Why the film “But I’m a Cheerleader” condemning conversion therapy remains an unheralded masterpiece
This whimsically edgy comedy follows teenager Megan (Natasha Lyonne), whose suburban existence filled with friends, cheerleading, and all-American fun is upended when her straight-laced parents suspect she may be a lesbian. In a panic, they send her to True Directions, a "rehabilitation" camp run by the strict and prudish Mary (Cathy Moriarty), to mount an intervention led by counselor Mike (RuPaul Charles). Megan dutifully follows the program - until she develops feelings for another camper in this timeless, satirical romantic-comedy about self-acceptance and love, costarring Michelle Williams, Clea DuVall, and Julie Delpy.
Thanks to the MPAA effectively censoring the film from its intended audience (NC17) and a slew of scathing reviews (from heterosexual critics, mind you) But I’m a Cheerleader never took off in the way that it should have. Over the years, its gained status as a cult favorite, and queer critics have been particularly kind to the film, recognizing it as far ahead of its time (1999). With its cast including legends like Lyonne, Duvall, Melanie Lynskey and freaking RuPaul, it’s my hope that this groundbreaking exploration of conversion therapy will earn its place as a bonafide classic someday.