From gory fight scenes to hormonal gay teens, Bottoms (2023) undoubtedly defies expectations of a teen movie. Girls leave each other with bloodied noses and bruised eyes; football players sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart”; history teachers read magazines featuring scantily-clad divorcees. This might not sound like your typical high school experience, and it might not even sound like your typical high school parody. But parody doesn’t exist in a vacuum—there must be something genuine contained in the silliness that gives meaning to the madness. If you put aside your expectations, you realize that the universe created by director Emma Seligman is wildly entertaining, surprisingly authentic, and refreshingly clever.

The movie follows two best friends, high schoolers PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri), who get wrapped up in a bizarre lie when a rumor circulates that they spent the last summer in juvie. The girls decide to run with the story and start a “fight club” at their school in hopes of winning over their crushes, popular cheerleaders Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber). This crude comedy is the brainchild of screenwriters Seligman and Rachel Sennott, who previously teamed up on 2020’s acclaimed Shiva Baby. The cast is rounded out by Ruby Cruz, Nicholas Galitzine, and Marshawn Lynch. From the very start, the film explodes into an onslaught of crass jokes, rowdy antics, and soapy performances that hint at the rollercoaster to come.

The release of Bottoms was surrounded by massive hype following its premiere at SXSW Festival, especially with the film’s trendy cast of stars in the making. Edebiri shot to prominence through her role in The Bear, and Galitzine also stars in the recently released Red, White & Royal Blue (2023), adapted from the hit book of the same title. All of these factors, combined with a blockbuster-filled summer, set Bottoms to premiere on top of its game. Now that the movie has hit theaters, Bottoms affirms itself as an unforgettably fun and foul experience.

The movie is a great example of authentic representation—it’s not to appeal to an audience that the filmmakers make no attempt to truly understand. Instead, it features queer characters that feel sincere through imperfection. PJ and Josie are flawed people. They’re often manipulative, lewd, and even cruel. But Bottoms defies the conventional LGBTQ+ film expectation that there must be some dramatic coming-out scene or earth-shattering heartbreak. Instead, Bottoms allows gay characters to exist and hatch wild hijinks without spotlighting trauma.

Bottoms’s brazen self-awareness of its place in a long line of raunchy teen comedies is precisely why it works—from the class hierarchy of geeks and jocks to the all-important football game, the movie revitalizes old tropes while injecting them with a refreshing perspective and obscene hilarity. It’s come along at just the right time—comedies that accurately represent the younger generation are becoming a lost art. Today’s high schoolers and college students were lucky enough to grow up watching films like She’s the Man (2006) and Mean Girls (2004)—films released just around the time we were born and that ended up becoming our hand-me-downs. But when it came time for our generation to see ourselves on the big screen, we were often left with disappointing, trite films—just look at Netflix’s She’s All That (1999) remake, He’s All That (2021). Bottoms, however, takes trashy high school movie conventions and dials them up to 100; the result is a delightfully gory, vulgar, and refreshing teen comedy that feels nostalgic and reinvigorated all at once.

With back-to-back releases of Bottoms and Barbie, 2023 seems to be the year of female-directed movies in defense of so-called “untalented women” (accompanied by Charli XCX-featured soundtracks). But Barbie is a heartfelt, whimsical celebration of the ordinary woman—a description that definitely doesn’t translate over onto Bottoms. The female solidarity of Bottoms takes on a more twisted form: the girls find their community not by virtue of their shared feminine experience, but by breaking each others’ noses and blowing up football players’ cars. If Barbie championed solidarity between “normal” women, Bottoms is its awkward, queer cousin—an uproarious, fearlessly gross comedy worthy of “Weird Barbie” herself.

Nevertheless, Bottoms offers its own commentary on patriarchy and masculinity. Through its gender-bent, queer lens, Bottoms manages to expose the homoerotic subtext of the heightened violence that masquerades as “true” masculinity in traditionally male-led and directed movies. For example, football player Tim (Miles Fowler) is hell-bent on destroying the girls’ fight club because of its violent and sexual nature. However, the parallels between the fight club and the football team make it obvious that the boys are doing the very same thing as the girls—the key difference, though, is that while the fight club empowers its members by teaching girls to stand up for themselves, the football players’ hypermasculine echo chamber recklessly directs aggression onto others. The football players become blinded by a misguided image of masculinity that reinforces harmful expectations that men should be aggressive and chauvinistic. What’s more, men are expected to torment those who are different from themselves—whether that be the queer outcasts or the rival football team. By borrowing elements of action and sports flicks, Bottoms highlights the irony embedded in these movies and their backwards defense of fragile masculine egos.

Bottoms’s many fight sequences and wrestling montages serve as a perfect metaphor for the film’s refusal to be pinned down. Parts of the film feel familiar—it’s a classic underdog tale combined with absurdist, campy female violence. However, it would be unfair to say that Bottoms is exactly like any one of its predecessors: it’s something entirely new. Brought to life with a hearty dose of queer teen drama, hilarious antics, and endless quotable lines, Bottoms is sure to become an instant classic. Don’t let the title fool you—with standout performances, wonderfully subversive writing, and a fair amount of obscenity, Bottoms is a dominant example of teen comedy at its foulest and finest. 

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