God Blessed Texas
Blood, Sweat and Cheers
Cheerleading is one of those sports a lot of people turn their nose up at, unaware of the athleticism and sheer amount of work that goes into performing these routines. Outside the US, it’s one of those side-lined projects used as a springboard to other avenues but in the United States, and in particular Corsicana Texas, Cheer is a big thing. Thanks to Netflix’s award-winning documentary format, Cheer finally opens up this lucrative sport to the wider public.
Hot off the success of Last Chance U, Cheer combines the production style of that sport documentary series with the best elements of Amazon Prime’s All Or Nothing to produce a brilliant 6 episode docu-series, one that follows the stunning athletes in the Navarro Cheer team as they prepare for the College Nationals. With their eagle-eyed Manager Monica Aldama watching and perfecting their every move, the series acts as a 68 day countdown to these championships, beginning with a history of cheerleading and progressing through to becoming one of the elite 20 (from a pool of 40 talented athletes) chosen to perform “on the mat” and beyond.
Of course, as with any high-stakes competition there are complications and ensuing drama along the way. From the first episode onward, the injuries pile up and it becomes apparent that the sacrifices made for a 2 minute shot at fame is the ultimate price to pay in this sport.
You may have noticed I’ve said sport and athletes a lot in this review and regardless of what people think, all the athletic traits are here to suggest that these men and women should be considered as such. Combining the best elements of gymnastics, dance and trampolining, Cheer delivers an eye-opening examination and showcase of cheerleading in the best possible way.
What’s particularly endearing about this documentary though is the way it personalizes each of the different cheerleaders, following their home life and routine around the conservative state of Texas and how that ties into their cheer influences. Each of the episodes hone in on different girls and boys and hearing their tough stories are sure to bring both heartbreak and tears from avid viewers.
The show builds up nicely to the final episode and the subsequent nerve-wracking performance that follows. After spending so much time with these girls and boys, the performance has that much more weight behind it and much like the All or Nothing series, Netflix have expertly crafted this curvature of tension to this very moment and the execution is excellent.
Stylistically Cheer does well too, combining a lot of training shots in the gym and the school hall with archival videos, photos and talking head interviews. In a way, the documentary splits in half, with an equal amount of time dedicated to the aforementioned family lives of these girls and boys and the actual cheerleading itself.
I’m a real sucker for documentaries like this and given my limited knowledge on the subject of cheerleading, Cheer is an eye-opening docu-series that shines a spotlight on a sport few people are aware of outside the familial circle. In a way it reminds me of running. There’s a certain nod and look you receive and give to other runners on the street that’s hard to explain; a knowing glance that what you’re doing is special and you’re part of that club together.
Cheer captures that same feeling but brings it to the small screen in the best possible way. While it doesn’t necessarily do anything special or different that hasn’t been done before in other documentaries, the topic itself is an interesting and engaging one, making it one of the better documentary series to spin and tumble its way onto Netflix this year.
|Cheer is available to watch on Netflix. Feel free to click here and sign up now to check this show out!|