Monday, February 18, 2008

Bring It On Week Comes to the Spec: The Cheer Lexicon

Over at The ISB, Chris Sims has begun a week devoted to the sublimely perfect series of cheerleader movies, the Bring It On Tetralogy. Chris promises "A Worldwide Web of Cheercitement and Cheerventure!" and I have gladly agreed to participate in the internet-wide Cheergasm Cheerlocaust in celebration of these classic movies.

Now, the first thing you might be asking is this: "But Dr. K, you are a world-respected academic with a stellar reputation for taste and intellect--how could you participate in a celebration of cheerleading movies?"

The answer to that is simple: first, I have seen every movie that I ever needed to see in development of my expertise in the field of film. I don't need to see another movie ever again. The Bring It On films, therefore, are like a vacation--what I can do now that all my work as a film scholar is done.

Second, I think that history will look back at the Bring It On films, especially the sequels, in the same way that the French critics of Cahiers du Cinema in the late 1950s looked back on American B-movies of the 40s and early 50s: as a ground for creative experimentation by auteurs working under the radar and under considerable budgetary restraints. In other words, the Bring It On sequels are the Cat People and Detour of the 21st century.

You think I'm kidding? Just look at how the films have inspired a classic work by one of the century's great artists:

How else do you explain the dancing girls in this video? Clearly an act of cheerspiration. Of course, the movies have missed a significant opportunity in not using this song in any of the films.

There are many reasons why the Bring It On movies are significant works in the 21st century, but none is more important than the films' near-Joycean linguistic experimentation. This wordplay functions on several levels. First, and perhaps most historically significant, occurs in the third film, Bring It On: All or Nothing, where the use of instant message language, combined with Sierra's sheer stupidity, allow for some quite Shakespearean comic moments:

The use of IM-language in this particular film are guaranteed to make it both a historical and a literary artifact studied for centuries. I will bet that one scholar in the future will make his or her reputation by annotating this film alone.

Note also this linguistic wordplay from the first film:

Darcy: What's the plural for 'butt'? On one person, I mean.
Carver: She puts the "ass" in "massive".
Darcy: You put the "lewd" in "deluded".

More obvious, yet ultimately more complex and satisfying, are the neologisms involving the addition of the prefix "cheer" to already existing words.

For example, in the first, and arguably the best, of the Bring It On movies, two cheerleaders have a debate over the political system their cheerleading team will use:

Torrance: Courtney, this is not a democracy, it's a cheerocracy. I'm sorry, but I'm overruling you.
Courtney: You are being a cheertator, Torrance, and a pain in my ass!

Of course, cheerocracy and cheertatorship are not the only ideologies compatible with the world of cheerleading. One of the most common systems, as you can imagine, is "cheereditary rule," though it's popularity was briefly replaced by "cheermunism" during the interwar years of the 1920s and 30s. One of the least successful cheerdeologies, however, was "cheerjectivism," which was hampered by the fact that its practitioners only shouted one, single-line cheer: "Give me an A!"

The cheer lexicon seems most vibrant when dealing with levels of disaster, as in "cheertastrophe." This language also reaches its apex in the Cheerstian faith, in which the cheerpocalypse will bring about the rapcheer, and then culminate in a final showdown between the good cheerleaders and the evil ones, which will be known as "cheermaggedon." All this is said to be revealed in the 6th and final installment of the film franchise, Bring It On: The Book of Cheervelation.

As you can see here, the films have a depth and cultural and artistic significance that is often masked by their disposable tween-entertainment facades. History will certainly bear this out, and I predict the future publication of scholarly resources like The Journal of Bring It On Studies.


J Ray said...


cheertastic, imho

Phillip said...

"Give me an A!" Fucking cheerlarious. I love it.

Wolter said...

"Give me an A!" made me laugh out loud.

MiriyaB said...

As a recovering cheerjectovist (Hi, my name is MiriyaB, and I haven't scorned a secondhander in 4,527 days), that "Give me an A!" had me laughing with rueful recognition...

Anonymous said...

great stuff.