Opinion: Why Netflix’s Cheer Season Two Is A Complex Watch

The Emmy-winning breakout Netflix show is back for another season. Video / Netflix

Cheer season two is not without flaws, and that makes for a complicated watch, writes Lydia Burgham.

RATING:

A prison sentence. A team outing. A pandemic. An absent coach.

Those are just some of the issues covered in the second season of Netflix’s Cheer. Plagued by scandal, tension and the pandemic, the world’s most famous competitive cheerleading team struggles with the pitfalls of celebrity and the pressure to be great.

The Navarro College athletes aren’t the sole focus of season two — and they probably don’t deserve it. Trinity Valley College is their main rival and shows a different side of the coin. They have a coach (Vontae Johnson) with a different style, athletes who seem stronger and better than Navarro’s.

The first season of Cheer was an unlikely hit in my mind. I had a hard time explaining to people in my life what was so gripping about a show about a cheerleading squad from Corsicana, Texas.

If you’re already a fan, you don’t need to convince to tune in for the second season. For the uninitiated – the talent goes beyond the power and acrobatics on the mat. Part of what makes Cheer so watchable is how good the athletes are in front of the camera.

The formula is well recreated with new stars such as Maddy Brum and Jada Wooten from TVCC. Both are stylish, impressive athletes with incredible drive and talent.

Maddy Brum (center) in Cheer.  Photo / Netflix
Maddy Brum (center) in Cheer. Photo / Netflix

Coach Monica Aldama is back, as are last season’s fan favorites Gabbi Butler, Lexie Brumback, La’Darius Marshall and Morgan. But the huge shadow on the show’s success and fame the Navarro College athletes received had to be addressed in its second season. Jerry gained access to red carpets and offered talks with the president for his inspiring “mat talk” — and now he’s behind bars asking for illegal photos of minors.

It would have made sense if Cheer hadn’t returned after that. But by tackling the issue head-on, the fallout added a complex layer to the sports documentary drama. It makes Navarro College an unworthy, albeit interesting subject.

It would be naive to say that Cheer’s method of tackling “the Jerry episode” was perfect. There were obvious flaws: Jerry appears in several episodes before the show’s fifth hears directly from his victims. The final frame of the fifth episode leaves us with Jerry – smiling, happy and free. It pales in comparison to the faces of the brave twins who recount their banishment from the sports community they were entitled to be safe.

And that’s without taking into account the reaction of coach Monica and his former teammates. A tearful Gabbi struggles with the right way to view her former boyfriend. Monica is dealing with a public relations nightmare between competing on Dancing With The Stars.

Vontae Johnson represents a different leadership style than Coach Monica.  Photo / Netflix
Vontae Johnson represents a different leadership style than Coach Monica. Photo / Netflix

Watching the series in its entirety, I saw what the documentary makers were trying to do: capture a human response to a horrific betrayal with the world changing as they knew it. That doesn’t change viewers’ right to feel uncomfortable about platforming an undeserved star, but it does clarify the decision to go all out on the screenplay.

The team Netflix wants to take care of should be Navarro. But it will be Trinity Valley College instead. The nine episodes play in a loop in my head, mostly because I can’t decide whether my enjoyment of the series is ethical or not.

Can you publicize athletes like this without harming them in the long run? Does the entertainment value outweigh the duty of care?

In the end, Cheer gives us the most deserving winner. And I hope this season’s stars will achieve their fullest with their newfound fame.

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