It’s about 1/3 cool dancing and gymnastics, and the other 2/3 could be a documentary about the power of society’s body standards and how it’s maintained.
So, first of all, everyone there– everyone who even tries out– is extremely fit and can rightly be described as an athlete.
But then they also have to live up to the highest possible standards for their appearance. And the coaches’ attempts to impose both of those are a lesson in all kinds of things.
In this episode the coaches called aside a number of the cheerleaders to tell them that they need to lose weight. They’re not anything remotely close to fat, but their stomachs look a tiny bit soft and jiggly instead of “flat and smooth and almost hollow” or “visible abs” which are the acceptable looks. It’s not that much of a difference they’re asking for. Like ten pounds or less. But when you’re already very muscular, and you need to eat enough to get through strenuous exercise and stay healthy, I can only imagine it’d be pretty hard to find the sweet spot that actually lets you lose that weight.
They were crying when they left the coaches’ office. Being so close to perfect doesn’t make it any less painful when those standards are enforced against you.
One of them this little tight angry scared comment about them being “the fatties on the team”. And the coaches came down on her like a ton of bricks. She is “toxic in the locker room”, “toxic to her teammates”, “bad attitude”. And it might not even have occurred to me to examine that but clearly the coaches know it means something. It’s a tiny bit of fighting back against body shaming. She doesn’t really believe that fat isn’t a bad thing, you can tell from her tone (even this tiny speck of fat), but she’s saying it herself before someone else can say it to her. And even that is too much rebellion for them.
It reminds me of this article about working in a warehouse. Among many shitty things the author experienced, the workers were expected to meet extremely unrealistic speed standards. And more than that, they were expected to play along. If you said “I’m working as hard as I can already, I can’t meet these standards,” you got fired. You had to always say that yes, you’d failed, and you’d try harder next time.
I think that the coaches here are creating a similar situation. They want the cheerleaders to agree that their current weight is completely unacceptable, agree that they can make it acceptable, and accept responsibility for fixing it.
When the truth is that it’s only a problem by the pickiest standards imaginable, they probably haven’t done anything “wrong” to gain weight, and it’s hit or miss whether they’ll be able to lose it.
They rejected one new trainee because she had the wrong body type to look good in their uniform.
She auditioned, she got provisionally accepted, she did all this work, and then they photograph her in the uniform for the first time and it’s “her calves are huge, her legs look too short, she looks awful.” She and the coaches both know it’s nothing she can fix. Those calves are solid muscle. But they still told her she’s too big, and she still cried about it.