“The Truth About Jane” Is Dated as Heck, and That’s a Very Good Thing

When it came time for me to spin the wheel for our Lost Movie Archives project, I landed on The Truth About Jane. I’ve always thought it was kind of weird that this movie won so many awards when it landed on Lifetime in 2000 — Outstanding TV Movie by GLAAD, Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries (for Channing) by the Screen Actors Guild, and Original Long Form by the Writer’s Guild — but that the only people in the world who’ve ever seen it are Drew and Riese and my wife Stacy.

But after watching it, it’s obvious why: The Truth About Jane was, for 2000, a revolutionary movie that pulled no punches when it came to villainizing homophobic parents, but it’s a movie for homophobic parents that feels archaic in 2020, which is actually a very good thing — especially when you consider the fact that some of our still most beloved and resonant lesbian, bisexual, and queer TV is from the early aughts (Buffy, Degrassi, South of Nowhere, The Wire, The L Word). It’s also not a “movie” as much as it’s a “90-minute PSA” that packs in every 2000s thing you can think of when it comes to gay after school specials. At one point, near the end of the film, Jane’s like “Wow, it’s been a rough two weeks.” And Stacy and I, in unison, yelled, “TWO WEEKS?” at the TV. So much stuff had happened to her by that point it felt like two years. And, of course, the dialogue isn’t exactly elegant — though there is one deeply quotable moment when Jane’s lesbian teacher asks her what’s wrong and Jane says, “I’m gay and everyone hates me!!!!!!”

The Truth About Jane goes like this: Jane (Ellen Muth) is the apple of her parents’ eye from the moment she’s born, and they have big plans for her, especially her mom, Stockard Channing, who wants them to be best friends forever. They have a second child named Brad or Ned or something, but they don’t really care for him, and at one point he calls Jane a dyke and she reaches over, pulls him across the kitchen table, knocks all the dinner and dishes onto the floor, and beats the heck out of him. And her parents are like, “Ned, go to your room! No dinner!” He limps away with a bloody head and everyone’s like “fucking Ned.”

Anyway, Jane gets a new classmate named Taylor (Alicia Lagano) who wears Docs and leans on stuff in a bisexual way. Jane crushes on Taylor, dumps all her old friends, spends every second with Taylor, has sex with Taylor, sneaks out and gets drunk with Taylor, gets dumped by Taylor, and spirals into a depression about Taylor, Taylor Taylor Taylor. Jane’s English teacher (it’s always the English teacher) has that one Meg Ryan haircut (you know the one) and is also Kelly “Kirsten Cohen” Rowan, mother of Seth Cohen from the O.C., and she clocks Jane’s lesbianism because she also is a lesbian. She helps Jane deal with her broken heart and also with Stockard Channing, who turns into an absolute nightmare monster the second Jane’s comes out, even though her best friend is literally RuPaul. (RuPaul tag teams with the English teacher for elder gay support for Jane.) Stockard Channing manages to turn everyone against her, including her own husband, because she is behaving like such a jackass. She tries to attend a PFLAG meeting but she can’t even do the part where she’s like, “I’m Stockard Channing and my daughter is a lesbian” and everyone claps. (BTW, is that real?)

Ultimately, though, both RuPaul and the English teacher convince Stockard Channing that Jane’s actual life will be in danger if she keeps this shit up, and so Stockard Channing goes to a Pride parade and learns to love her gay child. (Even though she still is apathetic toward Brad.)

There’s actually something really soothing about watching this film in 2021, even though it’s a slog. It seems like it was made in an entirely different world, and it kind of was. The only gay thing on TV when The Truth About Jane was released was Ellen’s coming out and some guest characters who always ended up dead or broken-hearted. Lesbian and gay equality — trans equality wasn’t even on the broad LGBTQ+ radar at the time — was under constant attack by the Republican Party, with marriage equality and gay adoption and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell coming up in every debate from top to bottom in political campaigns across the country. Lesbian and gay Americans were the cultural scapegoats of the moment. 2000 was as close to the AIDS crisis as it was to President Obama speaking out in support of marriage equality. It would have been an impossible dream when Jane was released to think that in 20 years, there’d be too much LGBTQ+ TV for one website to cover, that celebrities would just be casually coming out right and left on something like TikTok, that the President of the United States would name his support of LGBTQ+ Americans in stump speeches across the nation, that RuPaul would own an empire.

But here we are. We’ve come so far.

But one thing does remain the same: Lesbians can fall in love, propose marriage, break up, sink into depression, and then fall in love all over again in a span of less than one month. That particular truth about Jane is eternal.


You can stream The Truth About Jane for $3.99 on YouTube.

In Lost Movie Reviews From the Autostraddle Archives we revisit past lesbian, bisexual, and queer classics that we hadn’t reviewed before, but you shouldn’t miss. Want more movies? Check out Autostraddle’s 200 Best Lesbian Movies of All Time.

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Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1200 articles for us.

17 Comments

  1. The Truth About Jane is also on Netflix DVD if anyone else still has such a subscription! (Coincidentally I happen to have it at home right now!) Psyched for this revisit, especially for us Olds.

  2. I am so happy to hear this review, in the incredible Heather Hogan style of review I adore!
    I have this movie on DVD (which is now relegated to the rec room instead of our actual tv watching location). When it came out, I definitely latched onto this movie as I was two years away from the divorce that would set me free to live my true life. I had had issues in high school with my mother finding out about the girl I was “too close to”. This film really hit home, though my mom did not handle it the way things turned out with Stockard. As in, she never got to the March in a PFLAG parade stage. Twenty years later, she loves my wife and visits us, as long as her friends don’t know. (Insert eye roll here). She’s a work in progress.
    As for the movie, maybe it’s time to get out the dvd/vcr combo and give it a rewatch. (There are Worse Things I Could Do…)

  3. I loved this movie when I first watched it long ago! I adore Stockard Channing (as an acting person; I know very little about the person herself).

    I appreciated the representation of the view that “gay is ok, but not for my precious child”. I once had a similar view for myself. It was cool for others to be gay, but I was trying to be perfect; I got perfect grades and always followed the rules so I couldn’t be gay, right? So it was nice to see representation of views other than “totally 100% on board” or “religiously against”. I needed that back in the day.

    I’ve since learned that “gay” does not preclude perfection, but being human does. And it’s better that way anyways.

  4. I remember my mom putting this on (she loves lifetime movies) when I was just coming out to myself and was definitely closeted.

    Lucky for me my mom fell asleep as I cried and related to Jane super hardcore. (In retrospect maybe my mom put it on because she knew???)

  5. I saw this when it premiered when I was ten and it really did throw my life into chaos lmao and ultimately, that’s ok. Ellen Muth also led me to watch Dead Like Me so she caused many existential crises…

  6. I remember watching thisnin high school with my grandma when it first came out because well, it was on lifetime and she loved lifetime. I was at the point of realizing I was gay but wasn’t out to anyone. While she didn’t have some amazing reaction to the movie, the fact that she watched it and at some point made a comment about the mothers behavior helped me in knowing I’d be okay.

  7. “She tries to attend a PFLAG meeting but she can’t even do the part where she’s like, “I’m Stockard Channing and my daughter is a lesbian” and everyone claps. (BTW, is that real?)”

    HEATHER I AM DYING

    also yes can someone who has attended pflag confirm and/or deny that pflag operates like an Anonymous meeting rofl

  8. I remember finding this in the TV guide, circa 2001/2002, and feeling a strong NEED to watch it (for no particular reason lol). Staying up late, in the basement rec room, with the sound on soft mute and my finger on the remote.

    Lead me to watch Dead to Me.

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