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Teen Movie Times: Bring It On

superme
Kia ora, Internets! I was going to do a post on Teen Comedy Movies with Serious Messages, but it, uh, it kinda grew. So now it's a series.

On the list so far:
Bend It Like Beckham
Bring It On
But I'm A Cheerleader!
Clueless
Easy A
Empire Records
Juno
Mean Girls
Saved!
Stick It

Recommendations are very welcome.

I can't guarantee I'll even get to all of the ones on my list (some of the messages are pretty nebulous, but either beloved or interesting enough that I kinda want to talk about them anyway) but heck. Why not?

On with the show!

Teen Comedy With A Serious Message Number One: Bring It On.

Bring It On poster image

Oh, Internets. You know my feelings about cheerleading. Of course this is the first movie I'm going to tackle.

What happens?

Here's the deal, Missy. We're the shit, the best. We work hard, have fun, and win national championships. I'm offering you a chance to be a part of that.

Torrance Shipman has just been elected the successor to the scary Big Red, captain of the Rancho Carne Toros, six time national cheerleading champs. When disaster strikes, and they need a new cheerleader, she champions bad seed Missy, who's just moved in. ("I moved here from Los Angeles/This school has no gymnastics team/This is a last resort!")

Torrance and Missy

Because this isn't a democracy, it's a cheerocracy, Torrance overrules the others and invites Missy to join. In turn, Missy alerts Torrance to the fact that Big Red has been stealing routines from another squad, and after some initial fumbling, the Toros put together a new and genuinely original routine for nationals. They come second, which, because they did the right thing - eventually - "feels like first." As a bonus, Torrance breaks up with her shitty boyfriend Aaron and hooks up with Missy's cute brother, Cliff. ("You believed in me! That's important to me! You believed in me!")

The Message?

Racist appropriation of someone else's creative work is disgusting, and way too easy to get away with.

Tried to steal our bit/But you look like shit/But we're the ones who were down with it.

You see, Big Red hasn't been stealing from just any squad. She's been ripping off the East Compton Clovers, an "inner-city" Los Angeles school that's never been able to make it to Nationals - and thus is unlikely to ever prove her crimes. "Inner-city", by the way, is movie code for "Black".

Missy is disgusted when she sees the "new" Toros routine she's supposed to learn. She takes Torrance to an East Compton game, where she can see the evidence with her own eyes. A teary Torrance clearly recognises the routine, and as the two girls leave, the Clovers, led by their captain Isis, come out in force.

Clovers Captain Isis

They immediately make it clear, to both Torrance and the audience, that what the Toros have done is not simply a matter of stealing a routine, but an act of racist appropriation. The Toros are a team that is almost entirely white (and economically privileged - the houses we see are spacious and expensively decorated, and those are not the homes of the squad's "rich girl", who can come up with $500 at will). And they have been taking the credit for the creative work of underprivileged people of colour.

The Clovers react angrily to Missy and Torrance coming to view the "ethnic festivities" at their school, feeling, that like 'Raggedy Ann', they are there to steal.

Torrance: 'Raggedy Ann'?
Isis: Ugly redhead with a video camera permanently attached to her hand. Y'all been coming up here for years trying to steal our routines.
Lafred: And we just love seeing them on ESPN.
Torrance: What are you talking about?
Isis: 'Brr, it's cold in here, there must be some Toros in the atmosphere'? I know you don't think a white girl made that shit up. Our free cheer service is over as of this moment.
Jenelope: Over!
Lafred: Finito!
Isis: Every time we get some, here y'all come trying to steal it, putting some blonde hair on it and calling it something different. We've had the best squad around for years, but no one's been able to see what we can do. But you better believe, all that's gonna change this year. I'm captain, and I guarantee you we'll make it to Nationals. So just hand over the tape you made tonight, we'll call it even for now.

And, while Torrance and the rest of the squad were genuinely ignorant of what Big Red had done, ignorance is not really an excuse. The damage has been done, and the Toros have already profited from that malfeasance. As Torrance indignantly told Missy before witnessing the damning routine, "Our routines are 100% original! Count the trophies!"

"I swear I didn't know." "Well, now you do."

Even worse, however, Torrance reluctantly agrees to carry on with the routine anyway, because, as antagonist Courtney puts it: "We learned that routine fair and square. We logged the man-hours. Don't punish the squad for Big Red's mistake. This isn't about cheating. This is about winning."

The problem is, of course, that they didn't learn it fair and square, and the situation is about cheating - and about using their privilege to get away with it.

It takes the Clovers actually showing up at a football game and doing the same routine in the stands before Torrance will do more than wring her hands about doing the right thing. And even then she tries to take shortcuts, before she puts her big girl's spankies on and does the work herself.

The Clovers do it better

Then it looks like the Clovers won't be able to go after all - they just can't get the funds. Most of the Toros celebrate, but Torrance insists that her father's business pay their way - partly out of guilt, and partly because she wants her squad to be genuinely the best. Which means beating the best. And she recognises the Clovers as the best.

But Isis rejects the cheque. Instead of relying on this contribution, the Clovers appeal to an icon from their own neighbourhood, TV personality Pauletta, who comes through in her show's wish-granting hour. Neither Torrance's money nor Torrance's guilt are welcome to the Clovers - but her competitive spirit is.

Isis: You wanna make it right? Then when you go to Nationals... bring it. Don't slack off because you feel sorry for us. That way, when we beat you, we'll know it's because we're better.
Torrance: Oh, I'll bring it. Don't worry.
Isis*: I never do.

Anyway, the Clovers go to Nationals, the Toros bring it, and the Clovers win national acclaim and ten thousand dollars with their own spectacular routine. And Isis and Torrance have reached detente - certainly not a friendship, but a wary respect for each other. (It does strike me as unrealistic that self-reliant and goals-focused Isis would bother thinking too much about Torrance's feelings and "rewarding" her for doing something that's absolutely baseline good human behaviour, but hey, Hollywood happy ending)

Isis: I just want to say, captain to captain, I respect what you guys did out there. You guys were good.
Torrance: Thanks. You were better.
Isis: We were, yeah.

Respect

Other Things?

- Torrance's gay cheer friend Les is awesome - about the only one on the squad, other than Missy, who resists carrying on with the stolen routine. And while he doesn't get a relationship of his own, he does get a genuinely cute moment of nervously introducing himself to a guy he likes, and getting the "I'll see you around" meet-cute response.

- There's a totally unnecessary bit where it's implied a male cheerleader digitally penetrates a female one while he's holding her. She giggles, but she looks surprised - she clearly wasn't expecting it. So: 1) Dude, how hard is it to ask first? Yes means yes! 2) Come on, in the middle of a routine your hands should be making sure she doesn't smash her skull, have some professionalism.

- There's some major girl-on-girl hate, but also a lot of girl-on-girl love. Missy and Torrance sro it up, and Isis and her immediate friends are a strong, cohesive group.


What have I missed, Internets? What have I got wrong? Let's talk teen movies!



*Can I just point out that Isis is an amazing character, given incredible presence and depth in her few lines by the sterling acting chops of Gabrielle Union? Gabrielle Union should be a star on the level of Kirsten Dunst, and should most certainly have more work in her credits list than Eliza Dushku, but she's not, and she doesn't, because - surprise! - racism.

I still hear things like, "Gabrielle, you gave the best read! If we decide to go black, you're at the top of the list". I've actually been told, "Gabrielle, you're absolutely perfect for the role, but the role is a girl who's most popular in school". I've been to the point where I brought in my yearbook. "See how popular I was? It really can happen".
Gabrielle Union - source.

Comments

( 20 — comment )
slippery_fish
Jan. 29th, 2012 02:14 pm (UTC)
Ah, I freaking love that movie. But I love movies that are related to dancing and have great routines anyway. Center Stage, anyone?
karenhealey
Jan. 29th, 2012 02:17 pm (UTC)
Ooooh, or maybe the Step Up series, because you know I don't pass up opportunities to watch Harry Shum Jr dance.

Unless it's on Glee.

Edited at 2012-01-29 02:17 pm (UTC)
slippery_fish
Jan. 29th, 2012 02:23 pm (UTC)
Loved the first Step Up movie (*points at icon*) but I kinda gave up after the second. Which is surprising since I love You got Served and that movie is so very, very bad.

*tries to remember which movie had the awesome tango routine*

Oh, yeah, Take the Lead...
veejane
Jan. 29th, 2012 02:50 pm (UTC)
Gabrielle Union is also magically un-aging. She was 30 when she made this movie, I think. (She is turning 40 this year.)

I was going to say you should totally do Drumline, which is basically Bring it On for band geeks, but I have never had the brain cells to spare to think out the politics of intra-HBC band rivalries. (I can't even remember the plot except that it is basically, "Nick Cannon, you so cute. However, please grow the hell up.") But there are dance routines including trombones! And capes and spats and feathered hats! And Zoe Saldana in gold-sequinned hot pants before she was famous.
harriet_spy
Jan. 29th, 2012 08:25 pm (UTC)
OH, my gosh, I didn't realize that was younger Zoe Saldana!

Also, how did Heathers not make this list? It founded the damn genre!
karenhealey
Jan. 29th, 2012 10:18 pm (UTC)
Because - DRAMATIC PAUSE - I have never seen Heathers
harriet_spy
Jan. 30th, 2012 03:49 am (UTC)
...
franzferdinand2
Jan. 30th, 2012 04:08 am (UTC)
It also has Petey Pablo* so it's also a reminder to raise up, take your shirt off, and twist it around your head.**

*He is the only rapper with mainstream success from my home state. I don't actually expect anyone to know who he is.

**Spin it like a helicopter.
windancer
Jan. 29th, 2012 03:07 pm (UTC)
I love this movie and I love that you're doing this series! My Netflix queue is pretty evenly divided between "Gritty sci-fi/action thrillers," "Understated period pieces based on a book," and "Teen comedies with serious messages" (which is what the category SHOULD read).
browngirl
Jan. 29th, 2012 07:37 pm (UTC)
"Inner-city", by the way, is movie code for "Black".


Heh, it's US (at least) code for Black.

I LOVE this post. And I will have to see this movie.
capfox
Jan. 29th, 2012 08:10 pm (UTC)
This is pretty cool! I'm curious, are you considering non-English language movies, as well? Because I think things like, say, Ping Pong or Linda Linda Linda would fit pretty well into this category, and I'd be interested to hear what you think about them.
karenhealey
Jan. 29th, 2012 10:07 pm (UTC)
Absolutely! If they're considered teen comedies in their culture of origin, I'll give 'em a go - although obviously any analysis I respond with is going to be lacking a lot of cultural context.
megancrewe
Jan. 29th, 2012 10:43 pm (UTC)
Another thing I loved about this movie: when Dunst's character catches her bf cheating, she doesn't do the standard "How could you?" big teary emotional scene I was expecting. She immediately sees he's clearly not worth it, and goes off to do more worthwhile things. :D
aimeesworld
Jan. 29th, 2012 11:56 pm (UTC)
My sister spent an entire summer trying to learn the cheers from Bring it On, which meant that I was woken every morning to this movie playing. I love it. I especially love

(Also, excited to hear your thoughts on Bend it like Beckham. I taught it to my year 9s last year, which, together with She's the Man and Twelfth Night, made them think that the theme for our year's work was cross-dressing and being mistaken for lesbians).
captaintwinings
Jan. 30th, 2012 12:49 am (UTC)
I loved the part where she offered the Clovers the money to get to nationals, because she so honestly thought it was going to be enough to make up for everything. And so did I. (I'm not economically privileged, but I am a white girl.) And then the movie didn't take that shortcut of making cheerleading the only real conflict. A different movie would have gone the route of "but they're not really racist so it's okay!" If nothing else, I can point to that as the reason why I'm not embarrassed to love this movie. Because I learned something.
stevegreen
Jan. 30th, 2012 02:27 am (UTC)
Gregory's Girl has its moments.
poor_toms_acold
Jan. 30th, 2012 06:35 am (UTC)
I don't think it counts as a comedy, but I'd love to see you break down The Craft!
mysterysquid
Jan. 30th, 2012 10:09 am (UTC)
Awesome film. :D

That quote from Gabrielle Union makes me very sad.

Very much looking forward to the rest of this series! I think you've nailed all the main ones I'd like to see you tackle.
alannahwrites
Jan. 30th, 2012 12:14 pm (UTC)
I'd love to see you do a piece on Sky High. XD
karenhealey
Jan. 30th, 2012 12:20 pm (UTC)
OMG SKY HIGH

You got it.
( 20 — comment )