Sunday, July 20, 2014

All Cheerleaders Die (2013), Underbelly Of Sexual Egalitarianism and Communities Of Difference

All Cheerleaders Die exploits and guts the mythical war between the sexes by destabilizing heteronormative discourse. After Maddy's childhood friend dies she begins her revenge. Under the surface of what appears to be a superficial motivation for revenge turns out to be a serious desire to ruin Terry for raping her. The heart of this weaving narrative spins around the brutal binary that separates the football plays and cheerleaders along their sex. They self-articulate their inter and intra-group identities as Bitches and Dogs. The derogatory identification guts to the bad boy and bad girl persona as the two sides rise to greater levels of violence in order to seek some idealized imbalance where bitches or dogs are rendered a superior status. By playing on the borders of heteronormative dynamic, All Cheerleaders Die, open's up a space to articulate a disruption inherent in the kernel of the binary. In what follows I plan to explore the disruption in order to identify if All Cheerleaders Die successfully challenges the ground in which the war between the bitches and dogs articulates itself.

All Cheerleaders die is a film about Maddy's failed attempt at revenge. Maddy begins by infiltrating the cheer squad in order to seduce the head cheerleader, Tracy, in order make her suspicious about her new boyfriend's, Terry, fidelity. All does not go to plan, and the plan motivates Terry to lose control and punch Tracy. Maddy attempts to incite Terry's fellow team mates to seek psychical reparations, but they do not have the gumption to go against their leaders will. The cheerleaders make a run for it and the football players follow driving the cheerleaders off the road and All Cheer Leaders Die. Leena, the lover Maddy forsakes in order to act out her revenge comes to the rescue and breathes new life into the fallen cheerleaders via Wicca Glow Stones. The squad is reborn as flesh-eating-zombie-like-creatures who need to chew on the living to satiate their hunger. The girls return to business as usual. Terry, then, becomes suspicious and uncovers the secret to the girl's newfound strength. The rest of the film is Terry's quest for power as he guts the cheerleaders and removing the Glow Stones in order to swallow the stones and ingest their power. The cheerleader's, of course, are the type of girls to take getting murdered lightly counter attack.

The Bitches and Dogs binary is explained in the first scenes of the film by when Maddy is interviewing the soon to be dead Alexis.
Alexis: My bitches do not disappoint
Maddy: Why do you call yourself bitches?
Alexis: Boys be dogs. Girls be bitches. Gangsta'.
What are we to make of this? Alexis could be articulating a status quote that she fell into as a cheerleader. The dogs vs bitches ideology could be a long term cultural moniker used to describe the sexual difference. What interesting here is that both the boys and girls enthusiastically identify with their respected titles. It's important to note that dogs vs bitches refer to the socially frowned upon traits that have been coded across the gender divide. Dogs are fueled by testosterone leading to obsessive promiscuity and rampant displays of ego in order to gain superiority in a social setting. Bitch, on the other hand, has connotations of whining and negative attitude which is radically contrary to the roles the cheerleaders take? What kind of bitches are we talking about? The cheerleaders ruthless guard their intra and inter-group dynamics by fierce loyalty to enactments of social status. The scene that highlights this is when Maddy is trying out for the cheerleading team. Tracy gets in her face challenging her to live up to the performativity of a cheerleader. Maddy then displays a set flips and acrobatics that proves/earns her status into the group.

After the cheerleaders die their social dynamics is challenged. Not only do they have a new found craving for people meat they are psychically and sexuality connected. The girls gain energy feel the death of one of the groups and experience sexual satisfaction simultaneously. The dynamics the group take on after being reanimated bring to the surface tension's that were obfuscated by the original bitches dynamic. The bitches were held together base on the unspoken rule that they did not delve into conflict or tension too deeply. The bitches superficiality maintained the group by avoiding real tension. After All Cheerleaders Die, the tension that was always-already in place under was rattled to the surface forcing the girls to confront each individual cheerleaders otherness. Part of the reason for this is the inclusion of an outsider into the bitches collective. The magic that Leena used to resurrect the dead cheerleaders also bonded her to the group. Leena, of course, represents the most radically other-ed character in the film. The goth ex-girlfriend of Maddy, who spend the first third of the film being socially excluded or excluding others. The unexpected inclusion of Leena in the group breaks the exclusivity of the bitches cohort and universalizes its potential. The key scene that supports this argument is when the cheerleaders arrive at school after dying and Leena is front and center during their slow motion walk through the hallway. The moment raises the question; is the socially perceived aspect of power reliant on membership to a group?

The dogs, on the other hand, are dismantled by the cheerleaders hunger, their own desire for sexual satisfaction, and Terry's overabundant ego that excludes room for others in group decision making. Right from the start of the film Terry asserts his alpha maleness in order to control dissidence among the football players and to correct their actions to they align to his will. The other dogs, other than the one that becomes the object of sexual dispute between the Popkin sisters, are fodder for the girls to chew on. They are rightful underdeveloped and cower under the Terry's authority. In order to stem his anger and humiliate the cheerleaders, Terry declares a new team rule, “No fraternizing with cheerleaders.” The rule here works on multiple levels by asserting value and superiority. On the one hand, Terry is commenting that the football players status is significantly above that of the cheerleaders, and on the other reduces the cheerleaders status by lowering them below the lowest value (freshmen).

Immediately after Terry's declaration, Maddy influences Tracy to stand up for the cheerleaders and reassert the status and dignity of the bitches. Terry goes eyeball to eyeball and re-qualifies the status between the groups by asserting that Terry's manhood is dysfunctional. Tracy is clear here that the football players dynamic is one of hierarchy and that it is unnecessary and ineffective to target the group of dogs, because the alpha, terry, maintains the social cohesion of the dogs via his dominance in the group. Terry slugs Tracy, Maddy calls upon the other dogs to stand up for Tracy. Maddy shouts: “Which one of you is going to kick his ass? He punched Tracy! He hit an $%&ing girl!”

This moment is important because it discards chivalry, traditional gender roles and establishes a troubled relationship between boys and girls. The culturally and religiously infused idea that women are something to be coddled, protected, and revenged is not a protected more in this community. By not recognizing the cheerleaders with the transitional inferior status (as objects to be exchanged between for status) the dogs not only clinging to Terry's authority, but an imperative of radical egalitarianism. Now, I'm not asserting that men should punch women, or women should go unprotected but that if either happens when fully inspired across gender lines have entered a patriarchal discourse that has allocated femininity in a subservient role. What interesting about All Cheerleaders Die is that the harsh sexual egalitarianism pits the two genders against each other that eventually reveals the true object of dispute; Power.

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