Netflix’s Cheer – so much more than cheerleading

2020, film, student

Hello!

So this week I binge watched all the episodes of Netflix’s docu-series ‘Cheer’. I’d seen loads of people raving about on Instagram. Firstly, it was absolutely beautifully shot – the quality, the storytelling, the individual stories bringing together a whole team, just magnificent.

But it was so much more than an insight to cheerleading.

When I was growing up, what I thought I knew cheerleading to be was pretty stereotypical – I was a dancer; ballet, tap, modern, hip hop, shows, performances, leotards, the lot. My view of cheerleaders was from Disney Channel shows and American High School movies – the blonde dumb girls who only care about popularity and dating athletes.

Then I went to uni and auditioned for the dance team – it was actually a dance and cheer team and whilst I wasn’t interested, I was impressed at what I saw at the first competitions we attended. Especially UK comps like Future Cheer showcased some truly incredible talent. (To be clear – I wasn’t a cheerleader, I did jazz and hip hop and competed just in the dance sections)

But the cheerleaders from my uni kind of fit the stereotype I knew – they were party girls and if you weren’t a party girl (hello, that’s me) they didn’t care about who you were and you didn’t have ‘team spirit’. The teams weren’t very well organised and as someone who was really passionate about dance, it was really frustrating. So that stereotype festered in my head – I appreciated that there were serious teams with incredible talent and athleticism out there but there were also a lot of stereotypical uni girls.

Three years later I’m sat watching this docu-series about Cheerleaders with tears in my eyes because of these amazing people and the progress they’ve made and I’m absolutely astounded by what they can do and the strength, skill and power they’ve worked for.

What I really took away from it was more of a personal discovery – I was driving to pick my boyfriend up from work, thinking about the show I’d just finished watching, and feeling almost jealous that I didn’t have that one thing that I’m passionate about. Everyone on the Navarro Cheer team had been cheerleading for years to learn and hone those skills and I have so many things that I love that I just can’t imagine being so driven about just one thing.

I thought maybe dance could still be my ‘thing’ even if I wasn’t a dancer. Then maybe photography/videography/cameras and stuff but I find the technical aspects of settings, hardware, software and so on really hard to retain. I’ve always loved writing, but I can’t seem to focus on rewriting my novel, I kind of want to learn to write for TV but I only really want to write for the DC superhero show ‘The Flash’. And on top of all that, regardless of what my ‘one passion’ could be I don’t know if I’m actually any good at anything to make it work.

All of these thoughts from a documentary about a cheerleading team from a community college in Corsicana, Texas.

These kids have inspired me to find a focus – to find something I’m passionate enough to dedicate my whole life to it. It might not be trusting a bunch of people to throw me in the air and be there to catch me or throwing myself across a mat pretending I can do backflips (which I definitely can’t) but it’s the drive to work hard to be talented it at the one thing I love the most.

If you haven’t seen Cheer, I wholeheartedly recommend it – it’s about so much more than a sport no one really knows about. Its discipline, facing hardships in life and finding family in the places you least expect. It’s genuinely heartwarming.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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