A definitive ranking of Bring It On movies based off POC representation

Sunday, September 9, 2018 - 4:56pm

Hands down, the “Bring It On” movie franchise is one of the best series of all time. If you don’t agree with this then you probably just need to sit down and watch them all again to reeducate yourself on cinematic greatness. Time and again, the “Bring It On” movies have been ranked, but never have they been ranked by their representation of people of color, only the quality of the film. With the removal of the “Bring It On” franchise from Netflix, I decided the time had come to undertake the task of ranking them by this specific criterion.

* “Bring it On: The Musical” will not be included in this ranking as this is solely a ranking of the “Bring It On” films. “Bring It On: Worldwide #Cheersmack” will also not be included in the ranking simply because the movie sucks and is an embarrassment to the “Bring It On” franchise.*

5. “Bring it On: Again.”

This placement should come as no big surprise as the first “Bring It On” sequel was one of the least successful movies in the franchise and the least talked about by fans. This lack of notoriety within the fandom is most likely due to its stark lack of representation of people of color. The only named character of color is the main character’s (Whittier) Black best friend Monica. This does not say much about the writer’s inclusiveness due to the rampant popularity of the “Black best friend” trope seen in pretty much every ’90s to ’00s teen movies. (i.e., “10 Things I Hate About You”, “Clueless”, “She’s All That”, etc.) Not only was Monica the lone person of color in the film, but her role was completely relegated to fulfilling negative stereotypes of a Black woman: loud, sassy, rude, always talking back and ready to give someone a piece of her mind.

Overall, the movie had an extreme lack of representation of people of color, and the one character that made up its representation completely fulfilled a stereotype.

4. “Bring It On: In It to Win It”

Just like “Bring It On: Again”, the only main person of color is the Black best friend. Though the main character’s love interest is extremely ethnically ambiguous, he also could just be white with a heavy tan. So, we’ll keep the tally of actors of color at one and a half. (After research, I discovered that the actor is actually half-Filipino, but his race is never mentioned nor in question throughout the whole movie, so he will remain ethnically ambiguous.)

But back to the Black best friend.

Just as in “Bring It On: Again”, the character is a stereotype of a Black woman complete with slang, a fiery attitude and an eagerness to start fights. But even worse than the character Monica in “Bring It On: Again”, this movie’s Black character, Aeysha, is even more shockingly over the top with her one-liners and phrases that try to solidify how “Black” she is. Such phrases include “You know a cheer Crip can’t be hitting it with a cheer Blood.” She actually compared two of the biggest and most violent gangs in American history to opposing cheerleading teams and it was played for laughs.

However, “In It To Win It” narrowly tops “Bring It On: Again” because, despite lines like the aforementioned, there are some redeeming moments in the movie involving Ayesha’s subplot.  One of these moments comes when she’s going completely over the top trying to prove her “Blackness” by twerking in a cheerleading routine and continuing to talk in her caricature Black fashion. A Black female cheer coach pulls her aside and asks her why she’s making a fool of herself pretending to be this stereotype. It showed at least a glimmer of self-awareness.

The second redeeming moment is when Aeysha admits to putting on this “super Black” character the whole time to gain respect because she used to be teased for being an “oreo” in junior high (Oreo is the taunting nickname given to Black kids who are perceived as being “white on the inside, yet ‘Black’ on the outside”). While the movie attempted to reinforce this good message, it didn’t go deep enough or really followed through, especially when the movie ended that “touching note” with a white character telling Aeysha, “ooh, you’re whiter than me.” Aeysha agrees and says she’s proud of that fact.

3. “Bring It On: Fight to the Finish”

“Bring It On: Fight to the Finish” is significantly better than the first two, simply because it is one of the only “Bring it On” movies to have a main character of color, a working-class Latina named Lina. Rather than giving the exaggerated image of what it is like to be a person of color from a white perspective like the other movies, “Fight to the Finish” gives a person of color a chance to helm the story. This movie does a great job stripping the norms of the “Bring It On” franchise by making the upper-class white cheerleaders the evil antagonists. It also includes a love storyline including an interracial romance of Lina and the popular white basketball player in her new, predominately white school. In the end, the movie does a good job showing people can work across class and racial differences to succeed and work together for a common goal.

The only problem I have with this movie in particular is even though Lina is Latina and is of Latinx heritage, that’s never really celebrated. She speaks Spanish with her family but that’s about it. Everyone in her old neighborhood from East Los Angeles is either Black or Latinx, but neither of their cultures or heritages are celebrated. All of them are just grouped together by the social identity of being lower class or “poor,” and that’s how they’re referred to for the whole movie. Being a person of color in the movie is just equated to being poor and their individual identities as people of color are just erased. Also to top it all off, the movie still has the cringey stereotypical role of the Black best friend.

2. “Bring It On: All or Nothing.”

Two words, Solange and Knowles. And one more word, Rihanna. Okay, but star-studded cast aside, “Bring It On: All or Nothing” does a great job with its people of color representation. The storyline is flipped from the storyline of “Bring It On: Fight to the Finish”. A privileged white girl, Britney, moves to Crenshaw Heights, an inner city close to Los Angeles. At Crenshaw Heights, Britney learns to check her white privilege and that (gasp) people of color aren’t that different from her. This movie has some of the best representation of people of color in the franchise as multiple main characters are Black or Latinx. The movie does a great job of keeping them interesting, funny, real and respectable without making them stereotypes or characterizing them by their social class. They are able to call out the main character on her white BS while being proud of their race, home and backgrounds. The only cringey part of the movie is Britney culturally appropriating Black slang when she’s talking to her friends at her old school, which effectively shows spending a “couple days in the hood” will “turn you Black.”

1. “Bring It On”

The top spot, to no big surprise, goes to the first “Bring It On” movie. The one that started it all, the movie that was so good that it inspired five sequels and a musical. “Bring it On” was unique because of the portrayal of the Black cheerleading squad, the Clovers, who were the antagonists in the movie but weren’t portrayed as stereotypical, evil or unreasonable in any sense. They were portrayed as a cheerleading group whose cheers were unfairly stolen and who wanted justice. Instead of making the Clovers seem evil from the perspective of the white main characters, the captain (Torrance) and the rest of her team (the Toros) realize they’re in the wrong because they stole from the Clovers. Yet, the Clovers aren’t painted as sad or pitiful, they’re painted as strong, determined cheerleaders who will work for what they want.

One of the parts of the movie that demonstrate this well is when the Clovers don’t have enough money to make it to nationals. Instead of the Clovers accepting money from the Toros and helping build the white savior complex, they raise their own money by reaching out to local Black icons like a TV show host. They also call out the white team, the Toros, by telling them not to slack off or try to give them anything because they feel sorry for them. Other than Gabrielle Union, the main reason why “Bring It On” is No. 1 on the list is because all of the Black characters in the movie are humanized and represented as real, relatable people. When their race is brought to attention, it’s in a positive sense. Instead of being portrayed as the "poor ghetto" cheerleaders from East Compton, the fact they are from East Compton is shown as a point of pride for the characters and something that gains them respect from all the other cheerleaders.