Film / UK Release: 7th September 2018
Earlier this year I read and reviewed The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a book which I adored. I spoke about how much the book resonated with me on such a deep level, so when I found out that the film would be released just a few months later I was over the moon. And let me tell you, the film adaptation does not disappoint. In fact, it far surpassed any expectations I had and touched me to my core.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Miseducation of Cameron Post, it’s about a teenage girl who is shipped off by her Christian family to gay conversion therapy center she was outed as someone who “struggles with same-sex attraction”. For those well-versed in queer movies, think But I’m a Cheerleader but with a more serious edge.
For the most part, I don’t particularly enjoy book to film adaptations. There are, of course, a few exceptions to this rule, such as The Lord of the Rings and Perks of Being a Wallflower, but overall I tend to find that films aren’t able to capture as much character development or narrative depth in the way that books do. Because of how much I had loved the book, I was a little bit uneasy about the film. What if the film didn’t portray the characters identities accurately, especially in regards to Adam being two-spirit and Jane having a prosthetic leg? What if it glossed over the seriousness of gay conversion therapy or manipulated Cameron’s relationships to make a straight audience more comfortable? What if it just completely failed to capture the essence of the book?
Like any adaptation, there are always changes that are made but in the case of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, I didn’t feel like they detracted the story in any way but instead offered us a slightly different journey into the world of Cameron. I thought the cast was absolutely outstanding, the writing completely captured the spirit of the book, and the entire aesthetic of the film was perfect.
At the end of the film, I sat there watching Cameron, Adam, and Jane in the back of a pick-up truck. When we first see them in the truck, they’re laughing and joking, completely exhilarated by their situation. They shout and holler at a passing biker, telling him that Adam thinks he’s hot and dissolving into laughter when the biker shows off for them. After a few moments have passed, the trio settles down into each other, looking around at the open sky, contemplating. It’s not a sad moment but it’s not a happy moment either. Instead, it’s a moment fraught with emotion and things left unsaid. It’s a moment when things are complicated but strangely comforting at the same time. That moment completely captures how the entire movie made me feel. A feeling which is so complex that I’m not sure it’s even possible to put it into words.
There have been a lot of heated debates surrounding the casting of Chloë Grace Moretz as Cameron Post which center around the casting of a “straight person” as someone who experiences attractions towards girls. Usually, I feel very strongly on the topic of casting non-own voice actors in marginalized roles, arising from the continued casting of cis actors to play trans characters. However, I feel very complicated around the heat that Chloë Grace Moretz has received as a result of her being cast as Cameron. No, I personally don’t think that non-own voice actors should play marginalized roles. But I also recognize that asking someone to out themselves and declare their sexual attractions is incredibly problematic and not ok.
Chloë has spoken in the past about her rejection of putting a label on her sexual identity and saying that this is not something that she wants to (or should) have to share with others. There are many reasons as to why someone, especially a young female actor, may want to do this and I think that those reasons are very valid. In Chloë’s case, I personally don’t have any issue with her playing the character of Cameron. Putting her own identity aside, she did an absolutely fantastic job of bringing Cameron alive and presenting her as an incredibly complex and nuanced character.
On a side note, I thought the rest of the casting was absolutely outstanding as well. I fell head over heels for Sasha Lane who plays Jane and Forrest Goodluck who plays Adam. They were both completely perfect for the roles and I was blown away by their acting performances, especially given that Sasha Lane is new to the acting scene. I’m looking forward to watching more of their work.
Audience Reaction and Clarification
I went to see The Miseducation of Cameron Post at a free screening at my university for welcome week. The university I attend is well-known for its large demographic of queer students and I was hoping that it would be a great environment to watch the film in. However, when the lights went up there were a few comments that bothered me and I’m sure that there have been many similar reactions at other screenings elsewhere.
The first one that really, really rubbed me up the wrong way was a comment from someone who declared that the film had really upset her and that she needed to go home and cry on the phone to her boyfriend because it was sad to think about how queer people can be treated. There are so many problems with this. Obviously, I understand that it is an emotionally impacting film and it is really good to see that it had an effect on the audience. However, time and time again straight people’s reactions to queer suffering often ends up centering on their experiences. How upset and/or uncomfortable the film made them with little thought as to how it actually feels for the queer people who are living/have lived through it.
The second one was a comment I heard quite a few people say after the screening and it was made in the belief that these things no longer happen and/or do not happen in this country. Firstly, they do. There are SO MANY films, documentaries, news articles, blog posts, and social media coverage of gay conversion therapy from all over the world. If I remember correctly, gay conversion therapy is legal in 37 states in America. I know people from the UK whose families have tried to force them to go to conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is categorically not something that queer people no longer have to fear. It is still a very real threat to queer people and we need straight/cis people to wake up, recognize that it’s happening, and do something about it even if it’s just recognizing the fact that it is still happening at the very least.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post was even more powerful and hard-hitting than I had ever expected. It’s a film that has, and will, stay with me long after I finished watching it. As I mentioned in my review of the book, I really relate to Cameron. My story may not be exactly the same as hers, but we have very similar experiences and, much to my partner’s amusement, are very much alike. I would never have expected this film to make such an impact on me, but it’s a story that has touched me to my core.
Although the film does deal with some very difficult topics, I would really urge anyone who is able to go and see it. I would like to iterate the content notices for the film (as well as the book) though, please make sure that you go into the film in the full knowledge of what it’s about and depicts to ensure that you aren’t caught out by anything. Content notices for: forced gay conversion therapy, homophobia, transphobia, sex scenes between female characters, genital mutilation, cultural abuse of a Native American character.