Netflix’s hit docuseries Cheer has returned two years after its notable debut in January of 2020. This season fills viewers in on how Navarro Cheer—and their rivals Trinity Valley Community College (TVCC)—have fared in light of an unsuspecting pandemic, a challenging Texas snowstorm, various controversies, and the weight of notoriety.
This time around, the show equally splits the storyline between Navarro and TVCC. However, in season two, TVCC becomes what we loved about Navarro in Cheer’s first season: a team that is portrayed as immensely talented, dedicated, sometimes misguided, but ultimately so full of heart that you can’t help but root for their success. TVCC’s underdog narrative didn’t hurt their likability either. Conversely, Navarro’s storyline became inevitably marred by fame.
After the series’ release on Netflix, Cheer became a pop-culture phenomenon. The main cast of season one—head coach Monica Aldama and team members La’Darius Marshall, Gabby Butler, Lexi Brumback, Morgan Simianer, and Jerry Harris—met celebrities like Ellen, Oprah, Kendall Jenner, and even President Joe Biden. The aforementioned names amassed huge followings on social media. And Aldama was invited to be a contestant on season 29 of Dancing With the Stars.
All of which brought money into Navarro’s cheer program, allowed some of the teammates to earn money themselves via Cameo, and promoted Navarro Cheer as the team to be on. However, fame often costs. Since Cheer’s debut, there has been a slew of controversies and criticism aimed toward the Navarro coaches, team, and program. None are more noteworthy, however, than the news of Harris’s arrest in September 2020 for allegedly soliciting child pornography.
Luckily, the show doesn’t shy away from addressing the legal allegations against Harris—who was a fan favorite of season one—giving him his own 51-minute episode that marks the halfway point of the season titled, “Jerry.” In the episode, Cheer lends its platform to the twin boys who allege Harris sexually assaulted and coerced them and includes interviews with their mother and attorney and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse Sarah Klein.
Navarro teammates who were close to Harris were also interviewed as was Aldama who states her being on Dancing With the Stars distracted her from fully coping and properly handling the allegations against her former team member. From a viewer’s perspective, this claim sours your view of Aldama and frankly the Navarro team.
None of the people associated with Navarro Cheer— Aldama included—who was featured in the “Jerry” episode showed much sympathy or empathy for the victims in Harris’ case who are still minors. Rather, their statements were often self-absorbed, focusing on how Harris’ alleged actions affected them and/or their relationship to Harris as opposed to primarily focusing on the child victims and the safety of the children in the cheer community at large.
There was no way for Cheer to separate Navarro from the fame they obtained as well as what that kind of visibility cost the team in the long run. Frankly, “Celebrity killed Navarro’s feel-good story,” as Alex Abad-Santos says in an article for Vox. And while Navarro was poorly reckoning with Harris’ allegations and fumbling through other controversies featured on the show, their rival TVCC was demonstrated to be strictly about the cheer that hooked audiences last season. Thus, they became Navarro’s perfect foil.
For example, TVCC didn’t have the money, the equipment, or the notoriety Navarro had. Jada Wooten, a relatively unknown TVCC veteran, contrasts with Navarro Cheer behemoth Gabby Butler. And ahead of Daytona’s 2021 cheer competition, TVCC’s team was mostly rookie cheerleaders who’ve never competed at such a massive level before. So, unsurprisingly, the latter half of Cheer’s second season became TVCC’s for the taking.
As Navarro rookies are stating their discontent with the distractions that have somewhat soiled their view of Aldama and the Navarra Cheer program, we’re witnessing “The Weenies” of TVCC—a trio of awe-inspiring male tumblers—put aside their preconceived ideas about cheer and masculinity and become comfortable with performing.
As Navarro navigates drama with former teammates, viewers are hearing Wooten discuss how she overcame a difficult mental block that almost prevented her from continuing her cheer career. As Aldama is away on Dancing With the Stars, TVCC coaches Vontae Johnson and Khris Franklin are shown to be present, pushing their team to be the best it can be for competition.
In the end, TVCC brought the talent, the focus, and the enticing storylines that charmed viewers last season about Navarro. However, as Abad-Santos points out, “fame is cyclical.” TVCC may have outshined Navarro this season, but perhaps the essence of Cheer has become a case-study in the price of fame. The balance of attention and acclaim between the two community colleges has been reset, so the stars to come out of next season is now anybody’s bet.
Cheer is streaming now on Netflix.
This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Ebony Purks is a graduate student at the University of Incarnate Word working toward getting her Master’s degree in communications. She is also a freelance writer, interested in writing about pop culture, social justice, and health; especially examining the many intersections between those subjects.