The Cheerleader

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Think Satan with pom-poms.

Sabrina: Oh! I'm glad you guys are home, I'm really worried about Valerie. She's fallen in with a bad crowd.
Zelda: Trekkies?
Sabrina: No, worse ... she's trying to become a cheerleader.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch, "The Pom-Pom Incident"

In Hollywood All Guys Want Cheerleaders... until they actually get to know them.

In any High School setting, no Stock Character is portrayed as harshly as the cheerleader. Cheerleaders are often depicted as outright evil, with the Alpha Bitch as their leader. If the girls aren't evil they might just be Brainless Beauties, following their Alpha Bitch leader out of ignorance or a desire for her approval. The Captain, if not the whole squad, will usually be portrayed as Really Gets Around and/or a Hormone-Addled Teenager. From evil to slutty to dumb, any cheerleader in North American media can be expected to be portrayed as shallow and superficial, because popularity is her first and only concern.

If a sympathetic, smart character is a cheerleader, she will probably end up quitting the squad as part of her 'growth' (apparently in Hollywood, one can't be a rounded person and remain a cheerleader). A good girl might want to join the squad, but her friend will think that cheerleading is inherently bad and try to stop her, leading to a lesson on how a person should get to do what makes her happy.

This trope seems to have weakened slightly in recent years, perhaps due to the popularity of the Bring It On series of films. A sympathetic depiction is still the exception rather than the rule, however. In fact, media with depictions of cheerleaders will often feel the need to go out of their way to explain to the audience (via an outsider POV character like in Hellcats) that cheerleaders can be good people too. Also she needs to be physically strong to lift other players so don't be surprised if her love relation results in Tiny Guy, Huge Girl. note 

Male cheerleaders are sufficiently rare in fiction that they are usually developed as characters themselves rather than falling under The Cheerleader trope. A good rule of thumb is that if you see a male cheerleader, then cheerleading will be depicted positively, or at least less negatively.

See also Jerk Jock, Alpha Bitch and Popular Is Dumb. Contrast with the positive Cute Sports Club Manager. A cheerleader also has a better than average chance of being a Dumb Blonde, but this isn't required. They can be The Fashionista, but often suffer from a Limited Wardrobe: at least during school hours many cheerleaders never wear an outfit other than their uniforms.

Of course, this isn't Truth in Television. Most cheerleaders are in the squad because they like singing and dancing, and are generally extroverted; bitchiness doesn't exactly mesh well with winning the crowd and teamwork is very important. Competition level cheerleading also requires fitness levels around the same as any other professional athlete and cheerleading is one of the most likely causes of female sports injuries due to the gymnastic stunts performed and lack of protective gear. Anyone performing at that level has the same drive and dedication as any other athlete.
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    Anime & Manga 
  • Mariko Konjo of Ranma ˝ is mean, using Martial Arts cheer leading to sabotage the opposing team — and even poisoning her own team if they're up against the boy she likes. As for dumb, she's is a ditz, but can be clever when it comes to battle tactics. Her Mooks aren't portrayed in a positive light either.
  • Non-school example: The Gambee pilots in Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry treat newbie Sara about as badly as the cheerleaders in standard high school fare do the Cool Loser heroine. It escalates as time goes on (and as the STRAIN pilots attempt to befriend Sara), to the point where after the "queen bee" of the group dies in combat, her friend lures Sara to a disused portion of the ship and she and several other girls start pushing her around. After a little while, however, the lead girl starts outright beating Sara, screaming "It's your fault she's dead!" and starts to go for a nearby lead pipe, at which point the other girls get horrified and start trying to talk her down. Thankfully, the STRAIN pilots intervene before things get worse.
  • From the manga omakes, Eda from Black Lagoon used to be one when she was younger. When de-aged in said omakes, she hides from the others so they won't find out.
    • She certainly looks the part, pretty, blonde, flirty (despite being a nun!) and easily distracted by a bag full of cash. In a subversion, this persona is all but definately a front, Eda is pretty much a Guile Heroine and an active CIA Action Girl.
  • In the Pokémon anime series, Gary Oak travels around with a bevy of cheerleaders in the early seasons. Later, as he becomes nicer and more humble, he dispenses with them.
  • While showing none of the associated negative traits, Lisa from Popcorn Avatar pretty much becomes Kurando's literal cheerleader, and even dresses for the part. This is justified in a way, as there's very little Lisa can do but cheer for Kurando, as she can't intervene directly in avatar battles.
  • In the Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions anime, this is how Shinka said of all members of the cheerleading team. Shinka herself came off a bit like a cheerleader for a few episodes before she started warming up to the other members of the club and left the club in episode 9.

    Comic Books 
  • Chassis included a cheerleader named Twist who became so obsessed with her favourite racer she started killing his rivals.

    Film 
  • Breanna in It's a Boy Girl Thing is a trifecta of dim, evil and slutty.
  • Christie Masters, the antagonist of Romy And Michelles High School Reunion was a cheerleader.
  • Penny (who alone makes up the entire cheerleading squad) from Sky High, though being a Disney movie the slutty part is left out.
  • Heather in John Tucker Must Die isn't totally evil, but she's still bitchy, shallow and vain. Then again, so are most of the girls.
  • Priscilla (Jaime Pressly) in Not Another Teen Movie embodies this trope. She's even labeled on the DVD front cover as 'The Nasty Cheerleader'.
  • The eponymous cheerleader in Jennifer's Body is vapid, rude and skanky... and that's even before she gets posessed by a demon.
  • In Whip It the High School age Cool Loser heroine has a feud with the local Alpha Bitch. Said Alpha Bitch is a very minor character in the film but we do learn that she is a cheerleader, much to the heroine's contempt.
  • Weirdly enough, this one was skewered in High School Musical 3. The Alpha Bitch, Sharpay, is not on the squad... and the only cheerleader we actually meet is Martha, the hip-hop loving nerd. Presumably, her Ascended Extra status from the second movie helped. In fact, the characters who would most fit the status are Sharpay (literal drama queen), Chad (basketballer) and Taylor (brainiac).
  • In A Cinderella Story, Shelby likes ruining the life of Sam, the nerd. She's portrayed as self-absorbed, bitchy, and spiteful, but its unclear how stupid she may be.
  • You Again gives two examples, spanning two generations. Joanna (Odette Yustman's character) was Head Cheerleader and a particularly cruel and arrogant version of the Alpha Bitch. Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis' character), also a former Head Cheerleader wasn't nearly as bad but was apparently pretty insensitive towards her less popular friends. Interestingly both characters matured into genuinely kind hearted, pleasant people after school. Maybe it's the uniform.
  • Ninja Cheerleaders gives us April and Courtney, both of whom get quite nasty, but it's only in the line of duty (or whenever Courtney decides to insult the Y chromosome). Monica, the third girl, is the ditzy one, but none of them are actively shallow.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, all the cheerleaders (including Buffy herself at the start of the movie) are shallow, nasty and stupid. When Buffy becomes the Slayer and gets Character Development, she stops being a cheerleader. The episode of the show was sort of a Continuity Nod.
  • The first Scream (1996) film had a Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults scene where Sidney was forced to listen to a vapid and obnoxious cheerleader smugly analyse Sideny as being the killer (her friend who called this theory pathetic was notably not a cheerleader.)
  • The Princess Diaries has Mia having to deal with the cheerleading captain and her followers.
  • Subverted in Fast Times at Ridgemont High in a brief clip where the cheerleaders are shown to be slightly humiliated girls who get made fun of for being annoyingly peppy at pep rallies.
  • Mercedes in Teenage Sorcery is not only a mean cheer-leading captain, but also a powerful evil witch. Her pranks in the movie include making food disappear for a bunch of boys one of whom accidentally drops some water on her skirt, hazing a freshman by making him vanish into nothing, and other similar magical shenanigans.

    Literature 

    Live Action TV 
  • Cheerleader Susie in "The Joker Goes To School" episode of Batman joins The Bad Pennies and becomes The Joker's henchwoman.
  • Buffy in the television version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer who after trying it for one episode never mentioned it again until helping out Cordelia with cheerleading in the XBOX game, set before the season 3 episode "Lovers Walk".
    • "Witches" was the same episode which had an ex-cheerleader turned witch as the villain.
    • Cheerleader Cordelia Chase was initially characterized as "shallow", "vain" and "self-centered". She eventually became a friend of the protagonists, but until her Character Development on Angel was still portrayed as self-centered and brutally honest in a hurtful way.
  • Played with in an episode of Castle where a friend of Alexis' convinces her to try out for the squad but she decides that it requires too much commitment and time away from her other activities. The other cheerleaders are never met so we don't get to see if they fit the stereotype.
  • Done straight in the Cold Case episode "Stand Up and Holler": the victim was a pretty intelligent girl who joins her school's cheerleading squad. On the advice of the Alpha Bitch — who is the captain of the cheerleaders — she starts to hide her intelligence and focuses more on being cool. Before she is killed by the Alpha Bitch and the victim's Unlucky Childhood Friend she starts hanging out with the Cool Loser and decides to quit the squad.
  • Degrassi provides several teenagers on the Spirit Squad or Power Squad. Not all of them are evil, but a few do reach for this trope on occasion. Paige, Hazel, Holly J, and Chantay most often. Like in Sabrina, there's an entire episode based around Emma freaking out over her best friend looking to join the squad (she too gets over it but from her reaction you'd think Manny had joined a cult).
  • Played with in Desperate Housewives; Susan was a popular cheerleader in high school and though she claims she was perfectly nice she did 'accidently' steal another girl's boyfriend and lumber her with an unfortunate nickname (Mike calls her on seemingly selective memory). Also many fans consider to Susan to be The Ditz anyway. A later episode also retroactively makes Bree's bitchy, slutty, dim daughter Dannielle a cheerleader.
  • Rachel in Friends was a cheerleader in high school. Sure she's fairly likable as an adult but by all accounts she was an Alpha Bitch during her teen years.
  • The Cheerios in Glee manage to hit nearly every stereotype on the list. However none of them hit the trifecta of mean, Really Gets Around, and dumb. Quinn is originally an Alpha Bitch but also smart and though she gets pregnant it's from having sex once (whilst cheating on her boyfriend, but she still doesn't Really Get Around). She eventually turns into a Fallen Princess and after gaining sympathy, rejects cheerleading. Santana is bitchy and Really Gets Around, but doesn't seem to be dumb. As of Sexy, it also appears that this is just part of her armoured closet. Brittany is the traditional Dumb Blonde (to extreme levels), but she isn't mean-spirited at all. Terri is an adult former cheerleader and while dumb and bitchy, also was not a slut (marrying her High School Sweethearts). Sue Sylvester, the coach, is an UNBELIEVABLE Bitch but is far from dumb. It's also implied that all the other Cheerios aren't too bright. In an interesting subversion, though, one of the Cheerios is consistently shown to be very bright (and also very bitchy, and very sneaky) - Becky Jackson, the forever-underestimated girl with Down Syndrome.
    • Interestingly enough, despite the portrayal of cheerleaders in the show, cheerleading itself is still portrayed as a serious, legitimate sport, complete with competitions. To say Sue's collection of trophies is vast is an understatement, and it's even mentioned that several of the Cheerios were getting cheerleading scholarships.
    • However, none of the main girls actually like cheerleading; they just do it because they want to be popular. In "The Sue Sylvester Shuffle", they all admit that they actually hate it. Because no one could enjoy cheerleading.
      • It's more like no one could enjoy Sue's harsh and insane style of coaching then anything. Quinn tells Lauren in "Born This Way" that she first got involved in cheerleading exactly because she started dancing to lose weight and found she loved it and was great at it.
  • Heroes: The head cheerleaders from season 1 and 2. Claire's fellow cheerleaders in season 1 are only background characters and the ones in season 2 are more afraid of the Alpha Bitch who's the head cheerleader rather than being cruel or bitchy themselves.
  • An episode of Joan of Arcadia has God ask Joan to try out for the cheerleading squad. This irritates Grace until Joan, disgusted by their treatment of one of the former captains after her Teen Pregnancy drama, shows up to the last tryout and delivers a cheer mocking the cheerleaders' shallowness.
  • Miu of Kamen Rider Fourze was leader of the cheerleader squad, the Alpha Bitch and girlfriend to Jerk Jock Shun. She was pretty much queen of the school. However, after she's nearly killed before the prom and having to be saved by Gentarou, Miu ends up having a Heel Realization, quits the cheerleader squad, breaks up with Shun and joins the Kamen Rider Club. As president, of course. Old habits die hard.
  • The Villain of the Week in one Leverage episode is a former cheerleader; however, their client is the coach of a cheerleading squad who is very concerned about the welfare of her team, all of whom appear to be normal kids doing something they love.
  • Kate from Lizzie McGuire was the captain of the cheerleading squad and led a group of nasty bitches, including her Girl Posse of stupid girls. She victimized Lizzie as much as possible, singing a "U-G-L-Y, You ain't got no alibi, you ugly" cheer to her in front of the whole school.
  • In the "Lois Strikes Back" episode of Malcolm in the Middle, four cheerleaders pull an evil prank on Reese by pretending that he has a secret admirer and then drop off a pig at his front door, sending Reese into a depression. Lois... well, she strikes back HARD.
  • In an early episode of Married... with Children Kelly very reluctantly joins the Polk High cheerleading squad to get closer to a boy she is into. Very unusually cheerleading is portrayed as extremely uncool and Kelly outright refers to her fellow cheerleaders as geeks (though this could be seen as part of the 'cheerleaders are conformist zombies' section of the trope).
  • Earl and Randy go to a cheering camp to take care of a list item in My Name Is Earl. The coach was a former high school cheerleader back in her glory days, and now she is stuck teaching very Hollywood Homely cheerleaders. (One fat, one pregnant with her second child, and one with Braces of Orthodontic Overkill.) Earl decides to help them win the championship.
  • One of these, Pamela, is the both the Alpha Bitch and the Asshole Victim in 1000 Ways to Die's episode "Pam-Caked!". She's so jealous of her Lovable Jock rival Amber that she drops her in the middle of a presentation and makes her fall to the ground hard AND head-first... only to be accidentally trampled to death by the whole football squad because she stood up to brag about what she had done -- in front of the school banner, where the dudes couldn't see her.
  • Libby and her minions in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, a series in which cheerleaders are treated as Always Chaotic Evil until proven otherwise. An entire episode was based around Sabrina freaking out over her best friend looking to join the squad (she gets over it but from her reaction you'd think Valerie had joined a cult).
  • In an episode of Scrubs when Elliott is being ostracised by the nursing staff, JD has an Imagine Spot of her as a band member, Carla as the Alpha Bitch head cheerleader and the nurses as her Girl Posse.
  • 7th Heaven has an episode where Lucy wants to join but her sister Mary thinks it's stupid.
  • Lana Lang was a cheerleader in Smallville but quit to 'find her own identity'.
    • Although the cheerleaders were not depicted as malicious or dangerous until much later, and then only in the single episode "Devoted." Lana's desire to leave the cheerleading squad had nothing to do with the squad's malevolence, and was instead related to her stopping in her attempt to follow her mother's footsteps (which was the reason she joined the squad). Though of course this itself is an example of the trope in that apparently no protagonist should want to be a cheerleader.
  • An episode of So Little Time has Ashley wanting to join the cheerleading squad because "Being a cheerleader would make me really really popular" (check). They're rather disgusted at her sister Mary-Kate hanging out with a Goth, so they make her spray paint said Goth's backpack (check). She does the deed, but feeling sorry for how Goth feels about her treatment, tells the Alpha Bitch: "I wanted to be a cheerleader, but not this bad" before offering to buy Goth a new backpack. In black, of course.
  • Jackie from That 70s Show is a cheerleader. While she is selfish and dumb, she's not evil or slutty (in fact, she does have two stable boyfriends, and the conflict between Hyde and Kelso happens when she can't really decide between them). She's eventually kicked off the squad in season 6; when she realizes that she doesn't want to be taken back, it's shown as a part of her personal growth.
  • The cheerleaders on The Middle play this trope straight being pretty but shallow and being stupid mean girls by being so self-centered. Averted by the Wrestlerettes, a cheerleading group headed by Sue Heck, who is optimistic and nice.
  • A mild example from The Office (US): in "Booze Cruise" Katy is revealed to be a former cheerleader to Jim's dismay. He doesn't actually say anything about cheerleading as such but with his reaction (and Pam's, who teases him over it) the episode does seem to link 'cheerleader' with 'ditzy'.
  • Played in The Vampire Diaries as Elena, Bonnie and Caroline all start the show as cheerleaders and all quit for various reasons.
  • Subverted in Unnatural History, the 'dumb cheerleader' turned out to be incredibly smart, and was dosing the team with the 'fountain of youth' in secret. The reason she pretended to be dumb was so boys would like her.
  • Subverted in Wizards of Waverly Place by Harper, who is nice, fairly smart and not a slut. Alex who joins the squad can be a bitch and is Book Dumb but doesn't get around. Alex also never wanted to be a cheerleader.

    Music 
  • The Cheer Up, Charlie Daniels song "Pig Tails" is about a guy realizing that his girlfriend's like this (she's already a cheerleader, but as far as personality goes). He notes that she 'used to be sweeter', indicating that she may have been nicer before. It's surprisingly sad.
  • In the music video for Lordi's "Hard Rock Hallelujah" the metalhead girl is bullied and ostracized by a cheerleading squad... before Lordi shows up and kills them. And then raises them as zombie thralls, which the metalhead girl then leads against the rest of the high school. It's pretty much every high school goth kid's fantasy.
  • Taylor Swift's You belong with me has the girlfriend of the boy that the narrator likes as a cheerleader and a nasty, selfish bitch... who of course is rebuffed and dumped and humiliated by the main girl and the guy.
    • Taylor herself is part of a cheerleading squad in her 2014 "Shake It Off" video.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Discussed by Jason in FoxTrot where he claims Paige has a better chance of making the squad because she's (from his perspective) stupid. Granted, he was just saying that to get under her skin; Paige herself actually doesn't fit this trope, see her entry under the aversion section for more details.

    Professional wrestling 
  • Cheerleader Melissa debuted in the role of a valet and was a straight example, as far as "cheerleaders are mean" goes. She remained mean but later let up on attempting to lead cheers.
  • During the brief return of WCW's Varsity Club in 2000, they were given a cheerleader named Leia Meow (ECW's Kimona Wanalaya). Her signature move was following Kevin Sullivan's tree of woe shoulder charge with an elbow to the groin of the still-treed opponent.
  • Victoria was the entitled cheerleader of the evil commissioner Steve Bradley and all athletes affiliated with him in Memphis Championship Wrestling.
  • NWA Wildside had Bryce Benjamin, the Cheerleader to the "All-Stars" Chandler McClure, "The Waterboy" Mike Horning, and Cru Jones. However, they invoked the Free Bird rule to allow Benjamin to wrestle and the group later turned.
  • TNA had Cheerleader Valentina, who worked with a team called "Bitch Slap". The groups goal was to root out all the undesirable females from the company and beat men to prove the right women(themselves) should be treated as equals.
  • Miss December, cheer leading pig tail enthusiast and temper tantrum thrower, when she does not get her way at least.
  • WWE had a lovely example in the 2006 Spirit Squad, five cheerleaders invoking the Free Bird Rule (and not even having the grace to acknowledge it). The gimmick seems to have stunted the careers of all involved not named Dykstra or Dolph Ziggler. However, Kenny, Mikey and Johnny decided to embrace their association with the gimmick in 2014 and even managed to defeat representatives from The Flood at Chikara's King Of Trios.

    Theater 
  • Legally Blonde (The Musical) loves this trope and plays with it in a really confusing way: Serena is a cheerleader and a sorority member, but sorority girls are supposed to be the good ones here. Yet she's slutty, but not the sluttiest Delta-Nu. And she knows how to use her sex-appeal, but is also willing to teach other non-cheerleader women to gain confidance by doing the same.

    Video Games 
  • Bully plays this straight. Not only is Mandy Wiles, the team captain and Alpha Bitch, a jerk, but the other three girls (Pinky, Christy and Angie) on the squad are much nastier while in uniform than when they're not.
  • Sandy in Maniac Mansion seems to fall under the "dumb and pretty" version of the trope — her major purpose in the game is to be the helpless victim kidnapped by the mad scientist and his family, thus motivating her cool boyfriend and his highly-varied friends to ride to the rescue.
  • In Psychonauts, the romance story of the Black Veletopia stage is eventually revealed to be an overly romanticized version of Edgar's memories of his former cheerleader girlfriend who dumped him for the head male cheerleader. At the end of the stage, Edgar realizes that Lana and Dean were stupid and shallow individuals who aren't worth obsessing over and thus banishes them to the deepest pits of his memories.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • Stacey, Tracey and Lacey in American Dragon: Jake Long.
  • Sissi from Code Lyoko. Partially subverted in that while she can act dumb and be mean on occasion, she also gets some Character Development as a Lovable Alpha Bitch and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Also, she doesn't Really Gets Around that much, since she only has eyes for Ulrich, who couldn't be less interested.
  • The cheerleaders of Danny Phantom as Paulina.
  • Brittany in Daria, who is blonde, busty and totally dense. But not nasty. Thoughtless and over-candid, especially to Daria, but not nasty.
  • Head cheerleader Connie D'Amico on Family Guy is mean and spoiled.
  • Kick Buttowski gives us true demonic cheerleaders. In one episode Brad is tricked into thinking he's in a real relationship with the beautiful Kelly, only for the viewers (and Kick) to find out that it's a part of the initiation ceremony of becoming a cheerleader - to date a loser. Even when we think Kelly is going to show sympathy she show her true evil cheerleader colours with the rest of them.
  • Kim Possible. Kim's archrival, Bonnie Rockwaller, is truly the only mean-spirited cheerleader on the squad.
  • In the King of the Hill episode, "Lupe's Revenge", a female police officer claims to have been a cheerleader back in high school. While it's never shown what she was like back then, the fact that she's shown badly abusing her power in the present doesn't exactly defy the stereotype, now does it.
  • Beth, in the pre-cutant animated Polly Pocket movies, is a cheerleader. She's Polly's main High School rival.
  • Subverted with the Ashleys on Recess, as they're not shown as cheerleaders in the show, but they end up going to cheerleading camp in Recess: School's Out. In the same movie, T.J.'s older sister Becky is one of these, as pom-poms can be seen in her room at one point.
  • In Sym-Bionic Titan, the High School that the heroes attend includes a troupe of mean cheerleaders.
  • In The Simpsons 'Spin-Off Showcase' episode Lisa refused to participate in a cheesey family variety show so was recast by a pretty blonde cheerleader who, while nice enough, is decidedly less intelligent.
    Fake Lisa: "I'm Lisa Peppy, blonde and stunning. Sophomore prom queen five years running. Go Lisa!"
  • Total Drama. Four different characters over the course of the show with two representing the evil cheerleader role:
    • According to her bio Heather is a cheerleader back home.
    • Amy of Pahkitew Island is a cheerleaders as her good twin sister.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheCheerleader