Natasha Lyonne and Melanie Lynskey reflect on playing lesbians in the 1999 cult classic movie
BY ELLA GAUCI, IMAGE BY LIONSGATE
Before we had films like The Miseducation Of Cameron Post or Carol, we had the cult classic film But I’m A Cheerleader. Directed by Jamie Babbit, the film quickly became one of the most influential LGBTQIA films at the time as it took a satirical look at homophobia and conversion camps.
The film followed two teenagers sent to the conversion camp True Directions which was supposed to “cure” them of their homosexuality. While neither Melanie or Natasha identify as queer, both have shown fantastic allyship to the community over the years.
Its leading actresses Melanie Lynskey and Natasha Lyonne sat down with Variety for their Actors On Actors series to reminisce about the power of the film.
“At the time, nobody liked it, and now everybody likes it. I do feel like the movie was very ahead of its time,” Melanie reflected.
Ahead of its time, it most certainly was. But I’m A Cheerleader was a pioneering film for queer representation on screen as a majority of the cast were LGBTQIA actors. The film opened up dialogues about conversion camps and discrimination.
Melanie asked Natasha: “Did you have any hesitation, I guess, telling that story about somebody who was in conversion therapy?”
“I was not hesitant at all,” Natasha replied. “I’m consistently shocked by the things we consider shocking. I find it very patronising when we say something like, ‘Oh, did you see that this straight male actor is playing gay? Bravo.’ And it never crossed my mind to not try to use the arts to tell the truth about what’s going on. When Clea and I were on the cover of Out magazine, it just seemed so weird to me that people would care. It felt like what you’re supposed to care about is the conversion-therapy part.”
The initial response to But I’m A Cheerleader was negative, receiving a score of 42% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it is now lauded as one of the best lesbian films of all time.
What frustrates Natasha the most at the moment? “And I would say my biggest beef with the world is how insane it seems to me that certain people think they have a God-given right to tell other people how to live. And you’re seeing all these crazy things happening now – we’re going to remove facts from books.”
We love you both Natasha and Melanie!
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