The Student News Site of Kent State University

a magazine

The Student News Site of Kent State University

a magazine

The Student News Site of Kent State University

a magazine

“Bottoms” is at The Top of Queer Representation Today

Art: Hailey Demchak

Despite the strikes that cast a shadow on Hollywood over the last couple of months, 2023 has been a fruitful year when it comes to movies. Look no further than the release of “Barbenheimer” (“Barbie” and “Oppenheimer”). These two films were two of the highest anticipated movies of the year, and when it was announced that the two would be released in theaters on the same day, the association was born. While I loved “Barbie,” – I didn’t see “Oppenheimer”– the movie that defined my 2023 would undoubtedly be “Bottoms.”

A classic high school comedy film reminiscent of the early 2000’s, “Bottoms” demands your attention. Starring Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott, the film was born thanks to the close-knit friendship between its two creators, Emma Seligman and Sennott. The pair met while attending New York University’s Tisch School of Drama. Their first project together, “Shiva Baby,” started out as a student film before blossoming into the indie hit that it is today. Edebiri, the other lead actress in “Bottoms,” also met the two while studying at NYU.

“Bottoms” is about two high school lesbians who are beyond fed up with their reputation as the “ugly, untalented gays” at school. While preparing for the first day back, PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Edebiri) have decided that it’s time they make a move on their years-long crushes. The issue: both of these girls seem straight. After talking to their crushes – Brittany (Kaia Gerber) and Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) –at their town’s county fair, the pair begin facing trouble when Isabel’s boyfriend, the star football player Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine), gets into a fight with them after they come to Isabel’s defense. This unleashes mayhem on the seemingly invisible girls. After a miscommunication with their friend Hazel (Ruby Cruz), PJ and Josie are mistakenly thought to have spent their summer in Juvie, which leads to them earning the credibility to start a fight club to “empower the women at their school.” In reality, the two decided to start the self defense club because they believe that it will help them land dates with the cheerleaders they desperately want to lose their virginities to.

The movie is campy, hilarious and modern, and is written in a satirical tone that really draws viewers in. One thing that “Bottoms” has done brilliantly that is being talked about less is the way it has brought queer people together. On social media apps like X, having seen “Bottoms” has become a sort of status symbol. Despite its limited theater release, a majority of fans didn’t get the chance to watch it until it was released on Prime Video a month later. While this was inconvenient for many, the benefit of streaming cannot be ignored. Aside from the obvious factor of convenience, streaming culture has allowed closeted queer people to consume gay media all from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

While I grew up in a very accepting and loving household, and was embraced with open arms when I came out as bisexual, there are many people out there who did not have this same experience. For young adults who are grappling with the nuances of sexuality, sometimes for the very first time, seeing a movie like “Bottoms” in theaters can be daunting. It may not be safe to come out, and speculation alone could be a danger. So many people avoid queer movies altogether, as they believe this will lessen the likelihood of being outed.

This is completely understandable. But when creators make projects like “Bottoms” quickly available to stream, it can have a huge positive impact on the lives of many. The numbers speak for themselves. When “Red, White & Royal Blue” was released on Prime Video earlier this year, the gay rom-com quickly rose to the most popular movie on the platform. The film brought in a huge surge of new subscribers for the streaming service, and trended on X in 32 markets globally. Just a month later, “Bottoms” joined the ranks as one of Prime’s most beloved movies. Grossing a little less than $11.9 million in the U.S. and Canada as of October 8, the film has reached a huge audience, and has become one of the defining moments of 2023.

So many elements of Gen-Z and millennial storytelling come together to create the queer masterpiece that is “Bottoms.” Elements like the costumes and sets were made to feel lived-in and relatable to many people. The stereotypical roles that each character played within their high school’s ecosystem was done deliberately. The misogynistic town celebrity, the stressed out teen and her pushy best friend. The popular cheerleaders, the football star’s sidekick. The uninterested teacher and the one-track-minded principal. The underdog who comes out on top. All of these character archetypes were used to help make the story seem familiar and predictable, despite being anything but. The writing style allowed for the movie to make fun of itself, while poking fun at other hugely successful teen movies. Seligman and Sennott are both film buffs in their own right, and were quick to acknowledge the many references made within the film.

Every detail was deliberate, and had a greater purpose within the storyline. The jokes were witty and subtle, and each rewatch of “Bottoms” allows for a new viewing experience thanks to the many background moments that bring the film together. The film references classics such as “Fight Club” and “Jennifer’s Body,” while also bringing its own uniqueness into the mix. Ultimately, creating a modern, queer comedy that can hold a candle to movies like “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Superbad” is a feat all on its own. But “Bottoms” also happens to be a turning point for sapphic representation within the media worldwide.

Much of queer media is tragic. While the representation is great to see, watching characters repeatedly be put in horrifying situations for shock value should not be the most common storyline LGBTQ+ people should be used to seeing. Quickly killing queer characters or forcing them to endure endless trauma under the guise of representation is cruel. There has been a recent increase in “positive” stories for queer men, but for other sexual and gender identities, this fight is far from over. A majority of the lesbian and sapphic centered television shows that have recently been released were quickly canceled. Despite that, male-centered queer romance stories are on the rise across all of the major streaming platforms.

Sapphics should not have to look to a romcom about two men as their main form of happy queer representation. “Bottoms” rights this wrong. It is raunchy, hilarious and utterly ridiculous. It is also a movie that could one day be considered a cult classic. At its core, “Bottoms” is a celebration of the queer experience as it is today. It highlights the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with growing up queer in a patriarchal society. It does so while celebrating its predecessors, and paving the way for the future landscape of queer media. “Bottoms” is a perfect example of Gen-Z people who grew up watching absurdist comedies that had no real point. The difference, though? “Bottoms” has a point, and it’s undeniable that it has made it.

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Hi! I’m Annie Gleydura, A Magazine’s editor-in-chief. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important and entertaining news from the realms of fashion, beauty and culture. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate to A Magazine. 

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