Do not be fooled by the title of Netflix’s hit docuseries “Cheer,” as one may finish the show feeling low-spirited rather than cheerful or excited.
“Cheer” is back for a second season—but this time with a more somber tone and ending.
The first season of “Cheer,” released on Netflix on Jan. 8, 2020, revealed the highs and lows of competitive cheerleading at Navarro College, a junior community college in Corsicana, Texas located 55 miles outside of Dallas. Navarro College’s cheer team is infamous for winning 14 national championships and five Grand National Titles with the help of coach Monica Aldama.
In 2020, the show instantly became a sensation. The main stars in the show—La’Darius Marshall, Jerry Harris, Morgan Simianer, Lexi Brumback, Gabi Butler and Coach Monica Aldama—rose to fame. They appeared on various talk shows and even had the chance to meet celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Oprah Winfrey.
They were dubbed “cheerlebrities,” which means influencers with athletic ability.
The first season of“Cheer”succeeded in making the audienceempathize and relate with the cheerleaders, many of whom survived difficult childhoods and found a community through cheer. The athletes’ journeys and determination were inspiring—you watch them fail, fall and pick themselves up again.
Navarro cheerleaders spend their entire season preparing for the National Cheerleaders Association’s Collegiate National Championship (commonly referred to as “Daytona” in the show), which is their only shot at a National Championship and, interestingly, one of their only performances. While the team cheers at football games and other sporting events, their only true cheer competition is Nationals, making the pressure to win even higher.
To pile on even more anxiety for the 40 Navarro cheerleaders, they all must fight for only 20 spots on “mat” by demonstrating their skill and strength. Being on “mat” solidifies one’s place to compete in Daytona, while the other members of the team who are “off mat” act as understudies.
Unfortunately, many work their entire lives for a chance to compete in Daytona and never see their dreams come true. Since Navarro is a community college, most graduate in two years, so they only have two chances to win a spot in Daytona. If they never make the team, their cheerleading career is over, which is a devastating thought to come to terms with.
Furthermore, the second season of “Cheer,” which was released on Jan. 12, is very overwhelming—it felt like I was watching three different TV shows all at once.
The showrunners pile too much exposition in a short amount of time and leave viewers conflicted and confused. “Cheer” lost its focus by covering too much ground.
In only nine episodes, the showexamines a variety of tragedies such as the harmful effects of fame and social media; the shutdown due to COVID-19; the devastating winter storm that hit Texas; the ongoing drama between La’Darius Marshall, a former Navarro cheerleader, and Coach Monica; as well as the scandal involving Jerry Harris, a former Navarro cheerleader who is now being charged for multiple sex crimes.
While the first season is surrounded by the fascination of cheerleading, the second season is brutal to watch and terribly sad. While Navarro is presented as one big, happy family in the first season, the team is torn apart by scandal, drama and rivalry.
Additionally, the second season introduces Navarro’s rivals, Trinity Valley Community College (TVCC) in Athens, Texas—only a 45-minute drive away from Navarro. TVCC is coached by former TVCC cheerleader Vontae Johnson and assistant coach Khris Franklin, who are determined to beat Navarro.
“Cheer”also introduced us to the “stars” of Trinity Valley such as Jada Wooten, Angel Rice and DeVonte “Dee” Johnson, who all have extraordinary tumbling abilities.
Despite having 11 National Championships under their belt, Trinity Valley lives under the shadow of Navarro’s newly claimed fame.
TVCC is constantly underestimated but prove they are just as talented and dedicated as their competition.
In the last episode of the show, as they were announcing who had won Nationals, I was on the edge of my seat because no matter the outcome, one team would end up devastated. Finally, it is revealed TVCC won by a 0.1584 score difference.
While feeling a sense of pride and joy for TVCC who proved their worth, seeing the Navarro cheerleaders sobbing uncontrollably and embracing one another after finding out they lost is heartbreaking. Watching Navarro’s disappointment almost made me feel guilty for cheering on Trinity Valley—which should not have been the case.
“The second season of ‘Cheer’ can’t make up its mind about whose story it wants to tell, and that indecision has a funny way of mixing up winners and losers.… Even when TVCC is on top, ‘Cheer’ won’t let them stand alone,” Roxanna Hadadi from Vulture said.
At the end, I was left wondering whom I should root for or how I should feel, but one thing remains clear: “Cheer” emulates the sport it explores—if it is not executed correctly and delicately, it will fall and burn.