Monday, October 03, 2016

Cult-TV Theme Watch: Cheerleaders

A cheerleader is a person who chants, dances and cheers for his or her team. A cheerleader uses his or her voice, as well as body, to demonstrate support for an organization, usually involved with sports.

Cheerleaders have appeared throughout cult-TV history, not in always flattering forms, but most often so.

TV’s most famous cheerleader is likely Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003).  

A valley girl, Buffy wants time to date boys and be a high school cheerleader, but instead must constantly defend her town, Sunnydale, from the undead spewed out by the Hellmouth.  

The whole (brilliant) series plays as an explosion of tropes.  Buffy -- the stereotypically “stupid” or insipid cheerleader -- is actually the savior of the whole world.

In 2006, the NBC series Heroes (2006-2010) also featured a cheerleader -- Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere) -- in a prominent role.  

A mutant/superhero with the ability to regenerate, Claire Bennet became the fulcrum of the series’ first season; right down to its legendary and memorable motto: “Save the Cheerleader; Save the World.”

Virtually every high-school-focused cult-TV series in history has featured a cheerleader character at one point or another.  

Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) in Smallville (2001 – 2011) spent some time in the first season as a cheerleader for the Smallville High team, before seeking a life beyond the football field.

And The Vampire Diaries (2009 – 2018) also sees its juvenile characters, namely Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and Caroline (Candace King) taking part in cheerleading in its early, high-school based season.

Going back further, The X-Files (1993 – 2002), featured a third season episode by Chris Carter, “Syzygy” wherein two cheerleaders – affected by a cosmic conjunction – develop terrifying psychic powers.  The two cheerleaders, while seemingly inseparable, are also portrayed as sadistic and horrible people.

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