For its closing night selection, the ImageOut Festival presented G.B.F. from director Darren Stein (Jawbreaker). An obvious descendent of Mean Girls, G.B.F. (Gay Best Friend) tells the story of Tanner (Michael J. Willett), a teenager in small town, USA, whose high school is void of any openly gay students. Tanner and best friend Brent (Paul Iacono), both gay, suddenly feel the pressure to break their silence when the three most popular girls in school make it clear they are on the hunt for a G.B.F., the latest and most coveted accessory.
At the same time, the president of the Gay Straight Alliance (made up of only straight allies, of course) is on the hunt for a single gay member in order to legitimize the club. When the girls decide to look to “Guy-dar” (the film’s version of Grindr) they discover Tanner’s account and well…you can guess what happens next.
The premise of the film is frankly quite genius. Of all the issues covered in the films of ImageOut, none is more universally understood by the gay community (specifically gay men in this case) than the fetishization of gay culture and the banal homophobia that lies beneath it, despite it coming from very well-intentioned straight people.
While I would love to see the lesbian version of this story examining the straight male obsession with lesbian sex (admittedly it would probably not be so funny), G.B.F. is without a doubt ground-breaking in its hilarious but pointed study of the “Fag hag.” The three queen-bees all vying for the spot of prom queen not only hound Tanner to become their G.B.F., but they turn him into what they feel a gay teenage boy should be. Tanner likes comic books, wears jeans and hoodies, and doesn’t care much for flamboyance. The girls are horrified by his wardrobe and that he doesn’t call them “girl” or “skank” every five seconds and therefore make him over into something resembling Darren Criss on Glee.
He is treated as an accessory and a commodity after his coming-out. Not a beacon of hope for other gay students, but the latest trend. As someone with many gay male friends, I can say whole-heartedly this is an eerily (yet hysterically) accurate portrayal of the extent to which young straight women view gay men as their side-kicks, not as independent individuals who maybe don’t always want to watch Say Yes to the Dress with you.
That is not to say the film is an indictment of such young women. In one of the film’s more effective scenes, Tanner questions popular girl Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse) about why she wants the company of a boy she could never be with romantically. She explains, without any irony or superficiality, that to be a young attractive woman in the hormonal jungle of high school, to be able to have a male companion who isn’t looking for anything but friendship is invaluable and offers an inexplicable sense of safety. A fact that I and I think most women can attest to (case and point: literally as I typed that sentence I heard a man cat call a woman outside my window).
With a solid and unexpected cast (Evanna “Luna Lovegood” Lynch as a psycho homophobic Mormon and Natasha Lyonne as the hippie advisor of the GSA) and priceless cameo appearances (the scene in which Megan Mullally watches Brokeback Mountain with her newly outed son steals the entire movie), G.B.F. was hands down the most enjoyable experience I had at ImageOut, though perhaps not the most profound. At the very least, this should be required viewing for every straight high school girl in America.