrapped in a vomit-pink wardrobe.
She also falls in love with Graham (Clea Duvall) a rebellious fellow inmate who seems to have little interest in becoming a heterosexual. Lyonne and Duvall were already lifelong friends when the movie was made, and their tender chemistry provides the heart of the movie – doubtless factoring into the sexual awakenings of many adolescent girls at the time.
On this week’s podcast we’re joined by our honorary third co-host Louise (and her dog Lara in the background, apologies for the noise!) to discuss some of our favourite But I’m a Cheerleader moments, including RuPaul’s wandering accent, a truly disturbing mother-son relationship and a very directly named gay bar!
We’ll also bring you our usual blend of drinking games, listener reactions and sequel pitches to bring this film back to the big screen – this is definitely a reunion we’d all love to see after all!
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Next week, we’re sticking to the world of camp with our first ever John Waters movie. Until then, happy listening and remember – always spay and neuter your pets…