When the first episode of Netflix’s docuseries ‘Cheer’ ends, the 1988 Pretty Poison song “Catch Me I’m Falling” plays as the credits roll. It’s a direct reference to the dangers of competitive cheerleading and the importance of the team catching any member that flies dangerously high through the air. It is also, however, an indirect reference to a theme that plays out through the entire series: the uncanny power of the Navarro College Cheer Team to catch kids falling from broken homes, rough backgrounds, and dark places.
The series, which was released on Netflix on Jan. 8, follows the Navarro College Cheer Team and their coach Monica Aldama as she coaches them to their victory at the 2019 National Cheerleading Association College National Championship in Daytona, Florida.
Perhaps the most important thing for you to understand about ‘Cheer’ is that this isn’t your mother’s cheerleading. Sure, these kids cheer on the sidelines at football games. But, they are also world-class athletes. The tumblers could give four-time olympic gold medalist gymnast Simone Biles a run for her money. The flyers do flips and other aerial tricks from 30 ft high. The top girls do intricate dance moves on one foot while held up by just one hand of one of their teammates.
Add to the amount of physical pain and mental stress each of the athletes endure, the flips and tricks become that much more impressive. Most of the athletes are afflicted with sprained ankles, bruised ribs, and other injuries throughout the documentary. Furthermore, the athletes deal with mental stress from long practices, high expectations, school work, and various other issues whether it be relationship problems, dark pasts, or tough home lives. On paper, the fact that the Navarro College Cheerleaders can execute their routine precisely and perfectly is nothing short of a miracle.
But, “Cheer” isn’t on paper. Instead, the athletes’ stories play out before you in seemingly real time. And yes, while ‘Cheer’ is meant to impress, but it’s also meant to make you feel.
When stunters drop one of their flyers, you feel the pain and anxiety that comes with it. When Jerry “mat talks” one of his teammates, you feel his encouragement as if it was meant for you. And when all the hard work finally pays off and the team performs their routine perfectly, you feel not only the excitement, but also the team’s relief that it was all worth it.
That is why it’s so popular. Sure, the skills and tricks are incredible. But, people have united over ‘Cheer’ because of its ability to capture the human element. It’s watching Morgan Simianer find herself and her place in the world after years of trial and hardship, or Jerry Harris be an absolute beam of sunshine to all those around him even though he carries sorrow wherever he goes. Most of all, it’s about watching human beings overcome and grow from impossible situations both on and off the mat.
At the end of the day, ‘Cheer’ isn’t about winning Daytona. It isn’t about the flashy outfits or the picture perfect routines. ‘Cheer’ is about human resilience and the power of a shared goal. It’s about people from different backgrounds and lives uniting over a common desire, a common passion.