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Save the cheerleader

Tagged by cjmr to list the books I'm currently reading. Which won't take much time, as I don't remember the last time I was reading more than two at any given time, and at the moment it's only one:

Cheerleader! An American Icon, by Natalie Guice Adams & Pamela J. Bettis. Like most of the random nonfiction I've read in the past decade or so, this happened to catch my eye on a recent run to Half Price Books (which has finally opened three stores in Chicagoland, whoo-hoo!). I think it was two or three days after watching Bring It On: All Or Nothing on a particularly low-energy Thursday evening and boggling at the fact that, while Hollywood has finally caught on to the mythical (or at least outdated, by more than the 20 years since my experience) nature of many cheerleader stereotypes, they apparently haven't figured out that no high school that wants to have liability insurance EVER again would leave these kids so entirely to their own devices.

It's also an interesting thing to pick up at a time when I've been completely blindsided by how many Heroes fans are shocked and/or ambivalent about actually liking Claire, even though she's *gasp* a cheerleader! I grumped in passing to neadods recently about TV and movies always having tryouts judged by incumbent cheerleaders, and she was sincerely at a loss as to how else it would be done. I'm sure it's partly from having gone to an extremely small high school where pretty much everyone had an idea how everyone else's activities operated, but I still find myself surprised over and over by how foreign the whole thing is to most of my fannish peers.

I thought of that when I read the introduction, in which the authors mention the skepticism and assumptions they ran into when feeling out how serious scholarship on the topic might be received. The book itself isn't academic, but so far it's a fairly impressively encompassing survey of what cheerleading used to be, what it's become, what it probably never was, and what it stands for in people's heads. It's a pretty breezy read, and I can all but guarantee you'll run into things you didn't know. I'm halfway through it, and I know I have.

ETA: I'm one of those annoying people who don't like to tag anyone specific. If you feel like telling us what you're reading currently, consider yourself tagged. :-)

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( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
ariestess
Apr. 19th, 2007 01:53 pm (UTC)
Sounds like an interesting book. I'll have to add it to the "see if it's at the library" list...
cdaae
Apr. 19th, 2007 01:58 pm (UTC)
Knowing absolutely zero about the topic, I'd have assumed try-outs were judged by some kind of coach, whatever sports teacher was in charge of the cheerleading team.
wiliqueen
Apr. 19th, 2007 02:07 pm (UTC)
Adults in general tend to be almost entirely absent in TV or movie depictions, which is all many people have to go on. Off the top of my head, the closest thing to a coach or sponsor I can recall ever having seen was the horrifyingly incompetent choreography consultant the squad hired (out of their own pockets and with no apparent adult involvement of any kind) in the first Bring It On.

It's not generally regarded as a "real" sport, so people don't think of it in those terms. No expects the quarterback to choose the varsity football players. But then, the football coach probably has a full-time job with a real salary.

One of the interesting things I've learned is that Britain was the first country to institute a national governing body to administer safety standards, coaching qualifications, and the like. There's a quote in the book from the head of the organization to the effect that he can't imagine how the country where cheerleading originated continues to flail along without it.
cdaae
Apr. 19th, 2007 02:12 pm (UTC)
Heh. We don't really have cheerleading here, so I've never even thought about it. But my gut assumption is that it would be like a dance team. And if it's the school's official team (of whatever), obviously there's going to be a teacher or coach in charge.

I guess Hollywood and TV aren't exactly realistic about most of life, so I suppose it's not a big surprise that they're inaccurate here too.
wiliqueen
Apr. 19th, 2007 02:23 pm (UTC)
That section was interesting -- a bit about form adapting to function in various countries, where either the sports teams the cheerleaders represent aren't associated with schools (I believe that was the typical model mentioned for the UK), or it's less likely to be serving the support function at all and more likely to be purely competitive.

It's not a big surprise that Hollywood is inaccurate, but I'm fascinated as well as annoyed by the consistency of it. It's not surprising that it's the model so many people have internalized. And it's so different from portrayals of other sports, where you'll see the athletes working independently and possibly even defying the coach, but the coach is always a key figure.
(Deleted comment)
wiliqueen
Apr. 19th, 2007 05:57 pm (UTC)
:: looks over shoulder ::

:: checks locks on strongbox containing Sooper Sekrit Words of Rah-Rah Power ::

< deadpan > I have no idea what you're talking about. < /deadpan >
studiesinlight
Apr. 19th, 2007 08:29 pm (UTC)
I'd never thought about how Hollywood always depicts cheerleaders choosing their teammates. Of course Hollywood does, and of course that makes no sense! No more -- and probably less, given the safety component -- than letting drama club members cast the plays. In real life, no club (much less sport) functions without a staff member in charge, and those staff members who do nod off or fail to show up or exercise control are negligent.

I think Hollywood regularly forgets just how very young teenagers really are. I wonder if the habit of depicting cheerleaders choosing their own teammates derives from that pretend Hollywood world in which teenagers are adult in every way (especially sex) except for not needing to hold jobs? Including an active adult coach/sponsor complicates standard plots and adds a character who doesn't fit into the adult world that is being fantasized metaphorically onto teenage bodies ... ?
wiliqueen
Apr. 21st, 2007 09:13 am (UTC)
I wonder if the habit of depicting cheerleaders choosing their own teammates derives from that pretend Hollywood world in which teenagers are adult in every way (especially sex) except for not needing to hold jobs?

I'm sure that's a lot of it. Especially in conventional "teen movies" in which adults in general tend to be very thin on the ground and largely if not entirely ineffectual. (I'd send out a snarky "thank you" to John Hughes for that, but if he hadn't set the formula, someone else would have.)

With cheerleading, I'm just always so struck by the complete absence of adult supervision, even outside of that genre, like BtvS or Heroes. The latter had very limited glimpses into how Claire's squad worked. But even so, when the sheriff came by during practice looking for the mystery girl from the train wreck rescue, the adult who rounded up the cheerleaders to meet with him appeared to be the football coach. He certainly wasn't theirs.

I keep meaning to watch an episode or two of Friday Night Lights just to see how it presents the cheerleaders, Texas being one of the hotbeds of cheerleading-as-serious-business. But I have so little interest in the show otherwise that I keep forgetting about it. I lived high-school-sports-obsessed small town soap opera; I don't need to watch it on TV. :-)
cjmr
Apr. 21st, 2007 07:56 am (UTC)
I think I figured out what book memes are good for
They're great for making my Amazon wishlist and my 'get this out of the library' list much, much longer.
wiliqueen
Apr. 21st, 2007 08:59 am (UTC)
Re: I think I figured out what book memes are good for
Ha! Too true!
chain_uv_fools
Apr. 22nd, 2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
sounds like it's worth a look. have you seen the one about sororities? i can't remember the title, it has three girls' torsos on the front. very informative, and a little shocking.
wiliqueen
Apr. 22nd, 2007 09:19 pm (UTC)
I don't think I've seen it. Will have to keep an eye out.

I have friends (mostly in theatre) who were in sororities, and they turned out okay. *g* I gave it one rush orientation meeting and decided the whole thing gave me the flying heebies, mostly because I felt like I was being mined for my GPA. Which isn't entirely fair, since there's no reason they shouldn't want good students. But the whole vibe just rubbed me the wrong way.
chain_uv_fools
Apr. 23rd, 2007 06:40 pm (UTC)
okay it's called Pledged: The Secret Lives of Sororities by Alexandra Robbins. Yeah, I'm not super anti-sororities or anything either--to me it's no different from the theatre department at school :), and I'm sure it woudl be fun, but I don't have tons of hatred for hazers or feel exquisite sorrow for the girls who go through it. I mean, they can just leave, right? I've never understood how they feel "trapped" or whatever. I know plenty of people who were in sororities, and they are just as mal-adjusted as the rest of us, no more so. All the same, i never joined one; I always thought they were too expensive, and i could never work full-time in school because of rehearsals and shows, so i couldn't really put down the cash.
The book is def. a guilty pleasure, sort of like if Candace Bushnell wrote about college.
kevenn
Apr. 23rd, 2007 12:03 pm (UTC)
I've always liked Claire. I think Hayden is a fantastic actress. Ray hates her, though. He hates most teenagers. LOL.
wiliqueen
Apr. 23rd, 2007 12:40 pm (UTC)
I'm continually having to remind myself that she's a real teenager, and not a baby-faced 23-year-old. There's not a whiff of "child actor" in her work.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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