Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bring it On (2000)

Bring It On
Bring It On is the movie that spawned a thousand sequels.1 It stars Kirsten Dunst as the captain of a cheerleading squad who discovers that all of their routines were ripped off of an inner city school's squad. She then sets out to prove that her team has what it takes to bring it on, and win the national cheerleading championship. This movie asks the question, "What would happen if you made a movie about cheerleaders?" The movie also stars Eliza Dushku and Jesse Bradford as a pair of siblings who just moved to the area and don't quite fit at Rancho Carne High School.2 This movie draws on some of the same tropes that made Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Clueless successful, and has enough witty dialogue to make you laugh throughout.

The movie is interesting in that it explores class and race relations, though with perhaps limited resources. The students at RCHS are all from affluent backgrounds and are college bound. They can afford to spend a great deal of time and resources on cheerleading. On the other hand, the students from East Compton do not have this sort of resource. Race and class are conflated in this story, as there is only one any student of color on the RCHS team (an Asian American), and the East Compton team is made up entirely of African American and Latin(o/a) cheerleaders. Interestingly, the East Compton team is the Clovers, possibly stemming from a time when it was a largely Irish area that underwent a population shift, though this is only conjuncture on my part.

Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Bradford, Bring It On
Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this movie places a great deal of its humor on the vapidity of cheerleaders and Valley girls. Dushku and Bradford offer a contrasting point of view to the oddity of the RCHS students. Yet, Dunst is the character we follow throughout. The fact that she befriends Dushku and falls in love with Bradford clues us into the fact that she is somehow different from here peers. At one point she gives an impassioned speech about the work that must be done to ensure that equality of opportunity can be reached, not just assumed.

This movie also has an odd mix of homophobia and tolerance. While the team accepted their gay member, played by Huntley Ritter, other still reacted quite defensively whenever they were accused of being gay or lesbian. Additionally, some of the cheerleaders want to turn away Dushku because she appears to be an "uber-dyke." There appears to be an odd mix of gender and sexuality politics at play throughout the movie, such that it's hard to tell if the movie falls on the favorable or unfavorable side.

One of the things I think that makes this movie most satisfying for me is that in the end, they main characters do not come in first. But that's okay for them, and it's okay for the audience as well. Too many movies have the main characters beating the odds or winning for no apparent reason. Or they have couples that should be together getting together. It's nice to see a movie where the expected outcome is not what takes place and is still perfectly acceptable, and even preferable. That said, I do think the routine done by the Toros was better than that done by the Clovers, but I wasn't the fake judges.

Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Huntley Ritter, Bring It On
Sparky Polastri: I'm a choreographer, that's what I do. You are cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are dancers who've gone retarded. What you do is a tiny pathetic subset of dancing. I will attempt to transform your robotic routines into poetry, written with the human body. Follow me, or perish sweater monkeys.

Notes:
1. Not really a thousand, but at least three so far: Bring It On Again, Bring It On: All or Nothing, and Bring It On: In It to Win It.
2. If I remember my Spanish correctly, they go to Meat Ranch HS. Now, this could be a statement on their meat-like qualities. Cheerleaders are often considered pieces of them... Or it could just be a joke, as their mascot is the Toros, or the bull.

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