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Opinion

We can, we will, we must: A review of Netflix’s documentary series ‘Cheer’

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March 11, 2020

Cheer
‘Cheer’ is a Netflix documentary about the cheerleading squad at a small college in Corsicana, Texas. (Screen capture)

Netflix released a documentary series called “Cheer” on Jan. 8, 2020. The six-episode series is about the Navarro College cheerleading team in Corsicana, Texas. The series follows their journey to the National Cheerleading Championship, which is in Daytona, Florida. Navarro College has won 14 national championships since 2000; it also has won five NCA Grand National Championships since 2012.

The person behind all of Navarro’s wins is the amazing coach, Monica Aldama. Aldama grew up in Corsicana, she graduated from Corsicana High School. Then she attended the University of Texas in Austin and graduated with a B.B.A in finance. She continued with school and went to the University of Texas in Tyler and graduated with a Masters in Business Administration. Aldama first wanted to be the CEO of a major company in New York, but applied to be the head cheer coach for Navarro Cheer on a limb. She got the position in 1996 and started winning championships in 2000.  Aldama is often referred to as the ‘queen’ by her cheerleaders, they also say that she has taught them so much, not only about cheerleading but about life in general.

During the series we get to meet five members on the cheer team. First we meet Lexi Brumback, originally from Houston, Texas. Brumback is one of the tumblers on the team and has a lot of elite skills. Brumback states that she probably would be sitting in a jail cell if she hadn’t met Aldama. Brumback admits to making bad decisions during high school. She dropped out of school and never thought she’d attend college. In the finale of the series, she says that she got kicked off the team for getting pulled over in a car that contained illegal things. As of now, she was able to rejoin the team.

Next we meet La’Darius Marshall, from Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Marshall is described as ‘over the top’ by Aldama. Marshall had a very tough childhood, his mother struggled with addiction and was in jail for most of his childhood. He experienced sexual abuse as a child, and had a tough time being accepted after coming out as gay.

Morgan Simianer, the next cheerleader we meet, is from Osage, Wyoming. Simianer also had a troubled past, during highschool she and her brother lived in a trailer when their mother left them and their father lived with his new wife and kids. Simianer’s brother turned 18 and decided to go look for their mom, leaving her to live alone in the trailer. Her grandparents found out about this  abandonment and asked her to come live with them. Simianer says two things saved her; her grandparents and cheerleading. Simianer looks up to Aldama the most as a mother figure.

We then get to meet Gabi Butler, originally from Boca Raton, Florida. Butler has been cheerleading since she was eight and has been on at least six other competition teams throughout her cheer career. She started making youtube videos to show off her skills as a very flexible flyer. She had a big following in the cheer world before going to Navarro to cheer. Butler has a very busy schedule, her parents book her for photo shoots, meet and greets, and cheer competitions. Getting to know her throughout the series, we see that her parents are very controlling of her life and she just wants to be a normal college kid.

Lastly, we meet Jerry Harris who is originally from Chicago, Illinois. Him and his brother were raised by their mother. They grew up poor and she did everything she could for Harris to be in cheer because she knew he loved it so much. When Harris was 16, his mother died from lung cancer, Harris says whenever he cheers it’s always for her. Harris is known for having the best ‘mat talk’ on the team. ‘Mat talk’ is saying positive phrases to your other teammates that are on the mat with you, so they know someone is cheering you on to do your best. In the finale of the series Harris gets accepted into his dream school, the University of Louisville. He ended up only going for a semester before returning back to Navarro.

The team has lots of superstitions. On the walk down to the mat they have to hold hands with a member of the team, they have secret handshakes with every member of the team, and my favorite is while they are in Daytona. The team has a tradition that they can only enter the ocean if they win the competition. I love this tradition because I would do my best while performing so we can get in that ocean.

Over the series the team experiences many challenges, injuries being one of the biggest hardships they face. Injuries are hard on the team because then they have to rework the routine with a new person in place of the injured person. Things get very intense counting down the days till Daytona and even once they get to Daytona.

Spoiler alert! While in Daytona, it’s their turn to perform. They get about a minute into their routine and one of the members of the team lands wrong on his foot and limps off the mat, causing the rest of the team to stop and get off the mat. A coordinator of the competition speaks to Aldama and states “you have 30 minutes to practice with an alternate and then you guys will perform again.” They get confirmation that they will only be judged from the point of where they stopped. They perform again and do the routine perfectly, things get really emotional, everyone is crying and hugging each other.

A couple hours later they finally get to announce the winners. It is between Navarro and Trinity Valley. They have a rule in the competition that they announce second place first and the first place team has to hold in the excitement until they officially announce it. The coordinators reveal that the second place winners are Trinity Valley and you can see the Navarro team try to hold in all their emotions until they announce that they won first place. Once they declare first place everyone screams, cries, and hugs each other. The team is then seen running into the ocean because they finally did it.

Overall, I think this was a great show to watch. I was very skeptical of this show at first because of the stereotype that cheerleaders have, but this show definitely diminishes that. Cheerleaders are normal people just like us.

Hallie Diekoff is a student at UW-River Falls.