16 Jun 2014


Films have formulas and rules, but how well do films follow those formulas?  What about Lesbian Romance films, do they follows a strict formula and a set of rules?

But I'm A Cheerleader is a farce about a girl who doesn't realise she's a lesbian who family hold an intervention and being taken to a special camp to be cured.  As such it parodies the hegemony's treatment of homosexuals, 12 step programs and many of this film genre's conventions.

The following analysis may contain spoilers for

But I'm A Cheerleader (1999)

Natasha Lyonne - Pink is the new Grey.

RULE #1 - A Coming Out Story

Megan is a cheerleader with a boyfriend she know's she straight, but everyone else think's she's a homosexual and needs to be cured.  She's soon discovers that they're right.


RULE #2 - There May Be T&A

The film certainly plays up Megan having the male gaze.  Mostly cheerleaders.  Cheerleaders somersaulting, jumping and flipping short skirts.   Cheerleaders with large bouncing breasts in tight tops with erect... anyway, I'm sure you get the point, Megan likes looking at girls.

There is, however, no nudity.  Unless you count dressing in skin-coloured body suits with fake Adam-and-Eve leaves on them.  Which I don't.  And neither should you.

The making love scenes between Megan and Graham in the film are all fully clothed kissing scenes.  Probably less than even most Rom-Coms, but not far off those of the period.  There may be more kissing of body-parts, but that starts to get pretty subjective and I've not going to rewatch the scene over and over.  I think.

RULE #3 - Unsatisfied

She's so into him.
Megan is dating Jared, but doesn't enjoy kissing him and thinks of women when they do make out.  They also haven't had sex, but she claims this is because she's a good Christian girl.  Everyone else thinks this is a sure sign she's into girls.  Otherwise she seems happy with her life, even the "girliness" and cheerleading.

RULE #4 - Enter the Lesbian

Graham (note the masculine name) is an inmate at the camp and the only one rejecting the heteronormatity being pushed.  Short haired outcast (at the camp and at home).
Clea DuVall playing a lesbian.
There are characters with more outcast looks (dykier-looking or goth) but they try to accept the program more... and, of course, aren't as attractive to men, even though one eventually admits to being straight despite her look (and obvious comment on stereotyping - which is something this blog would never do except when it does it constantly.)

RULE #5 - Just Good Friends

Graham actually spends a lot of time criticising Megan.  Well, she pretty much criticises everyone and everything at the camp (and fair enough) but especially Megan who thinks she's a bit of a princess and more feminine than most of the other inmates.  That, of course, changes...

RULE #6 - Rejection By Friends and Family

As noted, the film pretty much begins with an intervention, so the entire basis of the film is a rejection (until she can be "cured").  In fact, the rejection probably occurred before the film started.

RULE #7 - Will They, Won't They/On Again, Off Again

A touching moment
As noted, Graham and Megan start with a combative relationship.  Very rom-com.  Then they start to get have feelings for each other.  Then Graham dancing with another girl leads to jealousy, kissing and an acknowledgement of true feelings.  Their relationship progresses and Graham pretends more and more to conform.  They are caught together and separated because Graham refuses to stop pretending to be straight.

RULE #8 - Redemption/Acceptance

Although the last were hear of Megan's parents during the film they had refused to let her return home after being thrown out of New Directions, during the closing credits, Megan's father, Peter, is shown speaking at a PFLAG meeting.  Megan's mother is in the audience but looks embarrassed to be there and is keeping herself well covered.

RULE #9 - Happily Ever After?

Megan ruins Graham's "graduation" and runs off.  Graham runs after her and they kiss and leave together.  As usual one assumes they end up happily ever after.

RULE #10 - No Sequels

No sequels, but Natasha Lyonne (Megan) and Clea DuVall (Graham) have both played lesbians a number of times in other films and television shows.


  • Rules that are followed in this film:  1; 3; 4; 6; 7; 9; 10.
  • Rules that are partially followed in this film:  2; 5; 8.
~ DUG.
Remember to do the survey to determine the fourth genre to be tested.
Check out the schedule for upcoming Film Rules films to be reviewed.
Also a question for the comments...  Do people prefer the alternating between 2 sets of rules or would they like to see one set finished before the next starts?

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