The Hold Up: Can Bring It On Still Bring It?

This week, The Hold Up revisits Bring It On. Released twenty years ago, the iconic teen comedy became a mainstay on the Tween Sleepover circuit. But does this cheerful (pun intended) film hold up to the standards of 2020? It’’s full of colorful dance sequences and cheeky dialogue, but is that enough? Read on to find out…

 

Arguments In Favor:

 

Spirit Fingers

Bring It On gave us “spirit fingers,” which is an evergreen content if I’ve ever heard it. We as a society needed a term to describe when someone sassily wiggles their fingers in the air, and now we have one. There’s lots wrong with this movie, but bringing us spirit fingers was God’s work…

 

Arguments Against:

 

The Rampant Homophobia

Homophobia is off the charts in this movie. Words like “dyke” and “faggot” are thrown around as if Bring It On isn’t the sort of thing eleven year-old girls watch at slumber parties. And the truth is, the casual use of anti-gay slur likely had consequences. In 2000, anti-gay bullying was off the charts! When a movie like Bring It On relies on dehumanizing gay jokes for half its punchlines, it normalizes the idea queer kids aren’t deserving of basic human respect. All the casual heterosexism makes you wonder, how on earth this movie received a PG-13 rating? Oh wait, we live in a heteronormative and sexist world! How could I forget?

While the use of slurs is the most overt homophobia in Bring It On, it’s also curious how few queer kids are in the movie. In 2020, I’m pretty confident the main love story would be between head cheerleader Torrance and rebellious gymnast Missy. The moment Missy  Pantone arrives at cheerleading tryouts, it’s clear as day she and Torrance have a connection. But sadly, the script has Torrance hook up with Missy’s brother (the person in the world most genetically similar to Missy who also has a penis). Boo! The Year 2000 is a bummer.

 

The Obvious Racism:

Yes, the moral of the story is wealthy white suburban kids shouldn’t steal cheerleading routines from working-class BIPOC teams in Compton. But I fear like that isn’t setting a high enough bar! Why are there so few raclalized kids on the Toros’ squad to begin with? Even the whitest areas of California aren’t devoid of diversity.  It seems Torrance and her peers systematically prevent schoolmates of colour from making their team. Don’t believe me? One of the few racliaized kids to try out is literally referred to as “the pooh” after her audition.

Furthermore, why is so little time spent developing the kids on The Clovers? We spend so much time on the emotional turmoil of white cheerleaders like Torrance (Kirsten Dunst), but we spend comparatively little time learning about the hopes and dreams of Gabrielle Union’s Isis. Not only is this an example of racial bias, but what sensible director wouldn’t want Ms. Union to have as much screen time as possible? She’s charisma personified!

 

The Rape Culture:

In Bring It On, male cheerleaders joke about accidentally on purpose fingering unsuspecting girls’ genitals under the guise of practising their routines. Um,that’s the sort of thing teenage boys in Steubenville were sentenced to juvenile detention for doing. In 2020, the idea of painting sexual assault as funny makes me fume. Honestly, rewatching Bring It On makes me want to take a shower.

 

The Verdict:

This film holds up about as well as the spaghetti strap dress I wore to my high school formal (Why did we wear clothing that precarious? Those straps quite literally hold up no part of your body!). Do not show this movie to your children, unless you want them to be virulent homophobes with a hateful level of racial bias and a penchant for sexual assault. Only rewatch Bring It On by yourself, in secret shame. However, feel free to continue doing “Spirit Fingers” whenever you like…

 

Sarah Sahagian

Sarah Sahagian

Sarah Sahagian is a feminist writer based in Toronto. Her byline has appeared in such publications as Elle Canada, Flare, Bitch Media, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. She is also the co-host of You Do You: A Dating Podcast. Sarah holds a master’s degree in Gender Studies from The London School of Economics. You can find her on Twitter, where she posts about politics and live-tweets The Bachelor