Cheer leaves viewers without spirit as it deals with various issues


Shreya Jagannathan

Cheer season two puts forth its best foot forward, but cheer spirit just isn’t enough this time to gracefully keep us hooked to the show.

The second season of “Cheer”, released on Jan. 12, 2022, puts forth its best foot forward, but cheer spirit just isn’t enough this time to gracefully keep us hooked to the show. 

The second season of “Cheer” follows Navarro Community College (a college known for its best co-ed cheerleading program) cheerleaders as they navigate obstacles while trying to bring home their 15th national win. The show also documents their rival Trinity Valley Community College’s story preparing for the very same title.

However, the show falls off its mark as it barely can convey these cheerleaders’ stories cohesively. With too many new characters introduced within the span of a few minutes, the show doesn’t do enough justice to these new stories, nor does it give the viewers enough time to connect with them. Greg Whiteley, director of the show, opens the show documenting Navarro preparing for Daytona 2020. It’s no surprise, however, that due to COVID, Daytona is canceled and the cheerleaders are sent back home. Whitley resumes filming with catching up with all the cheerleaders who come back and their preparation leading up to Daytona 2021. Although the show tries to connect 2020 and 2021, the fragmentation is unavoidable.

Right when the first season of the show aired back in 2020, the cheerleaders were thrusted into the world of fame. From social media posts to daytime television appearances, the cast of “Cheer” were everywhere. The second season tackles this impact of fame from the get go. The show is self-aware in the sense that it knows that this Netflix project is the reason why Navorra and these cheerleaders were thrusted into fame. But it doesn’t overdo the self-awareness, still allowing the cheerleaders to speak for themselves and discuss how this fame has impacted them. The show explores the struggle Monica Aldama (the cheer coach) and the rest of the team – not just the cheerleaders heavily featured in the first season – face trying to prepare for Daytona while simultaneously handling this onslaught of press and fame. 

A main thread the show follows is the impact of the fame on the rest of the “non-star” cheerleaders. Ryan Bartley, a stunter on the squad, sums it up stating that they are just happy to cheer for the team. Squadmate Maddy Brun laughs when Barley makes this statement, clearly indicating that the fame and attention isn’t something the rest of the “non-star” team wants or likes. However, the second half of the season focuses on building up Brun’s character as she’s one of the emerging stars. The show follows her cheer story – raised by a single mother and a father that wasn’t around much. However, on the mat, she is a sight to behold as she twists and tumbles and does handsprings with grace. As she states in the beginning of her character arc in the show, “I’m not here to promote myself and make myself bigger. I’m here to cheer and go to school.” Brum stays true to it. 

Another thread the show follows is its continuation of La’Darius Marshall’s story. Marshall, a beloved member of the Navarro team who says things the way it is, continues grilling the team and brings his opinions to the team. When Aldama leaves from the team for a few months to compete on Dancing With the Stars, La’Darius doesn’t appreciate it one bit. The new assistant is a poor replacement to Aldama, and although she puts her best foot forward, the craziness with the pandemic and the insane pressure to bring another title home ultimately proves to be too bothersome for her to handle. This also affects La’Darius, as this is one of the many factors that makes him leave the team halfway through the season. He takes out his anger online by voicing out his opinions about Aldama on social media platforms like Twitter that furthers a wedge between their relations. 

But the most important part of the show revolves around Jerry Harris, a once beloved cheerleader known for his mat talk, who was arrested on federal child pornography charges. Harris was sued by twin brothers who say that he sent and asked for nude photos and also attempted to perform oral sex at a cheer competition. “Cheer”  dedicates an entire episode revolving around these allegations against Harris. They include interviews from the twins, their mothers, the lawyers, and the USA Today reporters who reported the story. The episode also focuses on the impact Harris’s action has on the team, and their conflicting opinions on how to forgive Harris, knowing that they won’t ever be able to do so. 

As the episode approaches an end, Aldama shares that Harris wrote her a letter and admits that she hasn’t written back. She sums it up simply, “I don’t know what I would say.” Harris now awaits trial and faces the possibility of a minimum of 15 years in federal prison. He’s currently held at Metroplication Correctional Center in Chicago. 

On the flipside we see TVCC, coached by Vontae Johnson, who is just as committed as Aldama. Shown as nothing but rivals in the previous season, TVCC in this season is painted as the team who have literally put blood, sweat and tears to snatch the title away from Navarro. However, the show focuses on only three to four cheerleaders on the team, and rooting for Trinity Valley is harder. While we got time to learn more about Navarro and slowly love the team, we barely got any time to learn the different cheerleaders on TVCC’s team. It also gets quickly tiresome and boring when the show keeps on pushing the same idea that the only goal TVCC has is to beat Navarro. 

However, the show does a good job creating contrasts between the two teams. Navarro has intense full outs on outdoor stages, whereas TVCC pulls out mats – something that Navarro did just last season. Navorro deals with press; TVCC solely practices. They reach Daytona and give it their all while performing. The show brings out their tried-and-true recipe and raises the tension. The excitement in the air is palpable and for the first time we get the old magic back from the first season back. 

A nine episode docuseries should have stuck to its six episode format, as frankly there isn’t much story worth sharing due to the pandemic. There is a repetition of the same information – the pandemic has caused too much stress, they are stressed about Daytona and they feel betrayed by Aldama leaving them to go do another show.

However, “Cheer” captures the beauty of the sport, the pain that comes from the intense practices, the brutality and demand of the sport, but above all allows the audience to empathize and understand these cheerleaders. “Cheer” establishes that cheerleading isn’t just a bunch of people holding pom-poms looking pretty, but rather a sport that requires mental and physical strength.