New Netflix Documentary Fights Cheerleading Stereotype

By Julie O’Hare

Cheerleading is very insular. If you’re outside of cheerleading, you don’t get it. People put cheerleading in the same category has dance or gymnastics, but it is much more than that.

Cheer is a docuseries that follows the hard work of the Navarro College Bulldogs cheerleading team in Corsicana, Texas. It is a documentary that cheerleaders have long deserved. The six-part series captures the squad’s preparation to compete in the National Cheerleading Championship. This competition is held annually in Daytona, Florida. The episodes star members of the team while also providing historical elements of the sport. The documentaries underlying tone fights the stereotype of cheerleading not being a real sport. 

The documentary balances an entertainment element while confronting the reality of the province of the series. Netflix documentaries are produced in a new mainstream way. The series touches on historical ideals but focuses mainly on the emotional elements of the team. It remained people-orientated throughout after providing the background of cheerleading. [2]

People see them cheering on the sideline at games, but when it comes to their competition, no one is to be found. Jerry, a member of the team, explained, “We’re there for every single sport, but when we go to Daytona, no one cares.”

The start of the series begins with the Bulldogs having won fourteen NCA National Championship in the junior college division and five Grand Nationals for having the highest score of all teams in the competition. Their success is apparent from the very beginning, and so is their fate.

Cheerleading has no professional platform after college. The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, for example, are more like dancers. College cheerleaders are incredibly dedicated because once their schooling is over, so is the sport they spent likely a lifetime practicing.

For the Bulldogs, cheerleading has given them hope. All of the featured team members come from difficult upbringings. Without cheer, one tumbler said she’d likely be in a jail cell right now. Instead, she’s competing on a team with incredible talent and the best in the nation. Sports enable people to show their uniqueness through nonverbal communication and visual spectaculars, which sports documentaries focus on. [1] Through each story shared, the documentary was able to capture the fight that each individual had within, to help understand where their passion comes from. 

La’Darius was a football player his whole life up until high school. His football coach said he was even better than his two brothers. He didn’t know boys could be on the cheerleading squad until he saw a video online and became interested. He soon joined the team and was bullied for it. He quit and continued to play football. During one of his games, when his team scored a touchdown, he did a roundoff back handspring to celebrate. His school did not appreciate his spirit and took the teams trophy away. The documentary uses this to allow the audience to understand why La’Darius is constantly fighting back and giving the coach attitude. Without the sharing of his story, people would not know why he is the way he is.

The team is made up of so many personalities and backgrounds. They are the best from where they come from. Their talent combined with the lack of public interest and support created a platform to fight the stigma of cheerleading not being a real sport, and Netflix did just that.

[1] TY – JOUR T1 – Introduction A1 – Malitsky – “Knowing Sports,” VL – 41 IS – 2 SP – 191 EP – 193 PY – 2014 PB – University of Illinois Press SN – 2155-8455 UR – https://muse.jhu.edu/article/557798 N1 – Volume 41, Number 2, Summer 2014 ER -[2] TY – JOUR T1 – Introduction A1 – McDonald JF – “Situating the Sports Documentary,” VL – 41 IS – 2 SP – 191 EP – 193 PY – 2014 PB – University of Illinois Press SN – 2155-8455 UR – https://muse.jhu.edu/article/557798

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