G.B.F.: Satire With A Twist

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G.B.F. (a.k.a., Gay Best Friend) is a 2013 teen comedy written by George Northy and directed by Darren Stein.  G.B.F. stars Michael J. Willet, Paul Iacono, Sasha Pieterse (Pretty Little Liars), and several other notable actors (Evanna Lynch, Megan Mullally, Natasha Lyonne).  Although G.B.F. was targeted at teen audiences, the film received an R rating from the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) film-rating system for sexual references.

G.B.F. revolves around closeted best friends Tanner Daniels (Michael J. Willet) and Brent Van Camp (Paul Iacono).  The duo attend a large suburban high school, where no student is openly gay.  One day, introverted, nerdy and unfashionable Tanner Daniels is accidentally outed to the student body.  Concurrently, the “Clique Queens” of North Gateway High, Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse), Caprice (Xosha Roquemore) and ‘Shley (Andrea Bowen), have been out on the prowl searching for this years latest “must-have teen girl accessory”—a G.B.F.  Social warfare erupts within the walls of Gateway High, as the Queens fight for social supremacy through acquiring their “very own gay”.  The Queens give Tanner a full makeover and attitude, while providing him with complete social protection.  Soaking in his newfound attention and popularity, Tanner [almost] ends up neglecting all of his true friends—including the spotlight seeking Brent. 

Aiming to drag homosexuality out of the margins of teen comedy and into the pubic-eye, G.B.F. is a mash-up of Mean Girls and Clueless, with a dash of Glee (minus the song and dance).  While Stein’s film may appear to be a throwaway teenage drama, the essence of its narrative is to open conversations amongst young people, in regards to the negative impacts of stereotypes, acceptance of those who may be different from yourself, and the investment of time and interest in the lives of teenagers.  By creating a film that focuses its attention on teenage appeal, Stein and his crew have created a welcoming project, which will [hopefully] evoke more thoughtful contemplation of these subjects among those individuals who see the film.

While G.B.F. holds good intentions, portrays crucial social themes, and offers an admirable message of tolerance, the film does have some downfalls.  Tanner, our protagonist, is portrayed as a conventionally attractive white male from a family of stable socioeconomic status.  The same goes for Tanner’s best friend, Brent.  For Tanner [and Brent], being outed resulted in good fortunes: instantaneous acceptance from their families, friends and community (with the exception of McKenzie Price), higher social status at school, influx in romantic relationships, etc.  Ultimately, being one of the few openly gay students in their school changed their lives for the better.  However, this is obviously not the case for many queer individuals—especially if you do not fall under this specific character category.  How would the story been different if our protagonist was a queer individual of color, differently abled, and not conventionally attractive?  The situation probably would not have gone so smoothly, instead, go against our new protagonist.  In a way, G.B.F. has glamorized the idea of being gay—so long as you are an attractive white male with a perfect physique.  Moreover, the characters and overall setting of the film is composed entirely of white, able-bodied individuals, all with a stable socioeconomic status.  Caprice (Roquemore), the “Queen of Drama”, is the only individual of color, and is portrayed as a sassy, glamorous and pompous African-American.  Are we shocked that our only sassy and snarky Caprice is African-American, and not an individual of another race?  Not at all—after all, if we want to incorporate a sassy female character, it best be played by a haughty African-American woman, right?  This perpetuates the stereotype that African-American women are just generally vivacious and attitude-packed beings.  Alternatively, McKenzie Price (Lynch) is one of the head religious good-girls and is portrayed as a preppy, know-it-all, uptight and close-minded Mormon.  McKenzie makes it very clear where she stands on homosexuality, as she ultimately instigates the banishment of same-sex couples from Gateway High’s prom.  At the end of the film, McKenzie is the only character that does not undergo any character change or growth, while all the other characters face drastic transformations and developments.  This portrayal of McKenzie propagates and reinforces the idea that religious individuals are often extremists, who are unwilling [or unable] to change their mindsets. 

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Overall, G.B.F. does pull its end of the weight.  Stein manages to set-up the storyline quite nicely, with Tanner being outed perfectly in conjunction with the recent G.B.F. fad, while Northy succeeds in pulling the story through, via a controversy over queer couples attending the school prom, which resulted in a climatic rivalry prom brawl.  Moreover, Willet, Pieterse, and Mullally give charming performances, making it impossible to watch G.B.F. and not leave the theatre without feeling a sense of cordiality with its characters and themes.  This was most striking when Fawcett, the ultimate beauty and queen bee every teenage girl “aspires to be”, cautiously and bashfully confesses to Tanner of her “mad chemistry skills” and shyly offers to help Tanner out with his chemistry troubles.  At this point, we also see Tanner finally step up as a character, as he provides solace and encouragement towards Fawcett, telling her to embrace her knowledge, and not to be ashamed of it. 

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The bottom line?  The satire and underlying messages which pierce through G.B.F.’s overall silliness and witty one-liners makes this teen comedy a refreshing film to go check out.  Plus, Stein and crew have managed to work in a tacky, yet appropriately fit soundtrack, costume and set design.  As for MPAA’s R rating—the most sexual or explicit action you can expect to see is some light kissing and topless teen boys showing off their toned bodies (go figure).

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6 thoughts on “G.B.F.: Satire With A Twist

  1. From your description I believe this film addressees a major issue that occurs within contemporary society which is the objectification of the gay man. The “I wish I had a gay best friend!” saying is typical among many heterosexual teenage girls. However, sayings like this are not promoting their acceptance of gay men, but actually ignoring the fact that gay men are human and unique. Wanting to be friends with someone based on their sexuality is extremely problematic and groups all gay men together. When these teenage girls say this they want and assume the gay best friend possess qualities such as emotional, funny, cute, great taste in clothes, and will always solve the girls problems. Obviously, not all gay men possess these qualities.

    • Spot on! I couldn’t agree more!
      There was a lot of objectification of Tanner in G.B.F. One particular scene was when the three girls were trying to figure out how to allocate the time they each could “have with Tanner”–not spend time with Tanner, they just wanted to flaunt their “gay” to everyone. They treated him as an object, disregarding what Tanner wanted to do, etc. But it’s how extreme G.B.F. takes it, which allows you to see why this perception is inappropriate.

  2. It sounds like this film does a great job of exposing the stereotypes straight teens often blindly attribute to gay people. This is very problematic in that it could leave gay teens unknowing of whether their popularity is based on their sexuality or who they are as a person. This stereotyping also excludes the treatment of other members of the LGBTQ community who may identity as lesbians, bisexuals, two-spirited or any other categorization. I am glad you questioned how the scenarios in the film might have differed if Tanner had been played by an actor who was not white, able-bodied or commercially good-looking. It is important to note who the media chooses to include and how it impacts the stories being told.

  3. I REALLY WANT TO WATCH THIS FILM. Your analysis of the movie just made me more anxious to watch it. As kristafurrobin stated, there seems to many stereotypes that straight teens want that gay friend in their life just for the purpose of saying, “I have a gay friend.” Being one who has many homosexual friends, I can say that I have never befriended them due to their sexuality but more so for their characteristics. However, it is stereotyped that the one gay friend is needed in a straight teen’s life so that they can talk about members of the same sex or so they can have that friend to go to talk about even fashion. This is definitely something that should not be a thing – and it can cause problems.

    • Yeah, you should go check it out! It’s something that appears really light-hearted and entertaining but holds a deeper meaning. Like owlsshowls (below) said, maybe try finding it online. 😛

  4. I was not able to see the movie during the festival due to the fact that it sold out but i was able to access it online this past week. i truly did enjoy the movie with its witty tone and happy ending. the only thing i could not get past though as you said was the amount of stereotyping. for example in Caprice there was one scene where Shley is talking to Caprice and says that she is her SBF (sassy black friend). I was surprised by this, that a movie about teaching equality they keep accentuating racial as well as classical stereotypes. i do encourage other people to go see the movie though, it is basically an LGBT version of mean girls.

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