Feb 20, 2015

Geography Club: Gay and Straight High Schoolers

Juvenile lit with gay characters almost invariably is about straight juveniles coming to terms with the gay adults in their lives.  So I was intrigued by the premise of Brent Harlinger's Geography Club (2003), which was made into a play in 2004, and is now a movie (2013), making the gay film festival circuit.  It really should be seen by high school students, not the film festival crowd.  It's  rated PG-13 due to the existence of gay people.

Two gay high schoolers, the nerd Russell Middlebrook (Cameron Stewart, left, of Pitch Perfect) and the jock Kevin Land (Justin Deeley, below, of 90210), want to form a gay club, but they are strictly closeted, and besides, the homophobic backlash would be life-threatening.  So they get faculty permission to start a "geography club," presuming that no one but their LGBT friends would come anywhere near it.

I don't know; geography was my favorite subject in school.  Who wouldn't want to know about far-off, exotic countries?

A heterosexual girl who actually is interested in geography shows up.  After some harrowing moments when they believe that their secret will be revealed, she argues that she should be allowed to stay in the club, because she has an alcoholic mother: "The whole world has to tell me how normal they are and how different they are from me." The gay kids can certainly relate, so she's in.

I'm not happy with the extreme closetedness, which seems a little anachronistic for 2003.

Meanwhile Russell is pressured into dating and trying to have sex with girls by the jock Gunnar (Andrew Caldwell).  When he has difficulty performing, Gunnar retaliates by submitting an application for a "Gay-Straight Alliance" under Russell's name.  Homophobic reprisals result, with Kevin participating to keep his cover.  Gunnar later apologizes.

In a noble act of self-sacrifice, the oddball outsider Brian (Teo Olivares, the gay-vague Crony on Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide) submits a new application under his name, thus relieving Russell from suspicion.

In the end they form a Gay-Straight Alliance after all.

It's all very depressing, but thinking about the horrors of high school for gay kids is always depressing.  Heterosexism reigns supreme, more intense and demanding than at any time before or after, augmented by incessant homophobic slurs, jokes, and "accusations."

And only about 10% of LGBT adolescents know that there's a gay culture and community out there, in spite of adult assurances that "it gets better."  (30% are aware that gay bars exist, and the other 60% think that there's nothing out there but homophobia and silence).