Cheerleading movies? They have it all. Dance routines, gymnastics, untrammelled positivity. They have cheesy storylines, bitch fights, conversations in acronyms and Californian sunshine. The stars are girls who are fit and strong, who have leadership positions they are not embarrassed to lead from. They are brave and funny and they think of boys only after the team. And they have the swishiest, dishiest ponytails.
Sure, there’s a pattern. Each film starts with a nightmare, pitches into the daytime world of ‘practice’ and friendships and sisters. Each lead is a squad captain on track for All Star triumph when she is forced to change schools or her squad gets injured en masse, or when she is placed in the most basic form of moral dilemma; be a jerk or fight for the team.
It’s good versus evil in the simplest form of the bitch against the girl next door. Yes, GND sometime has a wobble, briefly prefers the thick jock to the sensitive DJ who is paying his way through college with three part-time jobs. But only for the instant it takes to say cheer-tastic and then the glitter comes out, the kit is ripped up and remade, handsprings race across the screen and the game is on.
Even the rumble of West Side Story, Sharks versus Jets, is remade into a cheer-off which results in sworn enemies forming a joint team to take the top prize.
There is never any doubt to the outcome; however improbable the route, the GND will win the National Championships. With or without her spirit stick. Whether the underdog team is made up of dorks, or poor black girls, or Latinos who’ve been thrown out of a Malibu school – or whether, best of all, they are nihilistic ballerinas, failed Shakespearian soliloquists and anti-imperialists practising their cheers in support of the college croquet team with the hope of winning $20,000 to fund experimental theatre – somehow in only forty-eight hours they will be handspringing with the best, being tossed three stories high, have glorious abs and glitter on their cheeks. What could be better than that?
It helps that cheerleading doesn’t exist in the UK. Maybe if this world were in any way reflected in my experience then my response to it would be tainted with some reality. But it’s not; and, dammit, in the world of the Bring It On series even the redheaded dorks get to be champion cheerleaders by the end.
So mock me. But at the end of a busy week, when my brain was no longer able to link text on a page to meaning, when I was too sensitive to sound to be outdoors in central London, when I slept fourteen hours and still woke up in a daze, four cheerleader movies over two days was exactly what I needed.