Media Assignment Final Reflection
I watched The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018) earlier this year after it was released to DVD and was unsure why I walked away with mixed feelings about the film. In order to better understand my own interpretations of the film’s success, I analyzed other audience and critic reactions across various platforms. When researching, I tried to find diverse opinions on the film that would offer a different perspective than my own. Each review offered a new perspective that I did not consider in my original viewing of Miseducation while also reflecting some of my own observations on the stronger or weaker aspects of the film. Often, I found that reviews varied in their praise or criticism when discussing the same elements of the film. This suggests to me that Miseducation does not fall cleanly into a hit or miss with audiences and critics.
When reading the reviews of the critics and general viewers that I chose I began to consider a question: was Miseducation made for a queer audience or a non-queer audience? Of the seven reviews I considered for my analysis, one viewer clearly identified themselves as queer and another was implied as such through their membership in the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics’ Association (GLECA). Christina, known by her username @ladybiird on Letterboxd, praises director Desiree Akhaven for her queer influence in the writing and directing of the film. She claims Miseducation’s depiction of queer unity mirrors the reality of queer youth finding one another to cope with the homophobia they face. From her analysis, it appears that the film was written for a queer audience. Alistair Ryder, a critic for Gay Essential, neither confirms nor denies this observation, as his review focuses on the underdevelopment of the other characters in the film and is irrelevant regarding who the film’s intended audience is. However, critics David Ehrlich and Tim Grierson both claim that Miseducation has appeals for broader audiences because it resides within the coming-of-age genre. Since they do not elaborate their relation to the queer community, their shared observation puts pressure on the idea that this film was made for queer audiences. With the assumption that Christina’s and the two critics’ observations represent opposite ends of the viewer spectrum, I conclude that Miseducation attempts to straddle the line between the two different audience types.
On one hand, I believe that Akhaven set out to inform non-queer audiences of the trauma LGBTQ youth endured in conversion camps during the 1990s. Jordan Hoffman notes how the film considers the perspective of all its characters, whether they support or disagree with the conversion camp’s message, which suggests that Akhaven considered a broader audience. Grierson extends this observation of Miseducation reaching a larger audience with his claim that the film achieves a greater appeal for non-queer audiences by using familiar tropes from other genres. Nonetheless, Peter Travers identifies this strategy as a weakness that detracts from the message of the film. On the other hand, I also believe that Akhaven represents queer experiences through the community Cameron, Jane, and Adam built out of necessity from the homophobia they face within the conversion camp. Queer audiences can identify with what Christina describes as the queer unity in the film and relate to the characters use of humor as a coping mechanism. However, I think this aspect is overshadowed by a larger flaw in the film: the underdevelopment of its characters.
There is less time dedicated to how the characters react to the experiences they have at the camp due to the emphasis Akhaven gave to educating non-queer audiences on the trauma the teenagers faced at God’s Promise. Ryder identifies the underdevelopment of the characters in his review as a flaw of the film and blogger Jordan Michael Johnson supports his observation with her claim that this was a consequence of the conversion camp as a central focus. I agree with both reviewers as I thought there was much to be said about the experiences of the two queer teenagers of color, Jane and Adam, that was not explored in the film.
Through my analysis of critic and audience reviews on The Miseducation of Cameron Post I have reached a better understanding of why I did not love nor hate the film. The mixed feelings I experienced was because Akhaven catered to both the non-queer and queer audiences. While I do not think this was an incorrect choice on Akhaven’s part, I do believe it created weaknesses for the film as it struggled to achieve a balance.
Ehrlich, David. “’The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ Review: This Beautiful Coming-of-Age Story Is Mike Pence’s Worst Nightmare – Sundance 2018.” IndieWire, 29 Jan. 2018, https://www.indiewire.com/2018/01/the-miseducation-of-cameron-post-review-desiree-akhavan-chloe-grace-moretz-sundance-2018-1201920629/.
Grierson, Tim. “’The Miseducation of Cameron Post’: Sundance Review.” Screen, 23 Jan. 2018. https://www.screendaily.com/reviews/the-miseducation-of-cameron-post-sundance-review/5125844.article.
Hoffman, Jordan. “The Miseducation of Cameron Post Review – Prayers Answered with Conversion Therapy Drama.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 23 Jan. 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/jan/23/the-miseducation-of-cameron-post-review-sundance-2018-chloe-grace-moretz.
Johnson, Jordan Michael. “Coming-Of-Age Without Any Change: A Movie Review of The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018).” WordPress, 25 September 2019. https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/4036690/posts/1243.
@ladybiird [Christina]. “Review by Christina: The Miseducation of Cameron Post.” Letterboxd, 18 August 2018. https://letterboxd.com/christinas/film/the-miseducation-of-cameron-post/.
Ryder, Alistair. “Gay Essential Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post.” Gay Essential, 7 Nov. 2018. https://gay-themed-films.com/review-the-miseducation-of-cameron-post/.
Travers, Peter. “’The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ Review: Gay-Conversion Drama Is Timely, Too Timid.” Rolling Stone, 8 Aug. 2018. https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-reviews/miseducation-of-cameron-post-movie-review-705155/.