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Straight-Out Awful

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 14, 2000


    'But I'm a Cheerleader' Clea DuVall and Natasha Lyonne in "But I'm a Cheerleader." (Lions Gate Films)
Two, four, six, eight! Name a movie we really hate!


This relentlessly offensive indie farce flails away at the notion that gay people can be "straightened out" through deprogramming. Not that any normal human being would want to become anything but celibate after seeing the movie's ludicrous depictions of both hetero- and homosexuals.

First-time director Jamie Babbit and screenwriter Brian Wayne Peterson probably find these stereotypes screamingly funny, but they are as witless as this tiresome, thematically fatuous tale. Apparently RuPaul in a "Straight Is Great" T-shirt--while obviously yearning for a boa--strikes them as a wonderfully droll addition to this tale of a sexually confused teenager.

Natasha Lyonne, fresh from "Slums of Beverly Hills," brings froggy-eyed dopiness to the role of Megan, an all-American pompom princess whose conservative Christian parents (Bud Cort and Mink Stole) discover posters of Melissa Etheridge on her bedroom wall.

They see this, and her refusal to eat meat, as sure signs of lesbianism, so they pack her off to True Directions, a rehabilitation center dedicated to sexual reorientation.

Mary Brown (Cathy Moriarty) runs the facility with help from her hunky son, Rock (Eddie Cibrian). Mary, despotic but dim, has yet to realize that Rock is obviously a member of the club himself. And he's one happy camper all right.

Mary's methods are hopelessly dated and not as campy as the filmmakers think. The girls bunk in one cabin and the boys in the other! That's like waving a red flag at a bull. Megan and the other kids undergo a silly, repetitious 12-step program that begins with acknowledging their homosexuality. Once over that hurdle, the girls, all dressed in Pepto-Bismol pink uniforms, learn how to keep a clean house, try on wedding gowns and change a dolly's diapers.

And the guys, in their Blue Boy outfits, are portrayed as flitty, whiny and incapable of performing such macho acts as playing football and chopping wood. Their wrists are just too limp to hold a big old ax. Such activities, of course, are innate only to real men in plaid flannel shirts with unleaded testosterone coursing through their bloodstreams.

In the same vein, apparently only straight women keep their houses tidy, rear children or wear girly costumes as they make lifetime commitments to someone they love. Yeah, sure. Straight or gay, these filmmakers don't have any respect for anybody.

Whether you lean to the left or lean to the right, movies like this make you want to stand up and fight. Hiss. Boo. Bah.

BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER (81 minutes, at the Cineplex Odeon Mazza Gallerie and Dupont Circle) is rated R.


© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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