Chasing Amy and the LGBTQIA+ community: “There’s no consensus on this movie. It remains complicated to a lot of people”

With its out-and-proud lesbian character, Kevin Smith’s cult 90s comedy Chasing Amy was a revelation to future filmmaker Sav Rodgers, growing up as a bullied suburban teen. In new documentary Chasing Chasing Amy, he grapples with the film’s thorny legacy.

12 March 2024

By Josh Slater-Williams

Chasing Amy (1997)

“Something that’s problematic can still mean a lot in your development,” says one interviewee in the documentary Chasing Chasing Amy, from director Sav Rodgers. Growing up in Kansas, Rodgers had little exposure to positive portrayals of queer people in daily life. As an adolescent raiding their parents’ movie collection, he found a copy of Chasing Amy (1997), Kevin Smith’s romantic comedy about a heterosexual man, Holden (Ben Affleck), falling in love with a fellow comic book artist, Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams), who identifies as a lesbian. 

The film was a revelation to Rodgers, at a time when he was frequently the target of homophobic bullying at junior high school. With Chasing Amy, Rodgers found his first exposure to out-and-proud characters, and cases of homophobic actions having consequences. Smith’s film became a lifeline for the future filmmaker, though in a TED talk from 2018 entitled ‘The romcom that saved my life’ he jokes: “To be fair, I didn’t know that there were other gay movies.”


Both upon release and in the decades since, Smith’s hit film has faced scrutiny as a look at sexual fluidity written by a straight man. In Chasing Chasing Amy, Rodgers meets up with some of the people behind the film’s making, alongside critics and other queer filmmakers, in order to explore its complicated legacy and the lack of consensus on the movie’s merits within LGBTQ+ communities. Among the most compelling pundits is actor and screenwriter Guinevere Turner (Go Fish, 1994; American Psycho, 2000) speaking on homophobia and misogyny in 90s filmmaking, while a revelatory interview with the actor who plays Alyssa, Joey Lauren Adams, upends the trajectory of the whole project. During the making of his film, Rodgers also came out publicly as a trans man, and so the documentary became a queer coming-of-age tale in its own right.

Your relationship with Chasing Amy began when you watched it at age 12, a decade after the film’s peak popularity in 1997. As an adult, what do you find alluring about the 1990s landscape for American cinema?

Sav Rodgers: The 90s are my favorite period of filmmaking. It’s the emergence of so many incredible filmmakers and collaborations where there’s this real sense of innovation in terms of voice, the technology being used and the perspective that we get to see these films through; New Queer Cinema being one of the things that makes that period so great.

Were there any 90s filmmakers you wanted to interview but didn’t?

We didn’t reach out to every person from the New Queer Cinema movement, just because we were concerned about budget. Selfishly, I would have loved to talk to Gregg Araki or Rose Troche or people whose perspective I really value as filmmakers. But I think Guinevere Turner really said it all [in her interview]. Even when I was in the room, I was like, “Yep, that’s going in the movie!”

Chasing Chasing Amy (2023)

Among the filmmakers, journalists and academics you interview, there are wildly different stances on Chasing Amy. It doesn’t ever come across like one overriding grand take on the film is being pushed on viewers.

I tried to identify as many influential critics and scholars as I could who might have something interesting to say on this subject. I wanted to hold space for everybody to have their opinion on Chasing Amy. Whether they loved it, loathed it or they had complicated feelings, it was important for us to showcase that without judgement. There was no angling for you to need to feel a certain way about this. It was really trying to capture the chaotic feeling of how there’s no consensus on this movie. It remains complicated to a lot of people.

After a tense interview with actor Joey Lauren Adams about her experiences and complicated feelings about that time, you acknowledge a need to reconfigure the approach of your documentary. Do you recall the shape of the film prior to that interview happening?

I was anticipating that the movie was going to be within the scope of what I initially imagined, which was a straightforward documentary about the intersection of the LBGTQIA+ community and Chasing Amy, and what that says about us and how we respond to movies. The idea was to always have it be this anthropological thing, but also have this heart to it by relating it back to what it says about us. After that interview, it became very apparent that the shape of the movie would change and that this would have to be a priority in it. To honour the truth that Adams shared and to make sure that those truths were acknowledged, as uncomfortable as they may be.

Chasing Chasing Amy (2023)

Seamlessly blended with the exploration of Chasing Amy’s making and legacy are these periods of great change and vulnerability in your own life during production. Did you feel any pressure to make your transition – revealed partway through the film – a bigger subject of focus in the edit?

Full credit to our producer Alex Schmider, who’s been working in trans media representation for years. I was ideating on how to showcase my transition, including focusing on elements of a medical transition, which is pretty standard when you see movies about trans people – focusing on our medical history [instead of] what it actually means to us as people. As I was regurgitating these ideas I had been fed through the movies and television I had seen, Alex posed the question, “Why do you feel like you have to do that?” And through that came this immense sense of freedom to actually tackle this the way I would want to, which is how I would tackle it with a stranger. You don’t actually need to know my private medical history. You need to know my name, my pronouns and that’s about it.

And so, the journey we’re able to focus on through the movie is one of coming of age, rather than this flashy thing that people think that they want when they see a trans story. Instead, you get to see how it actually felt for me and what that journey was actually like. And not putting stuff out there that you can never take back, that’s also none of anybody’s business. What people need to know about me is what you see in the movie, which is that I’m happier now.

Chasing Chasing Amy screens at BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival. Sav Rodgers will also take part in the Flare event Chasing Identity: Queerness and Empowering Ourselves Through Film.

Chasing Chasing Amy will be in UK cinemas from 17 May.

Other things to explore