25 Gay Films Everyone Should See, Part 3D

BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER (1999)

But I'm a Cheerleader

But I’m a Cheerleader

It’s not easy to walk the comedic line between reinforcing stereotypes and subverting them, but that deft navigation is what makes But I’m a Cheerleader one of the funnier gay comedies of the past few decades. Director Jamie Babbit’s satirical take on the ”ex-gay” movement is light-years ahead of the sophomoric Eating Out and Not Another Gay Movie, carving out its own niche rather than aping the hetero formula of American Pie. Not that Cheerleader lacks for silliness and camp. RuPaul stars out of drag as a counselor at ”True Directions,” where cheerleader Megan (Natasha Lyonne) is sent to correct her budding lesbianism. Cathy Moriarty chews the scenery — colored in gender-reinforcing garish pinks and blues — as the camp director. Despite a couple of heavy-handed moments, Cheerleader‘s raucous romp proves that one of the best ways to tear apart a movement that aims to ”change” us is one of the easiest — simply laughing at them. –Sean Bugg

CABARET (1972)

Cabaret

Cabaret

As a young gay man, the English writer Christopher Isherwood spent much of the pre-war 1930s in Germany. His novel, Berlin Stories, a combination of two smaller pieces based on that experience was published in 1945. Jump a few years to 1969, and Judy Garland dies of an overdose in New York. Some say the untimely death of this gay favorite may have helped ignite the Stonewall Riots a week later. Then, in 1972, Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli, stars in the Oscar-winning screen adaptation of the 1966 Broadway musical Cabaret, based on Isherwood’s stories. At the time, anything gay was groundbreaking and controversial, yet here was a mainstream blockbuster — featuring a gay character (Michael York’s Brian) — able to hold its ground for its Kander and Ebb score and Bob Fosse direction and choreography alone. But it went further, maintaining one of Isherwood’s central observations that, try as one might, gay is gay, and you can’t easily put a gay peg in straight hole. From its nonfiction roots to its decades-later mainstream reception, Cabaret, when paired with its backstory of pushpins along a timeline of gay history, is a masterpiece bridging the gay zeitgeist of different eras. –Will O’Bryan

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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