Cheer: Cheer (Netflix): Full Season
January 11, 2020 11:38 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

In the small town of Corsicana, Texas, hard-driving head coach Monica Adalma demands perfection from her squad of competitive college cheerleaders.

Can the college cheerleading team at Navarro College overcome injuries and team-members' baggage from childhood traumas to win their 14th national title? This Netflix series is a conventional sports documentary, recognizing competitive cheerleaders as extraordinary athletes.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is this the season where Rebecca starts dating Robin Colcord?
posted by Chrysostom at 11:55 AM on January 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I tried to watch this but after about 20 minutes, I just couldn't take another iteration of someone saying 'It's really important that everyone work together as a team.' Have you watched more episodes? Does it get less repetitive?
posted by jacquilynne at 12:25 PM on January 11, 2020

I watched the whole thing. I'm not sure why, but I found it pretty watchable, although I wasn't as into it in the first episode. There's still a bit of repetition of the team stuff, but I think it gets more interesting as it goes on, and you learn more about a few of the specific cheerleaders on the squad. It feels less generic at that point.
posted by litera scripta manet at 5:45 PM on January 11, 2020

I liked it a lot and agree that it got less repetitious as the series went on. But I thought there was some unexamined stuff having to do with race and sexuality (and the intersections of the two), and I would really like to see some smart criticism of the series.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:48 PM on January 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

This was compelling but agree with others that some better discussion of race, sex, sexual preference, and class was really needed.
posted by k8t at 8:59 PM on January 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yes, agreed that they could have done a better job of examining those other issues. I also wish it examined a little more critically the physical/emotional cost to these young people involved in the sport. I know sports always have risk of injury, but one of the things that particularly bothered me was when Monica had that one cheerleader who threw out his back keep practicing as punishment for disobeying her.

I would really like to see some smart criticism of the series.

Yeah, I tried to do some googling for some reviews/critiques of the show, but couldn't find much that was coming at it from a more analytical perspective, but if anyone does find some smart criticisms of the series, I'd be interested in reading them.

I did find this review/critique from NPR, which at least gets into this a bit, but it's not a very in depth analysis.
posted by litera scripta manet at 5:09 AM on January 12, 2020

Yeah, that's the best thing I've seen so far. But I guess I also wondered about the racial politics, in this very conservative small town, of having black young men participate in this sport that involves so much close physical contact with mostly-white young women. And in some ways, I wonder if the presumed queerness of the black young men in some ways mitigates the issues that could raise. We're invited to see Monica as progressive, despite her self-identification as a conservative Christian, because she refuses to condemn her gay male athletes. But I also wonder if the fact that the black male athletes appear mostly to be queer is, in some ways, less scandalous than it would be if they weren't presumed to be gay.

Anyway, I thought there was a ton to unpack there, but I also thought they did a really good job finding athletes to feature who were complex but also really likable. Even Gabi Butler, whom one would expect to be kind of awful, came off as a nice, hard-working kid who is completely exploited by her terrible family.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:17 AM on January 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was blown away by the athletic skill and at the same time worried about the students physical and emotional well-being. These young people are truly being pushed to the limit.

The first episode showed a few instances where students fell/were injured and other students were either admonished to focus or even punished. There did not seem to be any debriefing after that, like how did she fall? What happened and how can this be prevented in the future? Instead, push-ups for everyone.

There was also the scene in class, where the professor boasted of being a gun enthusiast and served "the cheer and basketball people who might not be from Texas" several cliches about the South without any qualification or serious examination. This is college, right? How are unexamined cliches appropriate in a college setting?

I do not think I can power through another episode - it's just too nerve-wracking to wait for the routine to end without anyone breaking their neck. And I find myself really disliking Monica, the coach.
posted by M. at 7:50 AM on January 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I know this is real life, but I desperately want Tammi Taylor to come in and protect these kids.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:28 PM on January 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I knew about the monopoly! My 12-year-old left gymnastics last year, and tried on competitive cheerleading. He really enjoyed stunting (he's small, and once or twice he got to "fly" when men from the local university cheer team came to practices), but felt underused in the choreography his team got, so he quit. He's diving, and looking into Trampoline & Tumbling.

One thing that struck me was the attitudes of the coaches at both gyms we checked out. Cheer is a really expensive sport, even though boys generally are not charged coaching fees because it's hard to get boys into cheerleading, but they want boys on the teams because there is less competition in the co-ed categories and teams are therefore, theoretically, more likely to win at the big meets if they compete co-ed.

The attitude really was " we do what's best for the team." When we tried to talk to coaches about my son feeling bored at practices and under-utilized in the routine, the response was that he couldn't expect to be placed on a higher-level team based on his excellent tumbling when he was new to the cheer part, and that he should be hang in there in the hope of being placed on a higher-level team next year. Or the year after. He was personally alarmed by the girls he met who had been competing at the same, relatively low level, for years.

It was weird being sort of stonewalled and told he had to, basically, pay his dues, in a sport that is very expensive and totally optional, if you know what I mean. They were essentially asking me to pay thousands of dollars, and my son to be bored, for some unknown number of years until he got a chance to really use his skills.

The monopoly means that there are some real money-grubbing aspects to it. I was especially taken aback by "stay-to-play" rules, which require that all the cheerleaders stay in certain hotels in order to participate in a meet in a certain town. For the occasional gymnastics meet that required us to stay overnight somewhere, we often stayed in Air B&Bs or inexpensive hotels just out of town—instead of staying at the high-priced affiliated hotels in downtown Chicago for a meet on Navy Pier, for instance, we'd get a cheap place forty-five minutes south of Chicago. The prospect of having to stay at a hotel with a conference rate of $150/night did not sit well with me.

I haven't actually watched this show yet, but will be interested to see it. One of my son's gymnastics coaches suggested that if he wanted a college athletic scholarship, cheerleading was a good way to go.

I did not know that statistic about injuries, but I'm not surprised.
posted by Orlop at 2:04 PM on January 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

So I was very into this for about the first fifteen minutes, and the kids are great, but - I found it too tough to watch by the end of the first hour? The kids more or less being exploited into destroying their bodies to escape their situations or to escape themselves, and all for what? Not even a shot at a pro career after college, just nothing. Like I get that there's a joy in performance and competition but this just seemed to have taken that to a really bad place.

Like others up thread I'd be very keen to read some smart criticism on the show.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:36 PM on January 18, 2020

Wow, that was really intense. The injuries are so worrisome, but it was amazing watching Morgan gain confidence throughout the season. I'm surprised/not surprised so many stay behind after graduation. I hope the "ring of fire" kid is okay--there were many interviews I wish they included.

The Athletes of 'Cheer' Deserve Better - The Atlantic
posted by armacy at 7:32 AM on January 26, 2020

I found this series so compelling! I thought it was especially fascinating as an extension of the themes in Last Chance U; created by the same people that went on to make Cheer, it established the "will they get to championships" format but followed junior college football teams.

Both series did an excellent job of looking at the symbiotic, if dysfunctional, relationship between the players and the team, the individual and the collective. It was easier to dismiss the uncomfortable dynamics in Last Chance U as being a product of football culture, or toxic masculinity, and so it was really surprising and interesting to me to see the same uncomfortable dynamics, just manifested differently, come out in a different sport like cheerleading. The leadership style of the male coaches (verbal abuse, unregulated emotional outbursts) and Monica Aldama (expecting perfection, empathy/favoritism) is expressed differently but ultimately achieves, or attempts to achieve, the same thing--total devotion and unquestioned loyalty and performance.

I was struck watching Cheer that the underlying theme that binds both series together is trauma. Maybe the editorial choices of which students to profile skewed this, but many of the athletes in both Last Chance U and Cheer said, repeatedly, "Football saved my life", "I would rather die than not be able to play football", "Cheer saved my life", "I would be dead if it weren't for cheer". As Cheer progressed and the stunts got more difficult and harder to watch (especially TT's back pain and Morgan's ribs!) I thought about why you would continue to practice when you were in such pain. The gallows humor and seeming disregard for life and limb made me think of my own nihilistic mindset at particularly dark times in my life, and then I started thinking about childhood trauma and its lasting impacts, or more specifically, PTSD and the incidence of reckless and high-risk behavior. It makes sense to me that these students would find security and relief in becoming athletes in sports with potentially high-stakes injuries--and that they would be especially vulnerable to coaching structures and personalities that venerate success at all costs.

I too have been looking for a more nuanced analysis of the show and have so far appreciated On the Mat We're Briefly Perfect: On Netflix's Cheer and Anne Helen Peterson's essay "Cheer" Captures What It Really Felt Like to Be a Cheerleader.
posted by stellaluna at 4:21 PM on January 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

I found this really, really compelling. Never expected to be crying through the penultimate episode of a show about competitive cheer-leading.

If you haven't watched beyond the first episode, you need to power through. You didn't come this far just to quit after sixty minutes - that's not you.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 7:56 AM on February 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

There's a new FPP on the show: Cheer Uses Concussions to Make the Case for Cheerleading
posted by mosst at 8:18 AM on February 3, 2020

The thing I'm just stuck on...they're really just using mats on top of the regular gym floor? Are spring floors not more common? I'm sure they're expensive, but presumably they've got some income from the Netflix documentary and related opportunities...
posted by mosst at 8:25 AM on February 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

I went down a bit of a google rabbit hole on this and I'm still not sure about the competition surface but the practice surface that cheerleaders can rent at worlds is definitely a spring floor. And there are definitely spring floors marketed as a standard cheerleading practice surface.

More importantly, this study on "The Potential for Brain Injury on Selected Surfaces Used by Cheerleaders" found that:
Only spring floors and 4-in (0.10-m)–thick landing mats over foam floors provided sufficient impact absorption for the performance of 2-level cheerleading stunts. I'd really hope that those are the standard through both practice and competition. It does not appear that they are at Navarro.
posted by mosst at 11:28 AM on February 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

I got completely sucked into this on a plane ride recently. There was a lot I wish had gotten more than just hinted at, for example what the desired body type is and how they get there -- "Monica likes Big Boys" and the one girl who was upset because she was almost 100 lbs.

> I'd really hope that those are the standard through both practice and competition. It does not appear that they are at Navarro.

There was a scene in Florida were they were practicing outside with no mats at all.

> I also appreciated throughout the series how they seemed to work hard to give the athletes a lot of respect and privacy

Yes, I noticed that, too. Their romantic lives didn't come into it at all and I think that was a good decision.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:36 AM on February 24, 2020

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