Netflix’s Cheer – which follows the trials and tribulations of life on the cheerleading team at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas – only landed on the platform on 8 January, but it’s already making waves. Here, we explore what makes this new docu-series so inspiring.
For many of us, our knowledge of cheerleaders only goes as far as the American movies we watched as a teenager. You know the ones we’re talking about – they spend their days dressed head-to-toe in cheerleading attire and walking around the school like they own the place, throwing judgement-fuelled glares at anyone who dares to look their way. In the world of competitive cheerleading, however, it’s a very different story.
You’ll likely have seen that difference if you’ve managed to catch an episode of Netflix’s new docu-series Cheer, which dropped on the platform on 8 January.
The six-part series, which focuses on the cheerleading squad at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, follows the team throughout their cheerleading season as they prepare for the national championships. With so much to lose, only one thing’s for certain: this team – and their coach Monica – does not play around when it comes to winning.
If there’s one thing you take away from this series, it’s the sheer endurance and strength of the women on the Navarro team. Alongside being thrown into the air and stretching their bodies into unimaginable shapes, the flyers (aka the ones who get lifted and thrown off the ground) are expected to suspend any fear or uncertainty they have about being thrown across the room, and do it fifty times over.
That’s not forgetting all the incredible female athletes who make tumbling across the mat look as easy as going for a walk. It’s seriously impressive stuff.
But the series doesn’t sugar coat the realities of such an intense sport – in fact, it makes the risk scarily clear.
There are more than enough concussions, dislocated joints and sprained ankles to go around, and you’ll find yourself wincing at least once or twice per episode as the pyramid falls down or a stunt falls, leaving multiple members of the team spread across the ground.
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What happens next, however, is what makes this series so great. Without fail, the 40-strong squad get up on their feet and try again, running through their two-and-a-half-minute long routine until it is perfect – and then continuing to work.
In particular, it is inspiring to watch the young women on the team putting their all into the sport they love, unafraid to get something wrong or fall down. Put quite simply, it is a joy to watch women enjoying moving their bodies.
Throughout the series we learn more about the backstories of these young women, whether it’s “cheer-lebrity” Gabi Butler and her selection of side projects and sponsorship deals or flyer and tumbler Morgan Simianer who, despite becoming near suicidal through childhood neglect by her parents, finds herself surpassing the highest expectations at the end of the season. Then there’s incredibly powerful and talented tumbler Lexi Brumback, whose journey from school dropout to superstar athlete is undeniably one of the best stories of the whole series, and Mackenzie Sherburn or “Sherbs”, who spends half the season off the mat after dislocating her elbow in one of the practice routines, but continues to cheer on her teammates.
And all of this is down to the team’s matriarchal leader, the powerful and unapologetic Monica Aldama. Through her stoic, no-excuses-please approach to leadership, Aldama guides her team to a feat which can only be described as super human – can someone please hire this woman to run my life?
All jokes aside, Cheer is a true triumph. Watching incredibly talented young women chase their goals with unapologetic dedication is one of the most refreshing things you’ll watch in a while. Seriously. Go and watch it. Now.
You can thank us later.
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