Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Cheerleader Nation

I've said it before and I'll say it again: high school sucks. It really really really sucks. And although Laguna Beach somehow found a way to depict high school without the pain, it's pretty clear that show isn't really about, uh, reality. Mainly because it's about high school kids who appear as though they never have to go to school. Or deal with their parents. Or worry about money. In fact, the worst thing the Laguna Beach kids deal with is each other -- the so called "drama."

But it's a different story on Cheerleader Nation. On the show it isn't the girls who seem like trouble, it isn't the crazy risky flying through the air stunts, and isn't drugs and it isn't boys. It's the moms. Leave it to Lifetime. These moms are some of the most annoying people I've ever seen on television. I'm serious.

It makes an interesting pairing with rollergirls in that it's a version of female strength and power that's almost archetypal. And yet the women in both shows stiil appear to be in the margins. While this predicament isn't really part of the narrative in either show, it's an underlying tension or energy. I haven't quite put my finger on it yet, but I think it has something to do with the fact that women's sports still haven't managed to find an audience equal to that of men's sports. That said, the level of athleticism in both these activities is like, crazy. But even within the context of women's athletics, cheerleading and rollerderby-ing are somewhat outside the mainstream, albeit at opposite ends of the "outside" spectrum in the way they relate to constructions of femininity.

Awhile ago I caught an interesting show about a non-white cheerleading squad that was more interesting than Cheerleader Nation (I think the show was trying to depict them as the real life version of the uber-cool hip-hop cheerleaders in Bring it On!). I wish I could remember what it was called. Both cheerleading and rollerderby-ing seem predominantly white. It's interesting because the rollerderby seems to work with working class signifiers, and cheerleading seems consumately middle class.


EL said...

I'm so glad you commented on this because I've been dying to hear about it from a trusted feminist pop culture junkie like myself!

zp said...

I'm not sure cheerleading "is" white . . . I think that depends on where and when . . . there were very strong - creative, disciplined, talented - teams from the majority black schools when and where I was growing up and participation in them meant a lot to girls I knew. That said, there were majority black schools, too, that were supposed to have been integrated, and shamefully not.

femme feral said...

Yes, I think what cheerleading "is" and what the popular image of cheerleading might be are often very different.
Most of the cheerleaders at my high school
(big public high school in the south), which was basically 50-50, were white. We also had a step squad, and they were all black. The steppers def had more status than the cheerleaders, who were sort of considered fake "goody-godies." Cheerleading was def the lest mixed of all the sports; all the other teams (with the possible exception of soccer) were pretty mixed. I'm not sure why this was so, and who knows if that was always the case. I certainly don't mean to generalize based on my own limited experience. But when you go to, the main website for the national cheerleading championships, all the girls on the main page are white. And if you type "cheerleading" into google and do an image search, most of the pictures are of white girls.

zp said...

yeah, i agree, its a sort of popular visibility thing.

given how much you talk about high school and capitalism, you could re-subtitle your blog "hall monitors of capitalism." ouch, that is so bad.

Zenaida said...

I went to a very mixed high school, and the cheerleading squad was actually completely black save for one white girl. I think in urban areas cheerleading is more of a black thing, whereas is suburban and rural areas it is mostly white. Given that most of the US is either suburban or rural, most cheerleaders are white.

I totally agree with the roller derby aspect though. Even in the city, they're all white. I've tried to get involved, but it seems I'm never really welcome. A shame.