G.B.F.: Satire With A Twist
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.
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.
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).