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The Cheerleaders

Director: Paul Glickler

USA - 1972

  Hoff! Hoff! Hoff! Hoff!  


The Cheerleaders is a special film. A special film that, if you’ll pardon the cliché, is not unlike an onion. Not in the sense that it’s wThey're practicing golf. No, really!hite, round and malodorous, but more along the lines of being multi-layered. On the superficial surface The Cheerleaders appears to be a simple sexploitation film: lots of gratuitous nudity, lots of not-so-subtle innuendo, and lots of promiscuous sex. But when the more discriminating viewer takes the time and patience necessary to examine this film on a more spiritual level, one realizes that The Cheerleaders offers a plethora of philosophical insight that is enlightening, but at the same time, neither boring or preachy.

Our story is about Jeannie, a troubled teen in the midst of that tumultuous phase where she’s no longer a little girl, but not quite a woman. She has overbearing parents, few friends that understand her, and a significant other, Norm, whose multiple occupations forces him to neglect her both physically and emotionally.

The cheerleaders of Amorosa High, however, represent just the opposite. They’re carefree and fun-loving. They’re admired and respected by their teachers and peers. They’re not Jeannie, played by Stephanie Fondue. You can make your own cheese joke. only friends, but a cohesive unit. Together they face (and conquer) the multitude of obstacles life throws in their way. They’re beautiful both inside and out. They also have brains, and are not afraid to use them.

Jeannie views the cheerleaders as her ticket to liberation. Liberation from the shackles of childhood naiveté as well as the confines enforced upon her by a male-dominated society. Jeannie resents being labeled as a foolish yearling that could not possibly understand the wicked ways of the world. She longs to be acknowledged as a full-fledged, card-carrying woman.

When the cheerleaders hold a mid-season try-out, Jeannie, of course, jumps at the opportunity. Though the competition proves stiff, Jeannie’s virtue wins out in the end. The squad sees the exuberant upstart as a young soldier ready to take her first step into the real world. They feel that it’s their civic duty to escort Jeannie through her treacherous rite of passage.    

Life, at first, is good for Jeannie and her newfound mentors. But Our Heroines are soon put to the test when foul play weakens the Amorosa football team mere hours before The Big Game; the school’s winning record, and perhaps the cheerleaders’ very livelihood, on the line.    

Like onions, The Cheerleaders will not suit the taste of all those who partake. The more casual – dare I say shallow? – observer can only hope to scratch the surface of this cinematic landmark. They will only see the shocking parade of images that dances across their screen, and will not, in the slightest, be able to interpret these symbols for what they truly are. For instance, in several scenes, the cheerleaders are filmed from the shoulders down; their heads, for the most part, complThis probably ranks pretty high on your list of  "Things I Didn't Want To See."etely severed by the frame.

The ignoramus will see this as mere objectification of the female form. Granted, these shots appear to focus on the midriff and breasts, but if one looks a little closer they will realize that in-between those breasts is the heart. This is the same heart that leads Our Heroines to perseverance over their numerous adversaries – such as sleazy bikers, ogling custodians, and perverted hot dog stand attendants. These shots also predominantly display the Amborosa “A.” A simple enough explanation, for most, but Nathaniel Hawthorne may beg to differ. Like their literary counterpart, Hester Prynne, the women in The Cheerleaders are repressed by a society that does not understand them. The “A” stands not only as a symbol, but also a shield; a proud emblem of sisters doin’ it for themselves.

Another predominant theme from The Cheerleaders is acceptanceA few of the film's assets. (I can't believe I'm not paid for this stuff!). Or more specifically, acceptance in a male-dominated society. At several points throughout the film, Jeannie confesses to her friends that she has never “made it.” Now, it’s be easy to confuse “making it” with fornication. When Jeannie complains of never having made it, however, what she means is that she has yet to “make it” in the real world; to carve her niche. Jeannie has always lived her life under the heavy thumb of Mr. Davis, her father. Her acceptance on the cheerleading squad (much to Mr. Davis’ dismay) opens the door to a vast world – both in the figurative and literal sense – of opportunity. After Jeannie “makes it” on the team, she immediately begins to look for new opportunities in which to “make it” further.

Like Jeannie, we all want to make it. As a matter fact, many of us spend most of our lives trying to make it. Again and again. When Jeannie and her friends cheer: “Come on, boys! Come on, boys! Come! Come! Come! Come! Come on, boys!” Their intention is not to invite, but to issue a Come on, ladies. You know you've been curious. bold proclamation of autonomy. It’s as if they’re saying: We, as women, know that the path to independent womanhood is arduous, but nevertheless, we are ready for it.  

A film of this magnitude has been a long time in the making; bold in idea, but at the same time, ingeniously crafted. I struggled with closing thoughts that would bring justice to The Cheerleaders. In the end, however, I find a haunting lyric from the film’s theme song, “I Like What You’re Doing To Me,” rolling over and over again in my mind:

Keep your fingers quiet on my soul…”

Ironically, The Cheerleaders has done just that. Its quiet fingers have touched my soul.

In further irony, it turns out that this film is out-of-print; thus making The Cheerleaders hard to discover both spiritually and logistically. But on both counts, I think you will find it well-worth your effort. And if nothing else, there’s a lot of boobies.


  Insert wacky "BOING" sound effect here.



-- Copyright © 2001 by J. Bannerman






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