Emma Seligman | Photo Credit: Getty Images

We may still all be reeling from “Barbenheimer,” but the late-summer box office got a bloody, baudy boost thanks to the arrival of Bottoms, a queer comedy that’s got everyone buzzing.

The story of two “ugly, untalented” gay friends Josie and PJ (Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott)—who start a fight club as part of a wrong-headed scheme to get close to their cheerleader crushes—comes from the mind of rising queer filmmaker Emma Seligman, collaborating once again with her Shiva Baby star and co-writer Sennott.

For Seligman, Bottoms is the answer to the question, “Why can’t the gays have raunchy sex comedies, too?,” immediately staking its claim among teen classics of yore like Heathers and Mean Girls that played by their own rules.

So, what makes Seligman tick? What makes her laugh? What movies warped her young mind and inspired her to come up with so brazenly absurd and unabashedly queer as Bottoms?

We decided to find out by having her by as the latest guest in our rapid-fire Q&A series, Dishin’ It. In our chat, she touches on the formative horror flick that changed her life, dreams up the next great buddy movie for her stars, and reveals the embarrassing thing she once did to get closer to a crush (which is, frankly, Bottoms behavior.)

Is there a piece of media—whether a movie, TV series, book, album, games, etc…—that you consider a big part of your own coming-out journey, or that has helped shape your understanding of queerness? Why does it stand out to you?

I think Jennifer’s Body had quite an effect on me when it came out. I think because, one, I was such a movie buff as a kid, and that movie is so well written and so well directed and has such a style to it. And it was so clearly directed by a woman. And I was not out or aware of my queerness—I think I was, like, 13 when I saw the movie—but I think that I related to the sort of the weird stickiness of female friendship, and like the weird, blurry lines when you’re a teenager, or a preteen. And that relationship between Needy and Jennifer has that. And I just think it’s a great movie. But that was significant for me.

Bottoms is so funny, so unpredictable, and so very gay. In your opinion, why is it important that PJ and Josie are queer characters? Why do we need to see more protagonists like them at the movies?

I mean, I don’t really think I’m interested in doing any stories that aren’t queer or Jewish when they feel right, you know what I mean? But the whole inception for this was to do a queer teen sex comedy—like, there’s no version of this that would’ve been not queer. That, to me, defines sort of the impetus and the genre we were trying to create something when within—but also create! I mean, I know that queer teen movies and shows have been done at this point in shows, which has been awesome, and I’m so glad to be part of that. But yeah, I just wanted to show horny—it sounds so creepy saying that, but—sh*tty, flawed, horny teenagers who are super hormonal and have desires.

Bottoms immediately joins the pantheon of generation-defining high school comedies, following in the footsteps of Heathers, Clueless, Mean Girls, etc… What movie—whether for good or for bad—would you say defines your high school years and why?

I was only nine when Mean Girls came out, but I think that that movie had the most significant effect [on me,] and [it had the] clear representation of cliques and stuff that are formed in middle school in high school. There was no high school movie that came out while I was in high school that felt like, “Oh my god, this is me, this is something I can really relate to,” but Clueless and Mean Girls stood the test of time when it came to that. That representation. Mean Girls was so groundbreaking for its time in terms of showing how nasty and horrible teen girls are to each other, so that felt really era-defining, and I think stayed with me through high school.

And there’s a lot of other teen movies that I loved the were fun, like She’s The Man I remember seeing four times in theaters. I was 11 for that, I wasn’t in high school yet, but it’s one I remember very clearly. And, you know what? Also Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Kick-Ass—all these “boy movies” where there’s grittiness and blood and fighting—these sort of save-the-day movies.

Inspired by the fact that PJ and Josie start a fight club to get closer to their crushes: What’s something embarrassing or ridiculous or silly you did back in the day to get a crush to notice you?

I think there’s the sort of typical things, like showing up to something you have no interest in because you know someone you like is gonna be there. Or, like, I’ve definitely—at least in college—joined activist causes because there was someone I thought was really cute, you know? Not that I didn’t care about those causes, but I wasn’t not thinking about all the things that could benefit me, too.

Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri are such an incredible comedic duo. If you could remake any movie with them in the lead roles, what would it be and why?

Oh my god, that’s such a good question. I would love to see them in like Pineapple Express, but then I’d also like to see them in something dramatic like Thelma & Louise. Because they’re both really wonderful dramatics actors! I’d love to see another comedy from them for sure. You know, something that’s even more ridiculous where they’re needing to go get weed or whatever to escape the mob—or whatever that movie is about. But I’d also like see them do a two-hander that’s like really fast and dramatic, too.

Who’s a fictional character you had a crush on at a younger age? What do you remember loving about them?

Oh, Seth Cohen on The OC. Like, before I knew I was queer, it was always like the little, weird Jewish guys like that I was in love with. And this is the polar opposite, but I mean even Daniel Radcliffe. I know a lot of people had crushes on him because he was literally the lead of the biggest franchise ever. But he’s also kind of a little nerdy Jewish dude, you know what I mean?

What’s an example of a meme/TikTok/short comedy sketch/viral video that never fails to make you laugh? What do you love about it?

This feels like I’m really dating myself, and I wouldn’t say this is something I “revisit,” but I bring it up all the time when I’m trying to describe a feeling or an emotion that someone can’t understand: [It’s that meme] of the woman with the math floating around her head. It just applies to a lot! When you’re trying to describe a situation, it’s just an easy go-to, and I feel like people my age always get it.

Who is a queer or trans artist/performer/creator that you think is doing really cool work right now? Why are they someone we should all be paying attention to?

I think I’m most excited in general about new, up-and-coming queer filmmakers, and independent filmmakers —just seeing sort of what they continue to do. So, someone from the last year that really got me excited was Charlotte Wells, who directed Aftersun, and I’m really, really excited to see what she does next!

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