If you’ve been fortunate enough to escape the bubble of St Andrews for even one afternoon (or if you don’t live here at all!), you might have been privy to one of the best – and somehow most relatable – queer films of the year, Bottoms (Seligman, 2023).
This teen comedy truly has it all. When best friends Josie (Ayo Edebiri) and PJ (Rachel Sennott) find themselves being praised for something they never did, they decide to ride the glorious wave that gratuitous violence has somehow brought them and start a girls’ self-defence club. (Read: A fight club to help them impress their crushes and lose their virginities.) But what started as a chaotic-yet-fun attempt to become popular and fulfil their gay fantasies soon takes a sharp downward turn into lying, deceit, and getting beaten up a lot.
Ayo Edebiri perfectly embodies the awkward queer teen in Josie, an unsure 17-year-old who wants nothing more than to get with her popular crush, Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), but who can’t even talk to her without stumbling over her words. And Rachel Sennott’s performance as PJ, an overly-confident yet deeply unpopular lesbian unsuccessfully crushing on one of the hottest girls in school, Brittany (Kaia Gerber), is frighteningly realistic. Through their friendship, Bottoms quickly establishes itself as a film about uncool lesbians, for uncool lesbians.
Not only does this film have credit in that it is deeply hilarious, but it provides a messier, more realistic representation of queer adolescence than most mainstream media. Wholesome television programmes like Heartstopper might have left you wondering, “Why wasn’t it that easy for me?” whilst grittier ones like Euphoria might have felt far removed from your time in high school. It’s easy for media aimed at queer teenagers to either romanticise or make tragedy of the young gay experience; nothing ever quite falls in the middle. But Bottoms is here to fill that void. It reminds you of the awkward queer teen that you used to be. Whether you were bullied for being unpopular and gay, you did not know how to speak to girls, or you were so desperate for even a slither of pitiful attention from your crush that you went to insane measures to get it, if you’re queer – and especially if you’re a lesbian – you will see yourself in Bottoms.
I hope that every queer person who watches Bottoms finds a memory of their young queer self within it. This isn’t to say that you should wish you spent your high school days fighting girls you liked in the gymnasium or pretending that you went to juvie and maybe killed someone. But I do think that it’s important for queer people to see media that better reflects their lives. Maybe your crush turns out to be straight, or you’re just too awkward to exist in front of pretty girls, or you’re not quite sure where you fit in as a lonely lesbian when literally everyone else seems to be straight. We deserve (somewhat) normal stories about ordinary queer teenagers who make stupid decisions, have varying levels of romantic success, and are intensely awkward. That’s what the gay high school experience should be, right?
By Holly Eakins (she/her)