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Bring It On: Cheer-Worthy Feminist Teen Movie Turns 20

Bring It On

Given that the 20 year anniversary of this cheer-tastic cult classic was just yesterday, it’s absolutely necessary to review Bring It On! Though some of the cultural appropriations in this movie might invoke a spirit finger from your end, it was a pioneer in feminism. Here’s how.

Let’s start with how the film counters the vilification of black women, who are portrayed by media as ‘angry’ and ‘aggressive’ for demanding recognition or even equality. In order to challenge this stereotype, Gabrielle Union’s character, Isis, is shown as the polar opposite. Her team’s routines are constantly stolen, and so is their trophy. However, she remains confident and deals with the issue maturely. She stays focussed and grounded in representing her own community and shows exemplary cool under pressure. Any outbursts are fully justified by explanatory scenes showing systematic and historic theft of her team’s routines by white rivals. Basically, Bring It On addressed systemic racism 20 years prior to #BLM, and makes sure that the winning girls do come out, well, winning.

Read Also: IPL Cheerleaders: Cheering From The Ground, Leered From The Stands!

Next, there’s the spotlight on leadership being completely non-gender specific. Even in 2020, women are encouraged to see each other as rivals, especially when it comes to beauty and romance. They’re deemed dominating and ‘tomboyish’ for pursuing athletics with the same dedication as their male counterparts. Bring It On made sure the spotlight was on the girls cheering, and not on the varsity boys they were asked to cheer for. Rather than glorifying short skirts and crop tops, it exemplified skill and rivalry in a sport wholly through women. If you’re confused, just watch Missy’s Toro audition. It also speaks to Torrance’s unwillingness to be a pushover in order to be a ‘good girl’ leader. She remains authentic and in control- ‘this is a cheerocracy‘-ultimately creating a brilliant routine.

Bring It On also broke many gender stereotypes. While showing women in positions of power positively, it also refuses to shame men for pursuing roles that are traditionally associated with women because they are ‘submissive’. The typical ‘locker room’ homophobia allows the high school jocks to mock male cheerleader Jan and gay bash him, while he’s actually straight. He remains a more successful athlete than his friends and a confident cheerleader. Though in an attempt to provide comic relief he is shown ogling at his female teammates while they practice, but this chauvinistic approach was rectified in following sequels.

Read Also: Clueless Turns 25: A Teen Film With Feminist Undertones That Still Remains Relevant

Every time I rewatch this film, Bring It On reminds me constantly that being a strong woman is to be celebrated and cheered on. One of the earliest teen flicks to sound ‘woke’ without shoving it down your throat, it has been showering its viewers for 20 years with girl power and iconic moves.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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