Netflix’s Cheer Returns for Season Two

by John Downey '23 on January 29, 2022
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

Netflix’s Cheer Returns for Season Two

The Hit Series’ Hopeful Message

Talia Rueda ’23

The new season of Netflix’s Cheer was released on Wednesday, Jan. 12 and quickly reached the top of the streaming platform’s “most watched in the US today” list. It offers a new view of the world of cheerleading as well as inspiring insights on the top two cheer teams in the United States: Navarro College and Trinity Valley Community College. Due to their athletes’ intriguing lifestyles and determination, these teams are notorious in the world of cheer.

One notable difference between season one and season two of Cheer is the latter’s attention to Trinity Valley, who are the rivals of Navarro College and were not as represented in season one. The teams’ near-equal screen time emphasizes the similar ways in which they prepare to take on the competition in Daytona Beach, FL. This approach not only adds a new significance to the ways in which both squads devise techniques intended to help them take the top spot in the world of college cheerleading, but also sheds light on commonalities between the cheerleaders on the different teams, such as their similar lifestyles and struggles.

Many of the cheerleaders on both teams come from broken households and have faced everything from financial issues to the incarceration of family members. Although such conditions are certainly tragic in any circumstances, they pose a significant challenge to competitive cheerleaders: cheerleading is an expensive sport that often requires athletes to join multiple teams at once, participate in competitions, and travel extensively. Many of the Navarro College and Trinity Valley Community College cheerleaders struggle to pay for these necessities in the sport.

Cheer explores these challenges, but also how athletes are able to overcome them. One cheerleader who undergoes such a journey is Maddy Brum, who joins the Navarro squad in season two. Throughout the season, several of Brum’s team members and coaches reiterate her talent, admiring how she can tumble, fly, and dance, a combination of skills that not everyone on her team possesses. Brum’s upbringing consisted of moving from house to house while her dad was incarcerated and dealing with worsening financial issues. 

These struggles, however, did not stop her from cheering: her home gym knew that she struggled with a difficult home life and could not afford to pay for a cheerleading career on her own, but her coaches, recognizing that her talent was undeniable, provided her with a safe and accessible experience.

Stories such as Brum’s are what make Cheer so important; they not only illustrate the ways in which cheerleaders use the sport as an outlet, but also how cheerleading gives them a sense of importance, community, and purpose. Indeed, the experiences of many of the cheerleaders featured in both seasons one and two of Cheer demonstrate that cheerleading has offered them the family dynamic that they were never given. Monica Aldama, who coaches the Navarro team strives to create a positive community for her team. Throughout the series, several of her cheerleaders reiterate that Aldama is like the mother they never had: not only does she give them the foundations and coaching necessary for them to have a future in cheerleading, but also those necessary for them to have stable lives.

In season one of the show, a cheer professional comments that “the cheer world is very insular,” meaning that famous cheer teams and cheerleaders are only known by other cheer teams rather than by the public at large. Cheer offers America a closer look at this world and, in exploring how the sport has given many athletes who face hardships stable and successful futures, which they might not otherwise have, offers an inspirational story of hope.

Marvel Cinematic Universe Series Asks “What If?”

by The Cowl Editor on November 4, 2021

Arts & Entertainment

Marvel Cinematic Universe Series Asks “What If?”

Features Alternate Versions of Characters, Events From the Mega-Franchise

Madison Palmieri ’22

Die-hard fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are no strangers to discussions of “what if” an event in the franchise had turned out a different way. From those who question why Tony Stark had to die and Steve Rogers had to return to the 1940s in Avengers: Endgame to those who wish they saw an onscreen romance between Captain America and Black Widow, these fans have long expressed their desired alternative MCU plotlines through means like fanart and fanfiction.

The executives and creatives at Marvel Studios seem to have gotten wind of the intense fan fervor surrounding that question, “what if?” Indeed, in April 2019, the studio announced a forthcoming animated series with that exact title.

Although the details of the series, like those of all MCU projects, were kept tightly under wraps, the studio shared that What If? would revisit some of the most iconic characters and moments from the franchise and explore what would have happened if a single moment was different.

Marvel Studios also announced that the series would be animated as well as that many of the MCU’s actors would be providing the voices for their animated counterparts. Among the most notable returns were Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, and, in one of his final projects, the late Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa.

Other characters, however, were recast. Among the most-missed actors who did not return were Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. as Captain America/Steve Rogers and Iron Man/Tony Stark, respectively.

While it was certainly jarring for fans to see these and other characters with slightly different voices, from the moment the first trailer for the series dropped in the summer of 2021, they knew that it would not be one to miss. Indeed, in a year that had already seen three original series and a film from the studio after a year of pandemic-induced inactivity in 2020, fans were growing used to a near-constant stream of content from Marvel Studios.

The first episode premiered on Wednesday, Aug. 18 and follows the question of “what if” Peggy Carter took the super-soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers, creating Captain Carter instead of Captain America. Episode two jumps from World War II to outer space in an alternate universe where T’Challa, rather than Peter Quill, was abducted from earth as a boy and became Starlord. 

Episodes three and five both center on the original Avengers, with the former examining “what if” they were all targeted and killed before the events of 2012’s The Avengers and the latter placing them in the chaos of a zombie apocalypse.

Episodes four and six explore two of the series’ more depressing timelines. Episode four follows Dr. Strange as he continuously goes back in time in an attempt to save his love interest, Dr. Christine Palmer, but ultimately fails and nearly loses his sanity in the process. Episode six places Killmonger in the plot of Iron Man, with the Black Panther villain killing Tony Stark and those around him before the billionaire philanthropist could become an Avenger.

The seventh episode in the series, however, provides a light-hearted contrast. It explores the question of “what if” Thor and Loki weren’t raised as brothers. Without their sibling rivalry, Thor becomes a “party prince” who travels to different planets and creates well-intentioned chaos—until Captain Marvel steps in.

The final two episodes of the series examine “what if” Ultron defeated the Avengers, with episode eight detailing the universe in which the defeat occurred and the latter showing the Watcher, a mysterious character who presides over all the different universes in the series, bringing together different versions of characters from various universes as the “Guardians of the Multiverse” to finally defeat the villain.

With the return of fan-favorite characters in new situations and too many callbacks to earlier MCU projects to count, What If? is a must-watch for anyone who claims to love Marvel.