Review: Cheer, season 2

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Content warning: This article contains references to sexual assault.

When the first season of Netflix’s docuseries Cheer premiered in January 2020, it became an instant hit, showcasing the trials and tribulations of high-level US cheerleading. The show focuses on the preparations made by the Navarro College cheerleading team, one of the best in their sport, towards the annual Daytona competition. But since the show first aired, a series of scandals and the consequences of newly acquired fame have altered the nature of the Navarro team, shifting the focus in the second season away from simply the athleticism of the sport and the team’s hard work, to documenting the ramifications of celebrity culture and the conviction of Jerry Harris, one of the most popular members of the team, as a perpetrator of sexual assault. Although the show takes on a much darker tone in series two, as it also documents the heartbreak caused by the pandemic, the fact it draws attention to important issues within the sport and gives voice to survivors of sexual abuse makes it feel raw and more important, whilst also maintaining its gripping and compelling nature.

One of the first things that struck me about the show was the fact it draws attention to the athleticism of cheerleading, debunking myths about it simply involving outdated performances on the sidelines of football games. Series two continues to demonstrate the hard work these athletes put into their sport, whilst also focusing on other themes, and tackling the issues that the team has encountered over the past two years. 

It is important that Jerry Harris’ sexual misconduct takes up a whole episode, as it gives a voice to his victims and sheds light on the fact that regardless of how positive and innocent a person can seem, you can never know what is truly going on behind closed doors. It raises awareness about this issue in a mature and respectful way, whilst also documenting the heartbreaking impact it has upon the rest of the team. It would not have been right to film the series without acknowledging Harris’ actions.

By the end, I didn’t even know who to root for, as I found the stories of both teams compelling

Aside from this, the show also takes a slightly different turn in this series by thoroughly documenting the preparations made by Navarro’s rival, Trinity Valley Community College, in the run-up to the competition. This adds an extra element of competitiveness to the show – by the end, I didn’t even know who to root for, as I found the stories of both teams compelling. However, I must say it takes a while to become invested in Trinity’s team, as we are so used to supporting Navarro. I was sceptical about the inclusion of this in season two at first, but I think it works effectively overall.

I found it interesting to see how each individual athlete dealt with suddenly being thrown into celebrity culture

Another change in this season is that the show puts more focus on the fame the athletes received after the initial airing of the docuseries, rather than the actual sport. I personally didn’t mind this, as I found it interesting to see how each individual athlete dealt with suddenly being thrown into celebrity culture. But I can appreciate how some people wouldn’t like this side to the show as much. Netflix becomes like the series’ own villain, as it is a significant facilitator of the hate and criticism directed towards the athletes. 

There was also a sense of distance between Navarro’s esteemed head coach Monica and the rest of her team in this series – whereas securing a victory in Daytona was her sole aim during season one, she focuses on many different things in season two that take up her time, such as her feature on Dancing with the Stars. This is one negative of season two, as Monica makes up a huge part of the show, making her absence from parts of it felt.

Overall, despite the fact Cheer takes on a slightly darker tone in season two, it is even more interesting and gripping than season one as it feels more real and vulnerable. This is something we can all relate to in the world of COVID-19, as we all experience our own individual struggles. My favourite athletes in season two are Maddy Brum, Dee from TVCC, and the friendship between Gill and Cassadee – it is the hard work of these likeable athletes which fundamentally makes the show so appealing to watch. 

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