“I said brr, it’s cold in here. There must be some toros in the atmosphere!” For those of you reading this, whether you have connected it or not that is the famous cheer from the classic movie “Bring It On”. However, that line should probably be more like “there must be some social class inequality in the atmosphere” (sorry bad joke) but I’ll get into that soon. “Bring It On” is a movie I consider to be a childhood/pre-teen favorite. Maybe it was the peppy cheerleaders, the rivalries, or the humor that drew me into but I must say I love that movie. However, now that the Marxist class lens has been thrusted upon this movie… “Bring It On” may not be a ‘if you try hard you can succeed’ movie and of a ‘class and race play huge roles in the plot’ movie. As I layed in bed last night analyzing this movie a wave of racial stereotypes, socially unacceptable language, and class generalizations struck me. I must say this movie is quite problematic. I am sorry to “Bring It On” because I am about to bring the class lens hammer down on it like cheerleaders falling from a pyramid.
Let’s start from the beginning… literally. The movie opens with a big gymnasium and a bunch of male and female toro cheerleaders hyping up a crowd while cheering about how sexy and desirable they are. Not to mention they are all white except for one girl, Whitney, who is asian which I assume was to check off that diversity box for the production. The thing I noticed from the first second of the movie was that race was probably going to play a big factor in it whether that was the intention or not. Moving past the opening scene, the main character Torrance, a blonde haired blue eyed cheerleader, is seen waking up in her large and modern San Diego home. She goes throughout her morning routine and is then picked up by her boyfriend, another blonde cheerleader, who is portrayed as being not too bright and is disliked by Torrance’s parents. A short ride later and the couple arrive at Rancho Carne High School, probably the biggest and most over the top nice high school I have seen in any movie. I quickly picked up that everyone at that school was in the upper class. In the following scene, the cheerleaders are shown voting for captains. Long story short and to no one’s surprise, Torrance is chosen as captain and she jumps right into practice by getting another girl injured during a risky move. This leads us to the try outs.
Ah the try out scene. A “Bring It On” classic scene full of funny and rude commentary paired with the “misfits” of the school trying their best to impress the cheerleaders. In this scene we get introduced to Missy, a brown haired rebel girl that doesn’t like cheerleading and is only there because there was no gymnastics team. The cheer squad makes fun of her for being different then them (not blond and preppy) but little do they know Missy is an amazing gymnast who also happens to live in a giant house with a brother who Torrance ends up liking a lot. Missy is the one to expose the cheer team and the audience to the Clovers, a cheer team that the Toros had been stealing routines from. Torrance and Missy go to East Compton, a mostly black community and the hometown of the Clovers, to watch them cheer and that is when Torrance realizes that they had stolen the cheers. As the two girls are trying to leave, the Clover squad follows them outside to confront them about stealing. This is the point in the movie where we are exposed to African American Vernacular English (AAVE) vs Standard English. The girls on the Clovers speak in AAVE while Missy and Torrance speak in Standard English. Both forms are grammatically correct because the correctness of a language comes with context. In society today, we associate Standard English to be the “right” form due to the people in power and those in the media speaking in such. Even though those people do speak in Standard, AAVE is still a valid and correct language that is spoken commonly. In East Compton, African American Vernacular English seems to be the common language spoken there and the whole cheer team is unified in such a way. However, the captain of the Clovers, Isis, speaks in Standard English just like Torrance and Missy. It can be implied that she grew up in East Compton her whole life, so why does she speak in Standard English and not in AAVE like the rest of her friends that grew up in the same town? The unfortunate answer to that question is that it makes her seem more white and similar to Torrance and Missy. When the Clovers come outside to confront Missy and Torrance the team is aggressive and wants to fight them except for Isis who is shown to be the diffuser of the situation. Missy and Torrance do not want to get involved with the Clovers and were explainining how they only went to watch. Isis takes the high road and corrals the team away from them saying it is not worth it even with disapproval from the other girls with one saying to Torrance, “You’ve been touched by an angel girl”. Clearly, Isis was the only one not down for fight. Just based upon the way Isis speaks and her action in that one situation, she is portrayed as being more white than the other girls on her team which puts a negative light on the black community of East Compton.
The middle of the movie is taken up by the Toros trying to make their way to Nationals by coming up with their own routine. When they get stuck, they hire a name named Sparky to help them choreograph a dance so that they will be able to qualify in the Regionals competition. Sparky ends up being a slightly verbally abusive and creepy man that puts together a routine for the team. However, when it comes to competition day the Toros realize that Sparky taught the exact same routine to another team and they perform in front of the Clovers who are not surprised when the appear to have stolen yet another cheer. Nevertheless, the Toros are a five time championship team so they go through to Nationals. The Clovers qualify for Nationals as well, but their school does not have enough money to send them. Torrance realizes this and gets her very rich dad to write a check for enough money to send the Clovers to Nationals. Even though this was to be a gesture that makes the audience go “awww that’s so nice of Torrance”, this act highlights the separation of class in this movie even more. Since the Clovers do not have enough money, they decide to enter a TV show host’s competition to win enough money to go. Torrance shows up in East Compton with this check to give to Isis, but she rips it up in Torrance’s face saying they don’t need charity money. There are two ways to interpret this. Through a lower class lens, the Clovers are right in the fact that they can get the money for themselves and don’t need any help. Through an upper class lens, Torrance is doing a good thing and the Clovers should appreciate the donation. Either way you look at it, the difference in class and financial standing is quite obvious. Rancho Carne High School had enough money to send their squad to Nationals. Torrance’s dad had enough money to send the Clovers to Nationals. Torrance’s family is obviously very very wealthy and that is made clear in this scene which also can be tied to how wealthy the entire Rancho Carne community is. Like stated before, the Clovers rip up the check but end up winning the competition anyways so they too are off to Nationals.
The finale of the movie is approaching. Nationals has arrived and both teams qualify for the finals where they go head to head with a few other teams to win first place and be crowned the champions. Before the competition begins Torrance goes up to Isis to give her a tip which she then relays to the Clovers. Isis then gives Torrance a heads up about a girl on her team who is behind the rest and Torrance goes to that girl to let her know. The Clovers look offended and ask Isis why she would talk to Torrance, and Isis responds saying that they understand each other. The exchange shows the unification of the two captains because they realize they are the same after all. It is a sentimental moment but also if you remember earlier, Isis is portrayed as being more white so this scene further shows that their friendship is built upon the fact that Isis acts more like Torrance than the rest of the Clovers. Hmmm maybe their understanding isn’t as cute as we thought.
The competition ensues and both teams are seen performing amazing routines and the captains of each are impressed by the opposite performance. The crowd goes wild for both the Toros and the Clovers. The anticipation builds as to which team will take home first place. Finally it is time for the judges to announce the winners. Third place is given out and then it comes down to second and first. Second place is… drum roll please… The Rancho Carne Toros! In the movie there is a moment of gosh darn it, second?! But then the team becomes very excited with the fact that they took second place in Nationals. First place is then given to the East Compton Clovers who are ecstatic over winning and receiving a $20,000 check. Torrance and Isis leave their respective teams and meet in the middle to congratulate each other which is a sentimental moment and in the end both teams are happy with the outcome which gives the movie a good finale.
So “Bring It On”. It’s a classic that will live on as being one of the best teen movies in the early 2000s and will always be a favorite of mine. However, the stark contrast in class and race in this movie is hard to look past. From Isis speaking Standard English to the sheer wealth divide of the two schools and the effect that alone has on the plot, “Bring It On” might not be the best lighthearted high school cheer movie. This movie puts a big emphasis on how the lower class can be better than the upper class. However, the effort to show how wealth doesn’t define talent is juxtaposed by making Isis act more white and be like the people who are wealthier. If the movie had steered clear of making race part of class separation there would be significantly less to say about the depectitions of inequality. This movie is trying to give off the right message that it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can still succeed but that message masks the somewhat offensive class and race differentiations. Next time you watch it, just take note of the subtle things and you too might realize how twisted movies can be when it comes to race and class. Enjoy these types movies because they are classics but take them with a grain of salt because there is always more beneath what we see.