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Cheer was never going to adequately address the sexual abuse charges against Jerry Harris

  • The Netflix docuseries is to cheerleading what NFL Films is to the NFL, says Diana Moskovitz. "I think a lot about NFL Films while watching Cheer," says Moskovitz. "Just known as 'Films,' at least when I worked at NFL Media, it’s widely believed to be one of the big reasons the NFL went from being, depending on how you measured it, either the third or fourth most popular sport in the United States at the dawn of the 1960s to being the clear No. 1 within a decade. An oft-repeated quote is that Sports Illustrated once dubbed it 'perhaps the most effective propaganda organ in the history of corporate America.'....There are many, many excellent reasons to not worship at the altar of the NFL—the concussions, the many other forms of bodily injury, the extremely short careers of the vast majority of its athletes, the brutal ways players are treated—but good luck remembering that when you’re in the middle of an NFL Films presentation. Films realized, early on, the power of Hollywood-style storytelling. You could apply it to anything, even real people, and it works. Here is a hero (good team). Here is a villain (the other team). Watch as our hero does their best to overcome the obstacles (injuries! Bad calls by the referees! Bad luck!) to achieve their goal, which will be reset next week before the next game. All you need is a good storyline, some great camerawork, and a big competition at the end that only one person or team can win. The best measure of NFL Films’ success is the degree to which the sports documentary genre has used its formula, albeit with plenty of personal story about the athletes added on. The Last Dance is Films does Michael Jordan. Formula 1: Drive to Survive is Films does Formula 1. Greg Whiteley, the director behind Cheer, first did another sports series for Netflix about football players in junior colleges, Last Chance U. Per USA Today, at least four members of the 2017 Independence Community College roster, which was featured on Last Chance U, 'joined within months of being punished for sexual misconduct at their previous Division I universities.' None of those four players were central to the show, but they did appear on it. What is revolutionary about Cheer is also what is most predictable about Cheer: It is the same product, the same packaging, the same everything, applied to cheerleading. It never could do the story of Harris justice because to do so would require addressing the shortcomings of its own hagiographical storytelling formula. It has to keep going. There has to be another showdown at Daytona. The viewer must be riveted and, by episode nine, the finale, I was. Would Navarro defend its title? Would rival Trinity Valley Community College steal their crown? Everything with Harris was off in the background, another plot point to overcome on the way to ensuring there will be a Season Three about these tightly woven cheer families. There’s hugging. There’s crying. There’s reminders that cheerleading gives."


    • Cheer creator Greg Whiteley says he wanted to address Jerry Harris' arrest early on: “I spent some time puzzling over just what percentage of our audience will know the story," he tells Indiewire. "We shot for almost an entire season before those allegations even came out. And so he’s a member of that team. Of course, he shows up in the footage. And I just kept thinking that the audience, if they know the story, it’s going to be so weird. And they’re going to be asking the filmmakers, ‘What happened? Are they going to acknowledge this? Are they just going to pretend it didn’t?’ And so, the solution ended up being, ‘Let’s address it right up front. We know that this happened. This is coming. We’re going to explain it later.'”
    • Whiteley explains the strange rules of Daytona

    TOPICS: Jerry Harris, Netflix, Cheer, Greg Whiteley, NFL Films, Reality TV