5 reasons Netflix's Cheer is the feel-good show you need right now
Prepare to shamelessly, wholeheartedly root for the Navarro College cheerleading team.
At this point, almost a week has passed since the truly wonderful, six-episode cheerleading docuseries Cheer gracefully tumbled onto Netflix and inspired us all to be better people. If you haven’t gotten around to watching it yet, seriously, what have you been doing?! We jest, but really, get to it. Need a little more inspiration to get in the cheer-y mood? EW is here to help.
From the creators of Last Chance U, Cheer takes us inside the world of competitive cheerleading through the lives and training sessions of the squad at Navarro College, a small junior college in Corsicana, Texas. As the team prepares to uphold the college’s winning history at the national championships, they encounter trials and tribulations — both off and on the mat — along the way. You’ll laugh, cry, be wowed by their insane stunts, recoil in horror at painful injuries, and wish you could go back in time and join the cheer team in your own high school or college. (That’s not a thing? Fine, we’ll settle for immediately starting the show over and watching the whole thing again.)
Below, we dive into just five of the many, many reasons you should stop whatever you’re doing and watch this show in its entirety right now! Ready? Okay!
The level of athleticism is insane
Hopefully people already know this (even if it’s just from watching Bring It On) but in case it needs repeating: Cheerleading is an honest to goodness Sport with a capital S. Yes, some squads just shake pom-poms and memorize chants, but cheerleaders on competitive teams like Navarro’s are athletes in a class of their own — tumbling like serious gymnasts, executing complicated stunts, throwing people in the air like it’s nothing at all. Especially when you factor in extracurricular all-star cheer teams, some of these kids have been working at this stuff for years, and it shows (in the difficulty level of stunts and collective number of ab muscles everyone has). Current and former cheerleaders can attest to how hard these pyramids, jumps, and tumbling passes can be to master — and even when you do, as evidenced over the six episodes, injuries can and do still happen at any moment — but it really doesn’t matter if you don’t know a base from a basket toss, because you’ll still asking yourself how are they actually doing that????? as you watch in awe/terror from the comfort of your couch.
Coach Monica is like Coach and Tami Taylor combined
Remember when you were watching Friday Night Lights from start to end (skipping season 2) for the seventh time and just wished that the Taylors were real people so you could go to them for advice and general nurturing? Well, Cheer is here to show you fine people of that caliber really do exist. Coach Monica Aldama has just the right mix of direct, don’t-mess-with-me strictness and approachable, I’m-here-to-help warmth that makes all her cheerleading students slightly fear, but completely adore her. The kids work so hard because, more than anything else, they want to impress her. And at the same time, Monica puts her all into the program because she wants good things for them — both on and off the mat. Whether she’s advising on which bow completes their Nationals uniforms or bringing in friendly police officers to offer advice on a legal dilemma, Monica shows up. She may want the kids to reach new heights in their tumbles and stunts, but she wants them to soar even higher in post-cheer life. There are multiple moments throughout the series where the cheerleaders full-out profess their love for their coach and not in a Oh my god, I looooove her way. These kids, many from dysfunctional and dangerous backgrounds, truly love this woman because, quite frankly, she saved their lives by bringing them to Navarro — and they know it.
The stakes aren’t just limited to “do they win?”
Yes, everything leads up to the Collegiate National Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla., and the big question is whether Navarro can capture another first-place finish. But while Daytona looms large in everyone’s minds, there’s plenty else happening to get invested in along the way. For instance, not everyone on the team gets to compete at nationals, so there’s the tension surrounding who’ll get to “make mat” — not just being good enough to make it onto a very competitive, elite squad, but being the best of that best. And then when injuries happen, as they inevitably do, Monica & Co. have to sub in alternates who then have to get up to speed as they race against the clock for that big competition. So yes, there’s serious drama throughout — and that doesn’t even include the squad’s off-mat lives, which inevitably factor into the team dynamic and the show a whole. (More on that below…)
You’ll love and root for all the kids
Sure, Cheer is ostensibly about cheerleading, but it’s really about the Navarro kids. Many of the young squad members have not been given the best starts in life, but they still show up to practice, ready to hurl themselves into the air with a smile on their faces and support their teammates every step of the way. For a show about a competitive sport (see above point), there’s a surprising lack of animosity between the cheerleaders, even as they compete for the same coveted and limited spots on mat. We meet Jerry, an unstoppable, infectiously happy soul who — despite losing his mom to cancer at a young age — is everybody’s personal cheerleader, building them up in their toughest moments. Then there’s La’Darius, a gay, black man who suffered terrible bullying and abuse in his youth and yet still manages to strut out there as his true fabulous self, forging a beautiful bond with Jerry as he goes. As for the girls, they’ve had their fair share of family troubles too: Morgan quite explicitly points out that she would not be alive had she not joined the squad after her father abandoned her in a trailer in her early teens. Lexi struggles with schoolwork but so earnestly wants to better herself after years of acting out, and Gabi — an influencer with a robust Instagram following — has to balance cheerleading obligations with the pressures her Dance Mom-esque parents put on her. These young folks have been — and in some cases are still going — through it, and yet they don’t let it tarnish their attitudes about the sport, life, one another. You can’t help but root for them (and stalk them on social media), sincerely wishing they could all make it on mat and just win at life forever more.
It’s the uplifting cheer you need right now
Forgive the pun, but it’s true! Watching Cheer gives you the same warm-and-fuzzies you get from watching athletes compete at the Olympics, seeing the U.S. women’s soccer team play their way to glory, or popping in a movie like Miracle and wondering why you’re crying at the end even if you knew Team USA was going to beat the Soviets before you pressed play. It’s watching a team band together to go for the big win, combined with watching a group of young people you care about — and if you look at their Instagram pages, lots of people already care very much about the Bulldogs and what they’re up to now — working together and supporting one another through long practices, injuries, and personal hardships as they go for the gold. Regardless of if they win (we won’t spoil how things go down in Daytona, but plan to be glued to the screen during the final episode), you’ll quickly become one of their biggest cheerleaders.