G.B.F; is it Better Inside the Closet or Out?
It all started with a magazine cover; ‘how to win that prom tiara’, ‘the do’s and don’ts of popularity’, ‘fashion trends for this new school year’ that three high school girls took to a new level in an all-out-battle to win the title of prom-queen. The power of ultimate consumerism brainwashes the girls into using the newest popularity-assuring fad that a gay-best-friend would catapult them to the top and they set their sights on their target. The film G.B.F presented at the fifteenth annual Reelout queer film and video festival written by George Northy and directed by Darren Stein depicts the reality of high school teen life; where people are targeted for being different, friendships can be sabotaged overnight and people become pawns in games of power. Filmed in 2013 and released January 17th of 2014, G.B.F is an R rated comedy, chronicling the triumphs and defeats of a group of high school students and a fad that objectifies gay individuals.
G.B.F main character, Tanner (Michael. J. Willett) and his friends plan his coming out but instead Tanner is ‘outed’ by others. B.F.F Brent (Paul Iacono) and Tanner have a major falling out, opening the door for the three most powerful and adversarial girls in the school to befriend Tanner motivated by their own agendas. A girl-war erupts as Barbie-perfect Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse), angelic Mormon ‘Shley (Andrea Bowen) and musical diva Caprice (Xosha Roquemore) battle each other for the perfect prom-accessory molding Tanner into their definition of a ‘fabulous and fierce gay’. Enticed by his new status, Tanner faces a personal ultimatum; sell out to the superficial world of popularity or reconnect with his values and friends.
This is a great movie whether you’re straight or gay, young or old, adult or teen; G.B.F entertains while touching on issues of great social importance and sensitivity. Armed with a super-charged cast who actively deliver wit and wisdom, the message of the movie comes through loud and clear; using people for your own benefit hurts others and in the end hurts you too. While there is no debate that G.B.F will keep you laughing and contributed to the ‘stitch’ I developed in my side, G.B.F is a parody where a fine line separates on the on-screen humour used in portraying events and the reality of the subject matter in people’s lives. In week 4 lecture of Genders 125, Professor Jane Tolmie discusses the risks of using parodies and satire as a vehicle for expressing social messages. If used well the effect on-screen can produce sheer brilliance however, if not, the result can be quite offensive to viewers. While G.B.F didn’t fall into the extremes of either of these categories, as a viewer I often found myself stifling laughs when the parody seemed to jab at sensitive underlying issues.
G.B.F depicts issues related to sexual orientation in an idealistic way. For Tanner, coming out wasn’t that traumatic or stressful, he was accepted by the majority of those in his school, teachers supported him, and a pre-existing school club for gays provided a sense of community and belonging. The consequences at home seemed just as idyllic, Tanner’s parents were accepting of his orientation having sensed it for some time and there was almost a feeling of relief that their son had finally caught up to what they suspected. In reality we live in a binary world where heteronormativity is considered to be the acceptable way to live life, playing into existing regimes of power and enforcing ableism as discussed in great detail in week’s 5 and 6 lecture of Genders 125. Within society certain members or groups of individuals hold power and authority over others based on rules and norms determined by the ruling group. Class readings have shed considerable light on the fact that within western society able power resides in white heterosexual individuals (Aulette and Wittner 80). In G.B.F the gender spectrum is altered, ultimately twisting it from the conventional norm where power and emphasis on protagonist characters include binary sex division and individuals classify themselves as heterosexuals (Week 3 Class Attachment). In G.B.F Tanner may appear to hold power and the upper-hand over Fawcett, ‘Shley and Caprice because of something he has that they want but in the world off the Hollywood screen that is not reality; there are real issues between sex, gender, sexuality and who people associate with.
Despite the movies focus on issues of sexual orientation the ‘whiteness’ of the cast can’t be ignored. Ethnocentrism is alive and well in the white culture that dominates the screen with a token black actress (Aulette and Wittner 83). The character of Caprice fulfills the racial stereotype of the young, black woman, portrayed as a diva, she is the ‘all-about-me-girl’ filled with attitude and sass (Aulette and Wittner 111). As well as racial ethnocentrism, G.B.F depicts ethnocentricity of religion impacting the character of ‘Shley. Singled out as a Mormon, ‘Shley and her church group are openly ridiculed bearing the brunt of the evil oppressor in the school.
Thanks to Stein’s formidable directing G.B.F plays to some very strong technical components including settings, costumes, and mainstream music that contribute to an air of lighthearted spirit energized through a well-stacked cast that delivers fast-paced dialogue surrounded by flashy glitz and beauty. While I found it very entertaining, aspects of G.B.F seemed to parallel the film Mean Girls written by Tina Fey and directed by Mark Waters, released in April of 2004. The story of a teen leading a double life and trying to balance between two groups, caught up in the consequences of power and authority, the reality of objectification, finally reaching the moment of truth where all is revealed in a highly public setting for everyone to see and hear.
The Reelout queer film and video festival opened my eyes to the diversity of film providing an opportunity to explore social issues through this media form in a thought-provoking and meaningful way. Movies are made to watch, share and discuss whether it happens with a small group of friends sitting at Tim Horton’s or Starbucks or more formally in a tutorial. Films and film festivals can be a great catalyst bringing people together over social issues. My hope is that movies like G.B.F and other gender diverse films become mainstream, breaking through the barriers of social dictate into the full view of the public eye. They have a lot to say and we, as a society have a lot to learn.
– S entry.
– The Movie G.B.F
– G.B.F cast and director information: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2429074/
– Mean girls cast and director information: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0377092/
– Reelout site: http://www.reelout.com
– Reelout G.B.F page: http://www.reelout.com/event/7pm-g-b-f/
– Lecture Material: Tolmie, Jane. “Week Slides” . Queen’s University. Queen’s University, Kingston, ON. January- February 2014. Lecture.
– Class Book: Auletter, Judy Root, and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2012. Print.
– Week 3 Class Attachment Site: https://www.genderspectrum.org/understanding-gender
– G.B.F Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6DJSGrfNbk
– Picture #1: http://d1oi7t5trwfj5d.cloudfront.net/c1/fe/31be3b464e579190325ceedaad8f/gbf-1.jpg
– Picture #2: http://www.thefilmcollaborative.org/_images/slate_images/gbf/gbf-web/gbf-slo_mo_strut.jpg
– Picture #3: http://thenypost.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/gbf_12_87511989.jpg