The synopsis: What happens after Tanner is outed by his classmates and becomes the title ‘gay best friend’ for three high school queen bees?
I was wrong.
There have been some comparisons with Clueless. I think only time will tell if it’s as timeless as that film. It has nods to Carrie, Mean Girls, and feels like a modern John Hughes film, like Sixteen Candles or Pretty In Pink.
It sasses along, chock full of teen speak – just like Clueless. There are more ‘whatevs’ and ‘totes’ ‘obvi’ ‘amazeballs’ per scene than ever before. Soon you get used to this, and it adds to the film’s charm.
Tanner has a friend, Brent Van Camp, who's trying to work out how/if to come out at high school. This storyline about their platonic friendship is very touching and funny. It's made even funnier by Brent's mum being played by Megan *Karen from Will & Grace* Mullally, including a scene where they watch Brokeback Mountain together.
I loved the scenes when the queen bees each asked Tanner stereotypical gay best friend questions: ‘Does this dress suit me?’ or ‘Can you give me sex tips for my boyfriend?’ or ‘Say fierce in that special way’ and ‘Gays don’t eat carbs’.
What makes this work, and prevents it descending into patronising stereotype is that Tanner, isn’t really *that* gay – based on the stereotypical questions he’s asked. One of the queen bees says, ‘You’re the secret gay – but you’re not even that fabulous.’ Yes stereotypes are based, in part, on truth. Yes there are gay men who are into those things. But it’s not the only way to be gay.
Tanner isn’t into musicals, doesn’t want to do a play at high school, isn’t into fashion or clothing, hasn’t slept with another man yet. He’s just a quiet 17 year old man who’s into comic books, and just happens to be attracted to men, not women.
Tanner takes a male date to the prom, and as he poses for a photo next to his ‘boy toy’ and the queen bee says ‘aah’ Tanner replies that’s the noise girls make when they see cute animals dressed in human clothes, so it feels a bit odd having girls saying it to him and another man. ‘Ew. Gross, barf’ is the girls' joking response, which Tanner and his prom date are happier with. I’ve had similar situations where people have tried to show how totally OK they are with me being gay so it actually tips over into being a bit *pats head and treats you like a kitten* which is almost as bad as mild homophobia.
Tanner says he doesn’t want to be a fashion accessory to the queen bees. He doesn’t want to be a gay best friend, to go to a gay prom, he just wants to be a friend, a best friend, go to a prom, and for the ‘gay’ part to be silent. Tanner wants to be a person first, then the gay, rather than a gay first then the person. And I think that’s all most of us really want.
Have you seen this film? Does it sound like your cup of tea? Have you seen the other films it references? If you like the sound of its sassy, campy high school teen, friendship themes, my first novel, Best Friends Perfect Book One which is out 4 June. Kieran and Jo are the British Tanner & Brent of the nineties.
Until next time,
Liam Livings xx