First airing in January 2020, Cheer is a 6-episode Netflix docuseries that centers around the nationally-ranked cheerleading team at Navarro College, Texas, as they prepare for the National Cheerleading Championships. It uses cheer as a central theme to explore the lives, hopes, and struggles of various players and their head coach, Monica Aldama.
In traditional American culture, cheerleading has always been seen as the classic white Valley girl counterpart to jocks and popular kids who peaked in high school. However, Cheer offers an interesting antithesis to this by following the stories of five cheerleaders who have found solace and hope in the sport. The docuseries, complete with technically on-point camera shots and a soundtrack that slowly builds up to the apex at the National Cheerleading Championships, show cheerleaders who are multi-faceted and complex in their struggles and their aspirations. All the characters are likable, not because they are the cool and perfect kids that cheerleaders are stereotyped to be, but because they are the hopeful and incredibly human college students that the docuseries managed to encapsulate perfectly. Jerry Harris, a black man who grew up in Chicago without ever having a stable family, uses cheer to cope with the loss of his mother. Lexi Brumback, the star tumbler who was kept out of jail because of her passion for cheer. Their coach, Monica Aldama, who used her experience and love for cheer to build a team from a small college from the ground up. In quarantine, the message of this docuseries is at once inspiring but also comforting. We get to see an activity that society has always whitewashed and romanticized under the microscope and understand the stories behind the beautiful tumbles, jumps, and routines. In a time where humans have gotten increasingly isolated, we get an opportunity to be reminded of the world from before and connect to each other on a meaningful and deep level. We get to understand that humans aren’t perfect and that behind every winning two-and-a-half-minute routine, there’s years and years of hardship and struggle that goes into the practice and the teamwork behind it.
Cheer is just another one of those classic Netflix shows that romanticizes and tries too hard to make an inspiring story out of an unglamorous situation. It might have broken down the popular high schooler stereotype of cheerleaders, but it created yet another for people to buy into and pay for: a sport that perfectly unites broken people asking to be saved. The cheer team at Navarro is not the picture-perfect story Netflix tried to make them out to be, and no fancy camera trick will help that. Soon after the series was filmed, Lexi Brumback was caught for drug use and kicked off the team. In September 2020, not even a year after the airing of the series, Jerry Harris was arrested and charged with producing child sex images. For a few months, Cheer might have captivated audiences and celebrities alike, but now, just a short time after the series ended, its flawless cover has already shattered to pieces. What we need in quarantine is a dose of reality. We need to understand that problems in our life sometimes don’t just disappear, and it’s better to learn to live with them than to turn to an ideal, whether that is cheerleading or something else, to try and wash it away. The economic and social issues that have come out of the pandemic are not things that a mere sport or activity will resolve, and Cheer paints a horribly unrealistic image of what life is.
[P1] Cheer is an inspiring story of people who used their passion to overcome their struggles. [P2] People in quarantine need to connect with other struggles and see people empowering themselves.
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P1] Cheer paints a fake image of problems and perfect solutions just to make for interesting TV. [Rejecting P2] People in quarantine needs a dose of reality that sometimes their problem never goes away, and that's okay.