WHY YOU CAN'T DE-GAY A GAY
By Sara Darling
A film about a Christian boot camp in deep America might not sound like a barrel of laughs; But this tender and humane story of lesbian teenager Cameron Post, who was shipped off to God’s Promise, a remote gay conversion therapy centre in the middle of nowhere, is something that will make you think.
In 1993 Montana, sixteen year old Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz) is caught by her boyfriend Jamie having consensual sex with her schoolmate Coley in the back seat of a car at their Homecoming dance.
When the boyfriend shops them, Cameron's religious aunt Ruth is plagued with guilt and sends her off to repent at a secluded retreat for teenagers with Same Sex Attraction (SSA). Cameron’s room mate, Erin has been at the camp for some time, and has embraced the mission fully- seemingly really wanting to be “fixed”. However Cameron still has lustful lesbian thoughts.
Without any intention to force her attraction to boys, she is surprised to find out that the course leader, Reverend Rick, had once been attracted to men. Only to be 'cured' by Dr. Lydia Marsh, psychiatrist, founder and Director of God’s Promise, who is played by an evil Jennifer Ehle.
Needless to say, the centre suffocates Cameron and the patronising presentations and rules don't inspire her in the slightest; However, after sneakily ringing her aunt, she realises that she will not be able to come home until she accepts that what she has done was wrong.
Feeling like an outsider, as she has no intention to repent, Cameron makes friends with two other rule breakers (Jane Fonda and Adam Red Eagle) who escape at every opportunity to their den, to smoke home grown pot, allowing her to connect with some of her peers, and find her place among fellow outcasts.
With questionable lessons, therapy and the impending “iceberg” Cameron is in hell, and she even has to cope with the lust of her in-denial room-mate, Erin. Sneaking in to sleeping Cameron's bed, she begins to seduce her, which leads to sex. But when Cameron tries to touch her back, Erin abandons the session and flees back to her own bed, protesting that she really does want to get better.
The doctrine of the classroom preaches that same sex attraction is wrong, and God will punish, which doesn't give much room for questioning or debate. One particular scene where classmate Mark breaks down is particularly disturbing. A quiet boy up until now, he is all set to go home, but on D day his strict father declares that he is still too feminine and can’t come home as planned. This results in an attempted mutilation of his genitals as a personal penance, and results with authorities turning up.
Because of this incident, the Centre is investigated, and Cameron accuses Rick and Lydia of emotional abuse and making up treatments and punishments as they go along. It seems like carnage as all students are losing respect for the authority, so having caused carnage amongst the ‘disciples’ who have nothing left to put faith in, Cameron, Jane and Adam get dressed for lessons one morning, and hitch hike back to reality.
This film is a must-see for anyone who has experienced religion and appreciates black comedy. Whether it is meant to be funny, the de-gaying" methods, and earnest Christian rock songs turn middle American Christian beliefs into a pastiche.
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