There is nothing that seems so strange and insidious to British viewers of American culture as summer camps. They are a phenomenon that would not be tolerated by British youth – yet the Americans seem to love them and they are commonly seen in American films and television.
But I’m a Cheerleader tells the story of Megan (Natasha Lyonne), a naïve teenager who is sent to a gay rehabilitation camp due to her seemingly deviant behavior – the joke being that she thinks that due to her being a cheerleader, she can’t be anything but ‘normal’. However her friends and family all read the signs and decide that she’s a lesbian who needs help to be straightened out.
Whilst at the camp Megan meets the beautiful Graham (an emo-lesbian girl), and is slowly convinced that she is gay after all, and that she needs to find her True Direction. Along the way the inmates (for want of a better term) are convinced into going to a gay bar and rebelling against the camp by a pair of ex-inhabitants – this indiscretion leads them to be punished and forced to picket their gay friends’ house with homophobic placards. If the film weren’t played out as a campy comedy, it would be easy to be appalled by the gender politics and homophobia.
Luckily however, the film is largely an attack on boring conservative views on sexuality and features lots of camp twinks running around screaming and deep-throating things. The colour scheme is full of pink, green and blues, while the editing is surreal, with lots of characters giving winks and asides to the audience. It has great early performances from Clea Duvall and Michelle Williams and even features RuPaul as a camp (!) leader.
Overall Verdict: A fittingly camp comedy for a film about a gay rehabilitation camp. However it’s a serious message wrapped in a light and funny film. Underrated.
Reviewer: Ollie England