‘G.B.F.’ director Darren Stein on how his gay teen comedy was wrongly rated R

Darren Stein GBF
Director Darren Stein says he was surprised that his movie, G.B.F. was slapped with an ‘R’ rating by the MPAA. / Getty

After making his mark with the dark comedy “Jawbreaker,” director Darren Stein returns to high school with “G.B.F.” (short for Gay Best Friend) about a group of popular girls fighting over the first openly gay student at their school. It’s a sweet and witty teen comedy that just happened to be deemed rated R by the MPAA, something that initially baffled Stein.

People tend to say they’re tired of gay films and books about the coming out experience, but you’ve made one that’s actually fun and unique.
I think we sort of live in a post-coming out world, in a way. It’s not as big of an issue as it used to be, and I think one of the charms of the “G.B.F.” screenplay was that it showed these gay kids with these parents and getting the new reactions which are comedic-ly sort of out-of-character for the audience’s expectations of how gay kids coming out experience that. That’s very new information.

It’s remarkable how rapidly things have been changing, especially for gay teens.
Oh yeah, for sure. I feel like there’s so much gay media alone on the Internet that they can access. But for us I think it was more challenging as teenagers because we had to find that code or that language in other places like horror movies, for instance. Or even a lot of gay kids would tell me, “Oh my God, ‘Jawbreaker’ spoke to me. It was my movie.” There’s that scene where Courtney makes her boyfriend suck on the Big Stick, a lot of gay kids kind of saw the code in that.

Let’s talk about the MPAA.
What always appealed to me about the script is that it read like a mainstream teen comedy that happened to have a gay protagonist, and I felt like it could be a PG-13 movie. It never felt like an R-rated movie to me — and I’ve made R-rated movies, I know what they look like. We even went through the script and took out any F-words. So I was pretty surprised when it got an R-rating. But it’s brought a lot of attention to the movie, which I am grateful for.

There has been a silver lining to it in that way.
It’s great. I think really the most provocative thing about the movie is just the notion of a gay hero in a mainstream teen movie context. And I think that could be a hard pill to swallow for the MPAA. It’s sort of normalizing the gay experience in a way that people aren’t used to seeing.

I’ve heard it’s easier for studios to deal with the MPAA than indie films.
Yes, I mean if you have studio financing or the budget, you can appeal the rating, you can get the list of what changes need to be made to re-cut the film. We didn’t have that, we were made independently — and frankly, I wouldn’t want to make any cuts to the film. I was told flat-out by our MPAA consultant that they do indeed rate gay films harsher. I mean, it is what it is. And that’s obviously more of a cultural thing than just a movie thing.

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