Where I Watched it: Amazon
English Audio Description?: No
When you first come out of the closet, the first thing you are given (aside from a Rupaul lexicon so you know all the trendiest phrases) is a copy of But I’m A Cheerleader. I lost mine. I know it’s around here somewhere, but according to the marketing of bros, nothing existed before that, so perhaps this was just a 90’s fever dream.
The 90’s certainly were a very interesting time in the evolution of independent cinema, especially queer cinema. I sadly grew up in the Bible Belt, so our movie theatres rarely got anything controversial. Luckily films like The Birdcage and To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar had major stars, because when it came time for Priscilla Queen Of The Desert and but I’m A Cheerleader, they were nowhere to be found. Yes, it eventually found it’s way to my video rental store, but the list of films I haven’t seen is far more depressing than just this film.
But when Amazon suggested this to me, prioritizing it over others, i figured why the hell not? Sadly, it lacks audio description, which I was expecting for a 90’s indie comedy, but still I hold out hope that the cult fanbase this still has after all this time will one day lead to audio description following an eventual Anniversary release.
But the 90’s were such a different time. It’s got a 90’s cast, for sure, including Cathy Moriarty and Rupaul, but also 90’s teen staples like natasha Lyonne, Clea Duvall, and Michelle Williams. But otherwise, the thing that struck me the most in 2023 about this film was that it was able to find a “pray the gay away camp” to be somewhat funny. We are a long way from Boy Erased.
Of course, while being LGBT in the 90’s was certainly no picnic, we hadn’t yet had a Presidential candidate in Michelle Bachman, who had close ties to conversion therapy. We hadn’t fully opened up about those experiences to create a film like Boy Erased. It’s not that But I’m A Cheerleader is off base, it’s certainly much better than They/Them, but seeing this now makes me wish I had seen it then. Sometimes, it’s easier to fully appreciate something in the period whence it was intended.
And for a film that lacks audio description, understanding is everything. While this didn’t feel like the pinnacle of gay cinema for me, partially due to me not always knowing what was going on, it’s hard not to love Natasha Lyonne already showing her full potential here. It may not be the most time friendly film, but it certainly offers it’s own Time Capsule glean to a time when gay cinema was left for the art houses unless you had Robin Williams or Wesley Snipes.
Final Grade: B+