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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Never give up on your dreams. Mentors can change and save lives; find one and go as far as you can under their guidance. Let love and kindness open you up to new relationships and experiences. Mistakes can have serious consequences; but they don't define your worth as a person.
Positive Role Models
Stern Coach Monica expects excellence and loves her "kids" fiercely. Shy and inexperienced cheerleader Morgan blossoms under Monica's mentorship. La'Darius is extremely talented, but abrasive; he grows into a kinder, more compassionate person. Lexi struggles to escape her past circumstances and thrives as a cheerleader. Jerry is seen in season 1 as infectiously enthusiastic, but serious sexual misconduct allegations that are explored in season 2 will turn him from hero to villain.
Characters diverse in terms of race and class. Intense pressure to conform to idealized body shapes, types, but overall focus is on exercise, athleticism; no disordered eating habits shown. Male cheerleaders have more freedom to be different weights/shapes than the women. Several cheerleaders portrayed are gay.
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Violence & Scariness
The risk of minor and major injuries is always present; concussions, strained muscles, broken bones, serious bruising, etc. cause cheerleaders great pain and distress; this may be stressful for some viewers. Sexual abuse and suicide are addressed in later season 1 episodes. In season 2, sexual misconduct allegations about fan favorite Jerry are explored in disturbing detail that includes descriptions of coercive behavior, his requests for pornographic photos and videos, and the impact the ordeal had on the alleged victims.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Occasional shirtless, toned men and very thin, strong women in tight short shorts and sports bras, but it's not sexualized; always in context of cheerleading practice. Nudity referred to when a cheerleader's nude photos get posted online; police are involved, no photos shown. In season 2, sexual misconduct allegations about fan favorite Jerry are explored in disturbing detail.
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Rare use of "bitch" and "f--k."
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Products & Purchases
Cheer-related businesses (Rebel, NCA, Varsity, etc.) are featured several times as a part of exploring different cheerleader's lives and the how cheerleading has evolved into an industry.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A cheerleader is released from the team for assumed "illegal drug" possession or use; details are not given.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Cheer is a Netflix docuseries about Navarro Community College's award-winning cheerleading team. Directed by Greg Whiteley (Last Chance U), the first, six-episode season focuses on the cheer team's rigorous preparation for their 2019 performance at Nationals. The coach, Monica, and a handful of team members get full backstories: Jerry, Morgan, La'Darius, Gabi, and Lexi come from different race, class, and sexual-identity backgrounds and are very different people, which makes them relatable and accessible as role models. Themes include perseverance, teamwork, personal growth, and the value of family and friendship. Scary falls/drops during practices result in concussions, sprains, broken bones, etc. A few moments of anger between cheerleaders are resolved appropriately, and parents will be pleased that the stereotypical meanness of cheerleaders is refreshingly lacking here. The cheerleaders don't wear much at practice -- bare midriffs and legs and muscular, sometimes shirtless men are common, but they're not sexualized. Language is rare but does include the use of "f--k" and "bitch." The show does address some darker themes as well, including drug use, suicide, and sexual abuse. In season 2, parents should know that episode 5 is devoted to details around child pornography charges against Jerry (who emerges from season 1 as favorite of viewers and celebrities).
Is It Any Good?
This surprisingly captivating docuseries about a team at the top of its game will delight cheer-loving viewers and convert the cheer-averse. The alternating scenes of cheer practices and performances and the life stories of compelling personalities in Cheer invest the viewer from the very first episode. It's also very balanced. Coach Monica's strong persona doesn't dominate the show. The young people really do shine here, and viewers will find themselves invested in their (and the teams') success. Stakes are established early: risk of major injury and the fact that only twenty of the forty cheerleaders will be selected to be "on mat" at Nationals makes the show pleasingly suspenseful.
A missed opportunity: going deeper into the important issues of LGBTQ discrimination and financial barriers to cheering, which are raised, but not given the deep attention they deserve. Other than that, the story is structured so well that as the competition nears, the tension and anxiety swells to near-panic levels for the cheerleaders and viewers of the show. The result of Nationals is as emotional as it gets in documentaries, but by the time the viewer gets to the end, many tears may have already been shed -- this show pulls at the heart all the way through and may even convert new fans to the sport.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.