A case study in societal evolution, part 2

When But I’m a Cheerleader came out in 1999 critics seemed to miss the point. From today’s perspective, it is obvious that the story was being told by gay filmmakers for a gay audience.

The portrayal of homophobic “conversion therapists” as cartoonish monsters parallels the portrayal of the white people in the recent film Get Out. When we watch Get Out we understand perfectly well that it’s a film by a black filmmaker focusing on black fears about white people.

Yet in 1999 the idea that gay people could be having that particular conversation within their own community was off the critical radar — it simply sailed right by most reviewers.

For example, David Edelstein in Slate said that the film was one sided, lacked dramatic tension, and was “lazy counterpropaganda”. Cynthia Fuchs in NitrateOnline said “no one who is phobic might recognize himself in the film” and “the audience who might benefit most from watching it either won’t see the film or won’t see the point.”

The fact today that these reviews seem slightly absurd is actually a good thing. It shows that our culture has moved forward in the last twenty years.

More tomorrow.

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