‘Bring It On’ Is More Than a Cheerleading Movie
The 20-year-old film explored cultural misappropriation before it became a part of the zeitgeist
When Torrance (Kirsten Dunst) finds out her whole cheerleading career is based on theft and deception, she runs away in despair. Isis (Gabrielle Union) follows her to confront her, forcing her to face her complicity in how Black girls like her are left behind, despite obvious talent and tenacity. For years, it turns out, Torrance’s cheer squad on Rancho Carne High School in San Diego has been stealing cheers and choreographies from L.A.’s East Compton Clovers.
On the surface, Bring It On is a teen comedy about cheerleading, but it is about so much more than that. Much has been written about how it tackled cultural appropriation before it was cool: “Since Bring It On’s theatrical release 20 years ago, the theft of the Clovers’ work still mirrors the cultural appropriation we regularly see in mainstream media — especially in the fashion industry,” writes Vanessa Willoughby for SheKnows, who makes connections to Bring It On and current trends of Blackfishing and cultural appropriation by White women like Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner. To paraphrase Isis, they steal it, embody it through Whiteness, and call it their own.
Bring It On uses cheerleading to explore the tensions between the White rich kids in San Diego and the Black working-class students from L.A.’s East Compton. “[T]he fact that a bouncy teenage sports comedy can even gesture toward serious matters of race and economic inequality is pretty impressive, as is the occasional snarl of genuine satire,” reads a New York Times review by A.O. Scott published at the time, though the review ultimately concludes the movie has no depth to truly explore these issues in their full complexity. But in dismissing the movie as “a bouncy teenage sports comedy,” Scott undermines how the narrative deals with themes of social justice that are satisfyingly resolved by the end, righteously placing the Clovers at first place in the national competition.
“Since Bring It On’s theatrical release 20 years ago, the theft of the Clovers’ work still mirrors the cultural appropriation we regularly…