Bring It On: A pitiful portrayal or a cheerleading triumph?
I won’t lie, as a child I thought these were possibly the best films ever produced. What more could a 12-year-old want than pretty teens in gorgeous outfits, pulling off incredible routines, competing not only for trophies but for heartthrobs posing as love interests? Well, now that I’m a fully-fledged adult I’m beginning to question whether these films really portrayed cheerleading in the way it should be.
After an extensive amount of research (re-watching all 5 films with a very large bowl of popcorn) I came to conclusion that not all the films placed the same emphasis on the cheerleading element of the film. One thing to note, as the films progressed, is that there was less and less material to each outfit, however, this was not the case when I actually witnessed cheer competitions in real life. The love interest was also increasingly stereotypical which I personally was not a fan of.
Starting with the true classic: 2001 Bring It On, with our leading lady Torrance Shipman played by Kirsten Dunst. Sadly, this movie only earned a 6/10 on IMDb, however, it holds a special place in my heart as cheerleading film. This was the first cheerleading movie I ever watched, and not only does it pull through with a very attractive love interest, but it made me want to be a cheerleader! I may have left it a little too late, but this film is still not a bad way to spend an afternoon for me! I side with Robert Koehler’s articles from Variety when he highlighted that this was one of the first films that: “Succeeds in displaying the physical drive and demands of cheerleading.” Gaining a balance between an All-American rom-com and a clear representation of the sport.
A few thoughts and questions while watching our second movie; Bring It On Again – do all cheerleaders have to be blonde? I also understand that the sport is physically demanding but does is have to be so harsh? The film begins with Whittier Smith dreaming about her possible failure, which results with a judge yelling “you spaz” in her face – not exactly constructive criticism for the 21st Century…. The cheer captain is instructed to “twist her like silly putty” once again, alluding to the ruthlessness of the infamous Dance Moms, which I also don’t think is the case for modern cheer. However, I do appreciate the fact that our movie lead is not the familiar “twig bitch” of the other 4 movies. There’s also a strange suggestion throughout the movie that all the male cheerleaders must be gay to a certain extent, with one of the footballers claiming he must beat up the cheerleading boy in a subtle homophobic dig. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is possibly my least favourite of the Bring It On movies, purely for the fact it’s horrifically controversial and painfully un-credible as a cheerleading portrayal.
As we progress onto the last 3 Bring It On movies, I realise that they all start to blend into one. I will also acknowledge the fact that there are actually 6 Bring It On films but personally, the 2017 “Bring It On Worldwide #cheersmack” is not in the same class as the rest of these utter classics. I think the 2007 film: “Bring It On: In It to Win It” is my second favourite in the series, being the most technically focused of the films. The competition shown in the film is possibly some on of the more accurate representations. However, more problematically, the regular theme of stereotypes -- the "ghetto" African-American girl, the dumb blonde, the effeminate male cheerleader, are all still there. Though these labels are disproven later in the film, viewers would be better served watching something that doesn't resort to stereotypes in the first place.
What I gathered from all 5 films in brief:
- Cheerleading is hard…. A lot harder than 12-year-old me thought.
- Love interests are a quintessential part of teen rom-coms.
- Apparently most cheerleaders are blonde (which isn’t actually fact).
- Everyone loves a cheer film. These movies were iconic for many little girls (and boys) who now cheer professionally, which is evident as it appears as a frequent reference in new Netflix documentary “Cheer.”
And finally, the relationships within your cheer team are more important than anything else from trusting them to catch you and picking you up when you fall.