Most teen movies today use stereotypes to add humour to the struggles high school students face in the classroom, throughout the hallways, and at home. It seems that these struggles are taken light-heartedly when the queen-bee is constructed as a beautiful, rich, popular goddess and homosexuals are seen as objects. High school is a tough time for many people as it is a prime stage in their lives to start making a distinct identity for themselves. This process becomes worse when external social factors that fill up the entire school surround and pressure individuals to conform to certain standards and when movies like G.B.F, directed by Darren Stein, take stereotypes to a whole new problematic level.
Tanner Daniels, the main character in the film G.B.F., is a high school student who accidently spreads the message that he is gay. While it would have been nice to see a mature response to this event that is scarring for many, Tanner becomes a pet to the three most popular girls in school. For their own status on this stereotypical hierarchy that the director brutally exaggerates, the girls fight for Tanner as their “gay best friend” or G.B.F. While Tanner’s popularity allows him to eventually share his recounts of his experience being “outted” and helps others by giving them courage to come out as well, he is seen throughout the movie as an object to manipulate, an accessory to make the popular girls look cool with the latest “trend.”
That being said, stereotypes presented in the media about high school are humourous. Using stereotypes in teen movies dealing with someone’s sexuality is a recipe for disaster. Groups that identify themselves with a sexuality other than heterosexual deal with the stereotypes that the film G.B.F. displays in comedic fashion. When one girl asks Tanner, “What gay stuff do you like?”, the audience indeed may laugh, but when media continues to aim for entertainment over education, serious social issues are left unnoticed and not dealt with properly. These stereotypes are very real in high school and the director does a great job at bringing all those realities to the screen, but when the stereotypes become exaggerated for comedic purposes, I question whether or not teen movies are as harmless as everyone perceives.
This issue is similar to one that I previously studied. I researched how the portrayal of Muslim women in Western media and how the continuing of Orientalist stereotypes is increased by the media’s power to reach a widespread audience and manipulate them. The subsequent behaviour from linking images of Muslim women to images of terrorism and oppression leads to the ongoing spread of false realities. Many current popular television series, including “24”, an action-drama about terrorism, display these Western constructions about what it means to be a Muslim women and that, for example, the hijab that is worn by Muslim women as an expression of choice and religious commitment, is linked to images of 9/11 and therefore represents terrorism and corruption. Much of the media is dominated by the West and after the historical tragedy on September 11, 2001, when four terrorist attacks were launched on the United States, the West used it’s influence to spread their side of the story, which quickly became the only story that society adopted as truth. During a time of high media coverage post-9/11, one might hope that the information spread after the event would be constructive, but instead the media only continued if not worsened the global view on Muslim women, behaviour so brutal and misleading that racism and oppression are still present and increasing.
We see here that media’s role in the spread of information is important to fully grasp before thinking films like G.B.F. are a good idea. I understand that GBF is a comedy but behind every good joke is truth supported by outrageous stereotypes. In a time where the current generation depends on media more than ever before and where political structures are shifting towards the promotion of gender equality, having these two phenomenon’s happening at the same time where one (the media) hinders the development of the other (political practices), it becomes a priority to rethink the kind of films that are produced and labeled as a comedy.