Sabrina: No, worse ... she's trying to become a cheerleader.
In any High School setting, no Stock Character is portrayed as harshly as the cheerleader. Cheerleaders are often depicted as outright evil or mean, 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.
This trope is a combination of Vanity Is Feminine, Beauty Is Bad, and Popular Is Evil given that cheerleaders are typically at the top of the Popularity Food Chain. Cheerleaders, who are traditionally predominantly women, are almost required to adhere to the highest of beauty standards since part of their job is to act as eye candy for the predominantly male audience of the games they cheer at. Male cheerleaders are the minority in real life and sufficiently rare in fiction outside of works that are specifically about cheerleading. That said, even they may not escape the negative portrayal, and in fact may prove to be even meaner than the rest if they are coded as or explicitly are gay in-universe, since gay is often equated with femininity and thus they get all of the negative associations to femininity and then some.
If a sympathetic, smart character is a cheerleader, she will probably end up quitting the squad as part of her "growth" or do a Heel–Face Turn and try to reform her mean past. 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 ended up weakening over time (if only slightly), perhaps due to the popularity of things like the Bring It On-series. A sympathetic depiction is still more the exception rather than the rule, however. In fact, media with positive depictions of cheerleaders will often feel the need to go out of their way to explain to the audience (often via an outsider POV character) that cheerleaders can be good people too, as well as show that cheerleading in real life isn't even close to being how it's portrayed in pop culture. See the analysis page for more on that.
Compare Jerk Jock, Alpha Bitch, and Popular Is Dumb. Contrast with the positive Cute Sports Club Manager, the cheerful Pom-Pom Girl, and the Lovable Jock. Even though these characters can be downright nasty, this trope can and frequently does overlap with All Guys Want Cheerleaders. 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.
They may wear midriff-baring clothing to show off their femininity, athleticism, and often for pure Fanservice.
- Ranma ˝: Mariko Konjo 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.
- Chassis included a cheerleader named Twist who became so obsessed with her favorite racer that she started killing his rivals.
- Reagan in Assassination Nation is a Perky Goth example, a punk chick with blue hair and lots of dark-colored clothing who's also on the cheerleading squad. She expresses No Sympathy for victims of a data hack and blames them for taking incriminating photos in the first place, and when nude photos of her supposed best friend Grace come up in the hack, she sends them to all the boys in school. Grace beats her to death with a baseball bat for it, and the rest of the student body (including many of Reagan's fellow cheerleaders) rejoices.
- Subverted in Barely Lethal. Agent 83/Megan is a Teen Superspy on the run posing as an Ordinary High-School Student whose only knowledge of normal high school life comes from teen movies, so when the cheerleaders invite her to sit with them in the cafeteria, she assumes that they're Alpha Bitches trying to set her up and insults them. Turns out they were genuinely nice people, and are extremely puzzled by her reaction.
- In A Cinderella Story, Shelby likes ruining the life of Sam, the nerd. She's portrayed as self-absorbed, bitchy, and spiteful.
- Darby and the Dead: Capri. She's a cheerleader and steals Darby’s clothes during gym just for the hell of it. Later, upon dying she also coerces Darby into helping with her plans.
- Jessica Spencer (played by Rachel McAdams), the protagonist of The Hot Chick starts as one of these. She torments Hindenburg, the one fat member of the cheer team.note Is rude and dismissive to retail staff. Steals from stores in the mall. She is actually somewhat oblivious to how many people hate her and how cruel she's being until she gets body swapped with a 40-something year old male criminal played by Rob Schneider which gives her the chance to see things from another point of view and get some Character Development.
- Power Rangers (2017): Kimberly was previously on the cheerleading squad and she's ostracised by her friends at the start, making it seem as if they are cruel. But it's later revealed that she shared a nude photo of her friend around to the whole school, meaning that Kim herself was an example of the trope.
- Sky High (2005): Penny is a cheerleader who uses her powers of self-duplication to be the entire cheer team. She is judgmental and mean spiritied from the start, making fun of the students in the sidekick classes, which makes you wonder why class president and most popular girl in school Gwen Grayson even hangs out with her, since she's much nicer. It's because it's all an act and Gwen is the Big Bad of the film. Penny is genuinely evil and acts as The Dragon.
- Mercedes in Teenage Sorcery is not only a mean cheerleading 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.
- Tina and Diane, the co-captains of the cheer squad in Varsity Blood, best fit the stereotype of the cheerleader, being a pair of promiscuous Alpha Bitches who are obsessed with status, constantly demean the other girls on the squad, and expect their slightest whim to be obeyed. Hannah, Heather, and Linda come across as more reasonable human beings, albeit with quirks of their own.
- In the Sweet Valley Twins (a prequel to Sweet Valley High) book #4 Choosing Sides Elizabeth doesn't like learning that her best friend Amy wants to be on the cheerleading squad, especially since it's been started by and consists mainly of the Unicorns, the school's snobby group of alpha bitches, fearing that they will ridicule and bully her because of her tomboyish ways. They do, but Amy toughs it out and does such a fantastic job that they have no choice but to accept her.
- Spinetinglers: Book #25 (The Curse of the Cheerleaders) is about a group of elementary school cheerleaders with the power to make anything they cheer come true. It's actually their uniforms that gives them this power. Naturally, the leader of the group wants to use this power to get whatever she wants while the protagonist and the newest recruit is horrified and tries to stop her before someone dies.
- One of these, Pamela, is 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.
- Cheerleader Susie in "The Joker Goes To School" episode of Batman (1966) joins The Bad Pennies and becomes The Joker's henchwoman.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- "Witch" was the same episode that had an ex-cheerleader turned witch as the villain. Notably her daughter (who she is possessing) didn't want to be a cheerleader and doesn't join the squad once she's freed.
- Cold Case: In "Stand Up and Holler", the victim was a pretty intelligent and well-liked 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 accidentally killed by the Alpha Bitch and the murder is covered up by the victim's best friend, she starts hanging out with the Cool Loser and decides to quit the squad.
- Desperate Housewives:
- Susan was a popular cheerleader in high school and though she claims she was perfectly nice she did 'accidentally' steal another girl's boyfriend and lumber her with an unfortunate nickname, implying that she's an Unreliable Expositor and was more likely more cruel than she lets on. Mike calls her on her seemingly selective memory.
- Kate from Lizzie McGuire was the captain of the cheerleading squad and led a group of really mean girls, 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.
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Alpha Bitch Libby is a cheerleader who takes every opportunity to belittle Sabrina by telling her she is an uncool loser. The series as a whole tends to treat cheerleaders 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).
- An episode of Two of a Kind has Ashley wanting to join the cheerleading squad because "Being a cheerleader would make me really really popular]]." They're rather disgusted at her sister Mary-Kate hanging out with a Goth, so they make her spray paint said Goth's backpack in a cruel prank. 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.
- The Cheer Up, Charlie Daniels song "Pig Tails" is about a guy realizing that his girlfriend is a mean cheerleader. 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.
- In the Cool Kids Table game Creepy Town, Stacy Quartermain is the head cheerleader. She's slightly nicer than fellow cheerleader Katie, but she'll happily throw insults at people she doesn't like.
- HBIC was an evil cheerleader in Ultimate Pro Wrestling and Victoria was the entitled cheerleader of the evil commissioner Steve Bradley and all athletes affiliated with him in Memphis Championship Wrestling.
- Bully: 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.
- Psychonauts 2: Enablers are an enemy type that cheers on other mental enemies, giving them perfect damage resistance and a power boost while the enabler is still breathing. They also look like gremlin marching band drummers and have peppy, upbeat voices.
- The Most Popular Girls in School: Mackenzie Zales, Brittany Matthews, and their rivals Tanya Berkowitz and Taylor McDevitt are damn proud of being bitter and bitchy cheerleaders. Trisha Cappelletti and Trisha 2 avert this by being some of the nicest characters in the show, despite both being rather ditzy Woman Children.
- Whilst the Tandy Gardens cheer squad who make up the main cast of Cheer! are nicenote their rival squad from Elaktsew High School are this. Not only do they call the Tandy Garden's squad "losers" and belittle them whenever they see them. They don't cheer for their sports teams, they just big up themselves and when a member of the Boy's Varsity Basketball Team from their own school is points out to their leader, Felicia, she just tells him that "nobody is here to see you".
- Mazuma from Ben 10: Omniverse isn't an actual cheerleader, but looks like one. She still qualifies for this trope as she supports Billy in his schemes to get rid of Ben.
- 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.
- Paulina Sanchez in Danny Phantom is a cheerleader - though most episodes focus on her just being a general Alpha Bitch out-of-uniform at school. She does petty things like invite Danny and friends to parties just so she can uninvite them, looks down on her former-friend Valerie just because Valerie became poor. She belittles Danny Fenton for his crush on her but has a crush on his super heroic ghostly form Danny Phantom.
- Groove Squad:
- Star Nightingale, the Groove Squad's main rival at their high school (more so to Chrissy than Ping or Mac), seems to be the only true mean-spirited cheerleader on their squad—her dad's the main villain in the movie, and Star's arguably just as evil as he is (though Star's more "high school evil" than "regular evil").
- In the case of Stacy and Roxanne, Star's best friends/sidekicks, however, the trope is downplayed. They really don't seem all that evil—while they're certainly very eager-to-please Star and are always in on her plans to take Chrissy's place as their high school cheerleading captain, they actually seem like genuinely nice girls. They seem more "easily manipulated" than straight-up "evil."
- 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 shows her true evil cheerleader colours with the rest of them.
- Bonnie Rockwaller from Kim Possible; while Kim herself is the captain of the cheerleading squad and most of the cheerleaders can be a bit snobby at times but are generally nice girls, Bonnie is the only truly mean-spirited member and constantly tries to upstage Kim in both cheerleading and other school activities. It is hinted at that the reason for this is that Bonnie herself is tormented by her older sisters so then takes this out on Kim and Ron.
- 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.
- Total Drama: Amy of Pahkitew Island is a cheerleader and a nasty piece of work who bullies her twin sister Samey for minor reasons. She is also rude to Jasmine, who stands up for Samey, and Rodney, who she punches in the gut.
- On Family Guy, Lois was a cheerleader in her high school days and was every bit as bitchy, mean, and cruel as this trope often is. In the present day, she's often a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. The present day also has Connie D'Amico, who constantly bullies Meg and serves as a Hate Sink, though she's also suffered Laser-Guided Karma from not only Meg but almost all of the Griffins.