Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

But She's Serious

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

But She's Serious

Article excerpt

Director Jamie Babbit pokes fun at "ex-gay" rehabs in But I'm a Cheerleader but she's intent on exposing their dangers

"I never thought of myself as a lesbian in high school, but everyone else thought I was," recalls Jamie Babbit, the director of the new absurdist comedy But I'm a Cheerleader. Babbit, who grew up in Ohio, says her image of lesbians never transcended athletic, butch dykes who excel at softball. Of course, Babbit didn't think she was one of those. In fact, when she came out in college, her baffled mother said, "But you were never good at sports."

Sitting outside a Los Angeles cafe, her blue eyes intense and focused, the 29-year-old Babbit displays a confidence that belies her youth. She was just 25 when she came up with the idea for But I'm a Cheerleader after reading an article about a man who had gone through a "homosexual rehab" program. The experience had left him seething with self-hatred. "I wanted to criticize this phenomenon but in a comedic way," Babbit explains. "Using a rehab program to help a drug addict is one thing, but a homosexual? I thinks it's an artist's job to poke fun at social issues."

Babbit also had firsthand knowledge about rehabilitation programs. Her mother ran a halfway house for kids with drug and alcohol problems. In fact, she grew up with the 12 steps posted on the wall above her bed. Fascinated by the theme of repression, Babbit decided to develop the idea into a feature-length film. A friend hooked her up with openly gay screenwriter Brian Wayne Peterson, who had recently graduated from the University of Southern California's film school, and the two began to develop the story. Eventually Andrea Sperling, an independent film producer and Babbit's partner of five years, raised the money and produced the movie.

Natasha Lyonne plays Megan, a good girl who's more obsessed with her cheerleading squad (and their bright orange sports bras) than with her football star boyfriend, who insists on marathon French-kissing sessions. When her friends and family stage an "intervention" to confront her about her latent homosexuality--they suspect her because she eats tofu and has a Melissa Etheridge poster--Megan replies in disbelief, "I'm not a pervert; I'm a cheerleader!" Her parents ship her off to a homosexual rehabilitation camp where--surprise--she discovers she is a lesbian and falls in love with an acerbic fellow camper named Graham (Clea DuVall). …

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