05/10/2020

Netflix’s ‘Cheer’ with Monica Aldama and Jerry Harris is exactly the kind of show America needs right now. Here’s why.

I spent last Saturday night quietly weeping in bed at 1 a.m. over a man.
While I dont know this man personally, here is what I do know: His name is Jeremiah Jerry Harris, he has nearly 300,000 Instagram followers and I must protect him at all costs. Jerry also happens to be the lovable breakout star of Cheer, the new docuseries on Netflix that shines a spotlight on competitive junior college cheerleading.
Right now, I want someone real something real that I can root for, because these days, it feels like our options are limited.
Jerry is a Navarro College cheerleader. And while he does not launch himself into the air like a tiny rocket, contorting his body in ways that bodies are probably not meant to be contorted, he is both a literal and figurative pillar of Navarro Coach Monica Aldamas squad. Monica, or the Queen, has led Navarro to 14 National Cheerleaders Association National Championships along with five grand national wins. In other words, Monica is the GOAT.
And right now, I want someone real something real that I can root for, because these days, it feels like our options are limited. The planet is on fire, our administration doesnt care if our kids eat greasy fries for lunch or salad and two of our most promising presidential candidates are being pitted against one another. I know I cant count on our world leaders to make the future a better place, but at least I know I can count on Monica Aldama.
The legendary coach loves to win, but hates losing even more especially when it comes to the national championships in Daytona Beach, Florida where her team must execute a perfect performance in 2 minutes and 15 seconds. Its what they work towards all year. So until that day, they practice. A lot. They slam their muscular bodies onto the mat and into each other, flailing their limbs, lifting each other up by the ankles and praying someone catches them if they fall. Its impossible not to hold your breath while watching.
But Monica isnt just about winning. She genuinely cares for these kids, many of whom come from broken families. She gives them structure, tough love and most importantly, her time. With an MBA from the University of Texas, Monica once dreamed of working on Wall Street. Instead, she lives in the small town of Corsicana, Texas and coaches the best cheerleading team in the country that no ones ever heard of.
Theres a reason why viewers have binge-watched the addicting six-part series. And unlike other beloved feel good shows like The Great British Baking Show, The Good Place or even Friends, Cheer feels different. For a brief, spectacular moment in time, it was actually fun to wake up on a weekend morning, scroll through Twitter and see the collective fangirling over the show.
Me: Im just gonna casually watch #Cheer on #Netflix
Also me: MORGAN HAS COME SUCH A LONG WAY AND JERRY DESERVES TO BE ON MAT AND HOW THE HELL COULD YALL DROP SHERBS AND GABI NEEDS BETTER PARENTS AND IM SO PROUD OF YOU LEXI pic.twitter.com/hkpA1BFtbs
Kristi McNair (@cocoakristis) January 12, 2020
Like the cheerleaders of Navarro, I too, worship at the altar of Monica and want her approval. I want to get ready for my day listening to a podcast that solely consists of the Navarro Bulldogs screaming the Serenity Prayer together on loop. I want to take Jerrys infectious laugh, bottle it up and spray it on myself like a perfume.
An episode my mind keeps returning to is when the team performs their routine full out (this means they do it in its entirety without stopping) for Navarro cheerleading alumni. With 16 days left until Daytona, the pressure is mounting. In the beginning of the performance, Navarro is hitting every movement with nearly flawless precision, their audience yelling and cheering them on. And then a top girl/flyer, Ashlee, falls. The music cuts and the routine stops. Later, in a regroup that occurs after Monica makes the decision to ultimately remove Ashlee from the pyramid because of an injury, an alumni cheerleader confronts the team. The tension in the room is palpable.
Do yall have a strong bond? she asks. Her question is met with awkward silence. Im just gonna be straight: If yall dont have that bond, yall not gonna win. Theres just no way. Yall gotta do what you need to do to fix it before you get on that mat.
How is it possible that a group of college cheerleaders can work together and trust each other while literally risking their necks, but the Democratic Party cant put ego aside to do whats best for its country?
Her message is clear: If you dont have each others backs, you have nothing. How ironic, I thought, listening to her words while watching Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren supporters sniping at each other on Twitter. How is it possible that a group of college cheerleaders can work together and trust each other while literally risking their necks, but the Democratic Party cant put ego aside to do whats best for its country?
One of Monicas strengths as a championship-winning leader is that she keeps her team in check. You can be the most talented athlete, but if your attitude sucks or your effort is lacking, shes not afraid to cut you. She makes the tough calls not because she likes to, but because she has to if she wants to win. In a time where #NeverWarren attacks are trending on Twitter and every interaction between presidential candidates is being dissected, I wonder what it would cost to hire Monica to come in and flip a table over. As journalist Laura Bassett points out, The only way to get a progressive candidate in the White House is to refocus on the common cause of getting the truly problematic men out of power.
Monica recognizes when the stakes are too high to lose. So she thinks carefully and strategically plots her next move with the prowess of a World Junior Chess Champion to ultimately win the game.
We exist in an infinite timeline of dread, disappointment and divisiveness. Cheer is a much-needed and apolitical distraction. It represents a glimmering bright spot where were reminded that most things are terrible and yet, not everything is. That some people have clawed their way out from the worst circumstances and are still trying their best every day knowing they still might not make the cut.
We also love Cheer because it highlights a leader who believes in her team, who can galvanize, motivate and make decisions not because theyre popular, but because theyre for the common good. That may seem overly simple, but its true.