My Favorite Childhood Movie Is Even Gayer Than I Remembered
They dig for gold, but they find…love.
A few weeks ago I was talking to my friend Kat about movies we loved as children. I mentioned “Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain,” starring Anna Chlumsky of “My Girl” and a young Christina Ricci fresh off the set of “Casper.” Kat shrieked, “I loved that movie!”
Me: “Me too! Weren’t the main characters like kind of in love with each other?”
Kat: “I don’t think so…I think it was just a story of cool best friends going on an adventure to find gold.”
Now I hadn’t seen this movie in 15+ years, but my memories of it are visceral. I remember feeling the same I-have-to-pee way about Anna Clumsky’s character as I did about Devon Sawa in “Now And Then” (another A+ Christina Ricci movie, btw). I also remember many moments where I thought for sure the two lead girls were gonna make out. Was this all in my sexually-confused baby brain? Or was there really some romantic subtext here?
Kat and I brought our differing interpretations to a rewatching of “Gold Diggers” and I gotta say, I’m more convinced than ever that this is a not-so-veiled tale of lesbian puppy love. Kat still sees it as a fun adventure story of two plucky girls searching for hidden treasure, but I’d argue the real treasure is what they find in their *hearts* (and there are lots of other queer women on the internet who agree with me). I’ll walk you through my case.
First we meet Beth…
A city girl who moves from LA to rural Washington state with her single mom. We could read into the men’s trousers and suspenders but hey, it was the mid-90s.
And Beth meets Jody.
Jody, fresh out of a fist fight with some dude, catches Beth’s eye as she rides by on her bike. We hear narration from Beth’s future self: “That was my first glimpse of Jody, the finest woman I know.” I swear to God. If that’s not a meet cute then I don’t know what is. I mean, look at that hair flip! And Beth’s face! She is realizing some things about herself rn.
Jody looks like every 90s heartthrob…
…who wears a lot of vests. Cargo vests.
They check each other out…
They recite poetry to each other.
Jody, perched in a tree, recites rhyming lines from “Winnie The Pooh” while Beth beams up at her, finishing her sentences. The whole thing is very Juliet on the balcony.
But society doesn’t approve.
The local girls tell Beth to stay away from Jody:
“She’s bad news, she steals!” “Her mother is a boozer. And she lies about everything!” “I hear she sleeps in the woods!”
So they run away together. To look for…gold.
Jody repairs a motor boat because she’s a “tomboy.” Beth is impressed by her…handy work.
They idolize local legend and badass Molly Morgan, a cross-dressing coal minor who stored her fortune of gold at the top of Bear Mountain. And only they have the map to find it.
“I’m blind to my own sexuality!”
Jody risks her life for Beth.
Beth gets trapped under a bunch of rocks (is it just me or were there a lot of caves in 90s movies?) and Jody jumps in to save her. When she can’t lift the rocks with her brutish 13-year-old girl strength, Jody SWIMS SEVERAL MILES to get help.
She even stares down a bear!
After completing a mini triathlon to get to shore, Jody stares down a bear. All in the name of saving her…best friend.
Beth returns the favor.
There is a very sad sub-plot in which Jody and her mom are being abused by her mom’s boyfriend. No one believes her because Jody has a reputation for spinning elaborate stories (hello, early lesson about victim blaming!). But Beth sticks up for Jody against all odds!
Against all odds!
“You can keep us apart for the rest of our lives but nothing you say will ever change the way I feel about her. Ever.”
Oh, she’s got it bad.
They meet in secret for a joyous reunion.
Beth sneaks away from a barbecue to meet Jody — after turning down the hot dogs offered to her by some local boys.
“I’ve been going crazy. I didn’t know when I was going to see you again. It’s been the longest two weeks I’ve ever had.”
In the end, they find the greatest gift of all.
I don’t want to spoil the end of this movie that’s been out for 20 years, but Beth and Jody do find treasure. And I think it’s love.