Hilary Duff Didn’t Realize Cadet Kelly Was a Queer Icon
How I Met Your Father star Hilary Duff recently learned something that queer gals of a certain age have known since 2002: that her Disney Channel Original Movie Cadet Kelly was high-key gay.
In the film, Duff plays a teen girl named Kelly who’s forced by her father to enroll in the military school he attended. She quickly discovers a rival in her commanding officer, Jennifer Stone (played by fellow Disney Channel starlet and Even Stevens actress Christy Carlson Romano), as the two compete on the drill team. From the boarding school location to all that tension between its leads (and don’t even get me started on that dance number), it became an eye-opening experience for a very specific – and very queer – portion of its audience.
When asked by Cosmopolitan about the queer coding in the film, Duff admitted she had only recently learned that it was viewed that way by LGBTQ+ viewers.
“I have to watch the movie again,” she said. “No one has brought that to my attention except for Tien Tran on our show who plays Ellen [in How I Met Your Father]. She was like, ‘Oh my God. It is a moment in the queer community. All that close-talking with Jennifer.’ I didn’t know that. But if it helps anybody, I hope so.”
Duff’s not the only star looking back at the film with rainbow-colored glasses. Romano, who played Stone, has also teased that she picked up on the subtext. In a TikTok posted on January 7, Carlson Roman lip-synced the viral “I know something you don’t” line over a photo of her and Duff from the film, with the caption “Low key tho.” So, yeah, she gets it.
Romano also previously talked about Cadet Kelly’s queer legacy on an episode of her YouTube channel.
“What I find interesting about the interpretation of the relationship between Kelly and Captain Stone is that there is a narrative that is in the culture right now that people are saying maybe they were in love, maybe there was an undercurrent of tension between the two girls,” she said. “It really helped a lot of girls identify their sexuality.”
“The military has traditionally been strict about that stuff and at the time that the movie came out, we were not talking about that stuff. This character, Captain Stone, was the sexual awakening for a lot of the girls that felt that way at that age. I had a part in that! That’s crazy, I never even thought about that. I’m very flattered,” Romano added.
If a sequel to Cadet Kelly is ever greenlit, we’d suggest that it draw inspiration from what Romano said she imagines for her character: she’d be married to a woman and would be a principal at a school where a new girl just like Kelly has enrolled.
That definitely has our attention. But we would also like to formally request that Stone be played by Duff!
Revisit Cadet Kelly, which is now streaming on Disney+!