We're sexy! We're cute!
—The Rancho Carne cheerleading squad, Bring It On
In almost no movie or TV show from the USA will you find a male character who finds cheerleaders anything other than a turn-on. This, despite the fact that the cheerleaders are almost universally presented as shallow, bitchy and led by the Alpha Bitch.
It might have something to do with the (greater or lesser) element of sexual titillation in many of the cheers. Beside being a lifesaver for people who hate sports but like girls, a little sexual excitement can boost the transient testosterone of the competitors, or at least remind the crypto-warriors of 'what they're fighting for', as well as who they don't want to be embarrassed in front of...
This is part of the same syndrome that leads to Hollywood Homely. Most American television also banks on the idea their viewing audience may not have gone to college but did go to high school, where cheerleaders were prominent, attractive, and unattainable.
It is worth noting that Reality Is Unrealistic in terms of the girls' outfits. Fictional cheerleaders often perform in uniforms that wouldn't be allowed in a high school. In real life, sleeves are optional, but bellies are covered and skirts are fingertip-length. Not that it really matters, since cheerleaders on screen are usually played by adults anyway.
Commonly carries Unfortunate Implications, stereotyping men as brainless and shallow and cheerleaders as slutty. Whether such implications are actually true or not, for the reader to decide.
It should be stressed again that that while cheerleaders are universally seen as sexy in American TV and movies it is by no means a certainty that the male lead will end up with them; indeed they will often be depicted as a vindictive Alpha Bitch or shallow Brainless Beauty who will be dumped in favor of a Girl Next Door, Hollywood Nerd, or Cool Loser.
See also The Cheerleader for how the girl herself is usually portrayed.
Anime and Manga
- Lina from Heroman doesn't conform to the usual stereotypes, being neither an Alpha Bitch nor a Brainless Beauty, and actually shows a liking for Joey. And the only people who object to any interaction between these two are Lina's brother and his friends.
- Suzuna, the head cheerleader for the Deimon Devilbats in Eyeshield 21 took the place of Sena's love interest (To a broad extent) after the writer seemed to want Mamori and Hiruma. Though this is a bit of a variation as Suzuna is the least developed of the cheerleaders along with the fact that, as a shounen series about football, the romance between the two isn't very developed either.
- Although she's the lead's love interest, in a subversion, it's the team's manager who's wanted by most of the guys.
- Luann has Tiffany, Alpha Bitch head cheerleader, be the object of Luann's crush Aaron's affections - Might be an aversion, but maybe not. Rumors circulate that the writers originally meant to reveal that Aaron was gay and was not interested in any of the supposed love interests, but fears that the strip was not popular enough to survive this scrapped that plan.
- One story in Phil Foglio's XXXenophile included priestess Otaz revealing that the half-orc villain was also the daughter of the priestess's god, Orum.
Feljikk (Drow warrior): Orum mated with an orc?!
- In Cherry Comics, Cherry and her girlfriends are all cheerleaders. Needless to say, they are very popular with the boys.
Films -- Live-Action
- The less nerdy nerd in Revenge of the Nerds finds a compatible girlfriend, a quietly pretty girl-next-door who shares his love of computers. However, the Chief Nerd will not rest until he has had the Chief Jock's Cheerleader, who also happens to be the Alpha Bitch of the story. Breaking not only the trope but also a few laws of the universe; he actually wins her over in the end.
- Inverted in Juno: the titular character observes that guys are secretly more attracted to the edgy oddball girls than the generic cheerleaders. This is perhaps wishful thinking from Juno, who is an oddball girl herself.
- Although it's pretty understated, Steve the cool kid is seen staring at her a couple of times during the movie.
- Played straight and subverted in American Beauty. Kevin Spacey's character becomes infatuated with his daughter's cheerleader friend to the point of having weird fantasies about her in the middle of her routine. However, one of her classmates pointedly ignores her in favor of depressed, introverted Jane. Jane, ironically, is also a cheerleader, but so far from the stereotype that she doesn't really count.
- Subverted in Saved in that Patrick is willing to hang out with the Alpha Bitch but is really interested in very non-cheerleader Mary.
- Played with in A History of Violence, where Tom Stall's wife decides that since they didn't grow up together, he deserves a night with a cheerleader. Turns out she can still fit into her old cheerleading uniform, or had one specially made...
- Played for laughs in Dodgeball: the teenage member of the gym is in love with a cheerleader at his school - however, his response to try and win her over is to join the cheerleading team himself. It's subverted, however, that the cheerleader is clearly in love with him as well, but he's a little too geeky to actually realize this.
- Mocked in Bowfinger. Eddie Murphy's main character keeps getting in trouble for exposing himself to the LA Lakers cheerleaders. It's how they blackmail him into doing the movie at the end.
- Subverted hard in My Best Friend Is a Vampire. Blonde cheerleader Candy is nowhere near subtle about being interested in Jeremy, who is completely indifferent to her and fascinated with Hollywood Nerd Darla.
- Parodied in Animal House. Budding playboy (and future gynecologist) Otter subverts the main cheerleader's romance (such as it is) with the college jock by cheating with her (and getting further than he does). True to her archetype, she casually blows him off and dismisses his performance, the only blow to his persona that occurs. He consoles himself by seducing and satisfying the wife of the Dean of the college.
- Can't Buy Me Love from 1987... can a nerd find true love with a cheerleader?
- The New Guy has this, with a few twists along the way.
- Fired Up! plays this for comedy. Two of the most popular guys in school ditch football camp to go to cheer camp, originally for no other reason than to score with all the female cheerleaders. In the end, they end up enjoying being male cheerleaders, and for one of them, lust is replaced by love.
- In Maggie Furey's Shadowleague trilogy, this seems to be the driving force behind Zavahl's willingness to sleep with Ailie, though nobody really cared why he did it at that point. It made him a better person.
- In But I'm a Cheerleader, Megan is a cheerleader and is dating a football player. When accused of being gay, she uses her being a cheerleader as proof of her heterosexuality. Subverted in that she actually is gay (although in denial about it) and seems to quite enjoy being around the other cheerleaders herself.
- In Dead Poets Society, Chris is a cheerleader, and while this doesn't seem to make a difference for Knox, it probably has something to do with why she's with Chet, a football player.
- A squicky example from the 1957 movie A Face in the Crowd: TV-show host "Lonesome" Rhodes divorces his wife in order to marry Betty Lou Fleckum, a 17-year-old drum majorette.
- In Perfect Strangers, Cousin Larry once noted, "Sure, the girls in the Math Club were all right, but just once, just once, I wanted a cheerleader."
- In an episode of Dream On, Martin is suffering from impotence. Trying to cure it, he goes to bed with a busty, blonde cheerleader, naked except for her short skirt and pom-poms. She does the "We got spirit, yes we do!" chant while straddling him. The fact that this doesn't make him "rise to the occasion" seems proof that his condition is really bad.
- Subverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Oz and Xander are watching the cheerleaders practice. Xander comments on how attractive they are, to which a bored Oz replies "Their spelling's improved." Eventually Oz, a popular young musician, ends up going out with computer-nerd Willow and Dorkish Xander gets Cheerleader Cordie.
- On Friends, Rachel claimed that she had never failed to score when wearing her cheerleader uniform, leading to her donning it at a party in a desperate attempt to win the attention of one particular guy.
- Subverted in Freaks and Geeks When Sam learns that cheerleader Cindy and him really have nothing in common and break up. Played Straight by his friends, who think he's nuts for doing so.
- A similar example is brewing in The Hard Times of RJ Berger - after spending the entire first season chasing Jenny (who is portrayed as having a good heart, but about whom we know little else beyond the fact than she's the head cheerleader), RJ is quickly realizing they don't have much to talk about.
- Subverted in My Name Is Earl, where, in a desperate move, Earl has to seduce a cheerleader who had been mauled by a rabid badger. Since she's so flexible, no matter what position he takes, he's always looking at her horribly scarred face. Eww.
- In the M*A*S*H episode "The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan", Hawkeye's pretending to be smothered by cheerleaders after winning a (made-up) basketball game when he is interrupted by Radar. Hawkeye asks whether anything of the sort ever occurred to him.
Radar:Oh, no sir, we didn't have cheerleaders.
- Referenced in Frasier when Niles is given the opportunity to meet a cheerleader for a basketball team. Roz says in annoyance that not all guys want cheerleaders, while Niles' response is "Is it the head' cheerleader?"
- Subverted in The Office, where Jim is sort of embarrassed by Katy's past as a cheerleader.
- Completely turned on its head in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, where Libby Chesler, head cheerleader, is constantly drooling over jock (barely, he mostly warms the bench at games) Harvey Kinkle, who is dating Sabrina the entire time.
- Prominently featured in the first season of Smallville, when a bug-boy "meteor freak", Tina Greer, and Clark "Afraid of Heights" Kent all pine for Lana Lang.
- Played With for Heroes' Claire, who is a cheerleader and undeniably attractive, but so withdrawn because of her issues with her powers that she only ever winds up dating loners like West.
- Subverted on Glee. Finn the star quarterback is dating 'Cheerio' Quinn, however not only is he attracted to Genki Girl Rachel but he is also sexually frustrated due to Quinn also being president of the celibacy club. It should also be noted that all the female celibacy club members are cheerios and all the male members are guys just trying to get into their pants. Furthermore, the point of the celibacy club seemed to be more about teasing the guys, rather than staying celibate for religious or moral reasons
- Inverted in That '70s Show, where Hyde, among other reasons, doesn't want to date Jackie because she's a cheerleader, thus a "square", opposed to him. However, after they get together, she once does a dance for him in her uniform.
- On Boston Legal, senior partner (and senior citizen) Shirley Schmidt admits during a heart-to-heart with Denny Crane that when she's depressed, she tries on her old cheerleading uniform to cheer herself up. Denny find this to be quite exciting, as does his friend and fellow Shirley-admirer Alan Shore when Denny shares this information with him. In a later episode, the two men find the uniform in a box (presumably left there by Shirley herself to cheer them up), and they dance with it while making alternatingly affectionate and lewd comments about it. To be fair, both Alan and Denny were sexually attracted to Shirley long before they knew about her cheerleading tendencies.
- Kelly from Saved by the Bell was the wanted girl in school, thanks to being a cheerleader - her counterpart on Hang Time as well.
- In Lizzie McGuire, Lizzie wanted to try out for the cheerleading squad so Ethan Craft would notice her, and naturally Gordo expresses his disgust at her invoking the trope.
- Played for laughs in the Victorious episode "Wi-Fi in the Sky" where Beck is taking care of a puppy for his neighbor. When his girlfriend Jade discovers that his neighbor is a cheerleader, she storms over to his house and stays there until the neighbor returns from cheer practice to pick up the dog. An hour later the neighbor arrives-- she is about 9 or 10. Cue mortified scowling by Jade.
- Played for Laughs in an episode of My Babysitter's a Vampire: Ethan and Benny are more than happy that Sarah's the only one who can wear a cheerleader's uniform. The happiness fades, though, when the guys have to go along and 'Suit up!' just like Sarah - when Rory shows up, and likes what he sees...
- In an episode of Numb3rs, Megan and Colby are searching the dorm room of an impostor university student. Remarking on his suspiciously stereotypical college-boy belongings, Megan makes conversation by asking Colby what he was into in school. His response: "Cheerleaders".
- An episode of Happy Days revolves around Richie, Ralph and Potsie wanting to date cheerleaders "instead of the girls we usually date," and staging a beauty contest with fake prizes to get the shallow cheerleaders to participate. The contest winner ends up dating The Fonz.
- Spellsinger: Jon-Tom had a crush on Flores Quintera, the stunningly beautiful cheerleading captain.
- The Cheer Up Charlie Daniels song "Pig Tails" is about one of these guys realizing that his girlfriend's The Cheerleader. (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 "You Belong with Me," Taylor Swift just knows that she can't compete with her crush's girlfriend, who is of course cheer captain. Although according the video she can because
She's Taylor Swift and looks freaking gorgeous including with the glassesit's idealistic.
- Almost all of the boys in Thirteen have crushes on a cheerleader. This is justified by the fact that it's a small school and the only girl who's not a cheerleader is the geeky Patrice who later ends up dating The Hero Evan, subverting this trope.
- Sandy in Grease has a brief stint as a cheerleader. Subverted, though, in that she's horrible at it and it doesn't make her any more attractive to Danny.
- In Psychonauts, Edgar Teglee's backstory has his cheerleader girlfriend Lana ditching him for male cheerleader Dean. Upon defeating Dingo, the romanticized version of Dean, Edgar finally decides that they were both losers not worth tearing himself up about and buries them within the depths of his mind.
- In Bully, cheerleader Mandy Wiles is the self-proclaimed best looking and most popular girl in school and a total Alpha Bitch.
- In Sluggy Freelance, the one alternate dimension Torg wishes he could get to is the Dimension of Topless Lambada-Dancing Cheerleaders.
- Amusingly subverted in many ways (including "All Guys want to Be Cheerleaders") in the webcomic Cheer.
- In Survival of the Fittest v4's pre-game, this is part of the reason why Rizzo Vitoria sleeps with a drunken Janet Claymont (who is, as you might have guessed, a cheerleader). When she wakes up the next morning, she isn't happy at all for obvious reasons, especially since she is dating another character.
- Gregg Easterbook, a writer for ESPN.com, takes time out of his football column every week to draw attention to some NFL cheerleader that he finds interesting (contrary to the stereotype, many of them are very well-educated), which he jokingly rationalizes as an excuse to run their picture in the column. Taking it further, he repeatedly complains that ultrathin fashion models are terrible standards of beauty and holds up athletic cheerleaders as a better one.
- Subverted in Teen Girl Squad, where football star, Quarterman, has no interest in Cheerleader and even seems to find her annoying. Further subverted by the fact that the object of his affections is none other than The Ugly One.
- In Garfield and Friends, Garfield the cat and his owner, Jon, once quarreled about which TV show to watch. Garfield favored "Wonder Cat", while dateless nerd Jon wanted "Cheerleader High".
- In the comics, Jon mentions that in high school, he had a mad crush on the head cheerleader, which didn't end well: "Ever had a pom-pom shoved up your nose?"
- Jon did manage to get a professional cheerleader named Tami to fall for him when they met at a pizza parlor. Later, when Tami called to give Jon her phone number, Garfield destroyed the answering machine, saying, "I can't believe he had pizza without me!"
- While the eponymous star of Kim Possible is her school's head cheerleader, and by all standards (especially Ron's) a Magical Girlfriend, she's also an Action Girl and part-time super-spy, and points out to her friends that No Guy Wants an Amazon. Thus she spends three seasons dating just one guy, actually even less than her supposed-sidekick, Ron Stoppable, did.
- On the other hand the cheerleaders Bonnie and Tara were rarely unescorted, dating the star quarterback, the cool new foreign exchange student, and even laid-back Josh Mankey (After he and Kim realized they were not meant for one another).
- In Danny Phantom, Danny Fenton is smitten with Paulina, much to Sam's annoyance. Every minor, two-second appearance she is treated with displays her in an extremely negative light, ignoring any and all chances of redemption, until it culminates in revealing that she is also the school's head cheerleader. Paulina is also a Rich Bitch and Alpha Bitch who (as usual) only has eyes for the mysterious superhero, Danny Phantom. Much like Kim Possible, it's all about getting dates and making out. All a result of Butch Hartman's less-than-pleasant high school experiences.
- Ben 10: Ben's Lotus Eater Machine fantasy includes saving a busload of smitten cheerleaders. Keep in mind this kid is ten years old.
- Though at his age, one can assume he knows he's "supposed" to like cheerleaders, but doesn't actually understand the reason why.
- Parodied on Clone High, with Cleopatra.
- In The Spectacular Spider-Man, the geeky Peter Parker asks out cheerleader/AlphaBitch Sally Avril and is very bluntly rejected. Later, another cheerleader, Liz Allan, shows interest in him, and they begin dating.
- Played straight in Robotboy: Despite of Lola being good-looking, rich, smart, stylish and ever reliable, Tommy only have eyes for Bambi, a blonde, prepubescent bitch in training with a cheerleader uniform.
- In The Amazing World of Gumball, the title character has a crush on a cheerleader named Penny. However, neither of them can spit it out to the other.