A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this reality show follows the competitive, brutally athletic season of top college cheerleaders. The content is generally problem-free, with much of the focus on the team's actual athleticism rather than their personal issues. Some episodes feature cheerleaders crying or getting emotional when they're disappointed (being cut from the team, etc.). Many episodes contain brief discussions about flirting, dating, or being attracted to someone -- this is college, after all. Women are required to wear red lipstick, makeup, and bows in their hair during cheerleading camp and at other times -- a practice/tradition that goes unquestioned.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Reality show CHEERLEADER U follows top-ranked University of Kentucky cheerleaders as they compete for spots in their team's elite Blue Squad, attend cheerleading camp, and compete against other teams in major cheerleading events. Folks who dismiss cheerleaders as fluff on the side of the main event might change their minds after watching the athletic feats performed by the men and women of UK. Male cheerleaders need incredible upper body strength and balance to pull off their moves, as well as the trust of their female counterparts. Meanwhile, the women are full-fledged gymnasts who must perform high-flying stunts while chanting, cheering, and maintaining a smile the entire time.
Is it any good?
Getting a glimpse inside the world of elite cheerleading is fascinating; it's filled with emotion, energy, and athleticism. Most compelling is the footage of the tryouts and the events where the cheerleaders practice and compete. Less interesting are the after-hours scenes in which the cheerleaders talk about crushes while giving each other massages and pep talks. Tension is maintained by eliminations during tryouts and waiting to find out who will be selected for the final Nationals team.
Through interviews with the athletes, Cheerleader U serves to break down stereotypes -- for example, that all male cheerleaders are gay or that female cheerleaders are anorexic -- and in that respect it does well. But the series doesn't end up surprising viewers with the people it features. Most are just what you'd expect: white, pretty, upbeat, and -- at least when they're on camera -- superficial.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about cheerleading. What do kids/teens think about the sport? What are the origins of cheerleading? If you don't know, are you interested in finding out more? Do you think cheerleading is sexist? Why do some cheerleading squads have men and some don't? How are cheerleaders typically portrayed in the media? Why? Does this show change your opinion of cheerleaders?
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