At first, I didn’t really have any interest in watching the second season of Applaud, Netflix’s hit docuseries about competitive junior college cheerleading. It’s not because of the quality. The first season was a mesmerizing mix of drama, athleticism and triumph with real-life cheerleaders – a talented troublemaker, a rough diamond, a charming second stringer, a hardcore rookie, a superstar – and a frosty, determined trainer who seemed like it was written for television.
I liked it.
But I also watched those people from my beloved docuseries become actual celebrities. That’s what happens to a lot of reality TV personalities. They go on television and the followers start to arrive. Media attention skyrockets, endorsement deals arrive, and then, instead of their life creating the show, the show becomes their life.
In Applaud‘s case it gets even darker. In September 2020, 1 star season Jerry Harris has been arrested by the FBI for allegedly soliciting child pornography. Later that year, in December, Harris was charged with new charges alleging that he solicited minors to send him sexually explicit videos and photos of themselves.
Still, a friend urged me to watch, and soon I found myself obsessed. The show had turned into something entirely different. Instead of showing talents, ApplaudThe second season of focuses on how fame has affected America’s cheerleader sweethearts. It turns out that a small amount of celebrities can turn heroes into villains, friends into enemies, and make winning feel like a lot like losing.
Navarro gets too famous too soon
The boldest move creator Greg Whiteley made in the second season was not shy away from the show’s impact. Its success didn’t happen in a vacuum, and the early episodes really show you just how popular Coach Monica Aldama and the kids have become. They caught up with Kendall Jenner and Arizona Cardinals football player JJ Watt. They were donated $20,000 on Ellen for upgrading their gym and kissing Oprah. They have amassed massive followers on Instagram and some are collect dollars on Cameo. Aldama participated in the 29th season of Dancing with the stars.
It’s not hard to read between the lines and see why so many kids decided to come back for another try. Some of their repeated answers to the media, on social networks, and taped into the series about Navarro College being “a special place” does much of the work. They’re back to Navarro because it’s a meal ticket, and any youngster would be foolish not to take advantage of the potential endorsements, celebrities, and bargains that would come with a successful second season.
Initially, Coach Monica and Navarro College were portrayed as blind side-like a story of well-being. His program, which dominates the two-team junior college division, has been described as a lifeline for some struggling teens, perhaps helping them get away from broken homes and rough streets, and into life. ‘university. While there is legitimate questions about what it means to take vulnerable young people and put them in physically punishing situations, the show’s story was one of the mental and physical sacrifices needed to achieve greatness.
Fame empirically modifies this equation.
It turns Navarro’s narrative into something completely different. It doesn’t feel as pure or as good when you realize that maybe the kids didn’t come back because they needed a life lesson or Coach Monica’s discipline. Maybe they just needed to cash in on another season before the glory ran out. You can almost taste the sour resentment of the team members who weren’t featured in the first season when they’re interviewed this time around. It doesn’t take many episodes for some of these crew members to pivot their personal stories to the camera.
In the Season 1 finale, it seemed like a second season was in doubt because University spirit, a company that controls coverage of major cheerleading tournaments, didn’t seem to enjoy filming Navarro for his first season. Varsity did not allow the Netflix team to advance to the national championship, and footage of Navarro’s performance was captured by attendees.
The other big question was whether the show would go on given the very serious child abuse allegations against star Jerry Harris. A second season of Applaud wouldn’t be truthful and probably wouldn’t exist if he didn’t review Harris’ investigation and talk about it with the team members and Aldama. While the show directly handles it, the people who participate in it are sometimes hesitant.
So the show isn’t really about the incentive program anymore, but rather about the impossibility of becoming famous.
It’s this huge fame and luck that sometimes makes it hard to empathize with Coach Monica when she complains about her life and the negativity of people on her social media. His newfound fame brought new enemies, as did the course. She presents herself as someone who does not fully recognize the fame, prestige, and goodwill she has received in such a short time. Watching someone get what they want – and lots of other people – and struggling with it always creates a complex, even alienating viewing experience.
The defining moment of the series occurs when Coach Monica accepts an invitation from Dancing with the stars. In order to keep her participation a secret, she understandably keeps her team in the dark. Sure. But a few interviews with her crew reveal that she was unreachable during filming, which eroded their confidence. In his absence, a new assistant coach named Kailee Peppers asserts her power. Aldama chose spectacle and the prestige that came with it over coaching his team. That moment almost soured the promise that “come cheer on Coach Monica” used to keep.
Monica says it’s partly because of the Dancing with the stars fatigue and the spotlight that she couldn’t properly handle the shocking and infuriating allegations of child pornography facing Jerry Harris. The fifth episode of the second season lends its platform to the twins who allege that Jerry sexually assaulted and coerced them, and includes interviews with their mother.
Monica, we are told from the first season, cares about each of her children and teaches them to be good humans. Jerry’s alleged behavior calls into question her relationship with him. With more and more evidence against Jerry and new indictments, Monica’s response is to complain about how she’s been receiving negativity on social media, instead of worrying about the very serious charges being faced. Jerry is dealing with and for the welfare of the children allegedly involved. The coach who cares seems to write off this incident with an “I don’t know”.
Yes ApplaudThe first season of is all about the sacrifice — physical injuries, reduced social lives, moving to a town nowhere in Texas, relentless practices — to achieve greatness, season two is an unvarnished look at how that gain can bring its own set of problems.
Enter: Trinity Valley
The second season of Applaud also benefits from having underdogs to cheer on at Trinity Valley Community College, Navarro’s main rivals. In the first installment, they are portrayed almost as villains, the only team standing in the way of Navarro’s fate. But now they’re back, recharged with superstar rookie class but without the glitz, glamor and Navarro’s $20,000 facility upgrade courtesy of Ellen DeGeneres.
Easy to root for is Jada Wooten, a TVCC veteran who wants to defeat Navarro’s Instagram-famous Goliath in her senior year. It’s do or die for Jada this time around. She takes it upon herself to give pep talks, push her teammates, and turn TVCC into a family unit.
She is Coach Vontae Johnson’s right-hand man, who seems to provide a brutal counterpoint to Monica. Jada and her teammates credit her for helping them improve. Vontae points out that Navarro has his roster of polished athletes ready to compete (a TV show will help you do that), while he finds the athletes with the most potential.
This means teaching Jada to overcome her mental block and turn the “Weenies”, a group of extremely talented young men who defy gravity, into performers. The big problem with the Weenies is that despite their fantastic fall, they are obsessed with looking masculine and don’t want to smile or get angry like cheerleaders are supposed to.
Whether or not Vontae and his sidekick coach Khris Franklin can make this team a national champion and beat their most famous rivals becomes the central tension of the second half of the season.
At times, the Trinity Valley team feels like they were specifically created in a lab to be the perfect foils and underdogs for the Navarro juggernaut. Navarro has a new stage, while Trinity Valley rolls out its ragged mats before every practice. Navarro superstar Gabi Butler is famous on Instagram, while Jada is relatively unknown to viewers. Navarro’s group of veterans knows how to win, while Trinity Valley relies on rookies like dynamo Angel Rice. It makes for electric television, and since the show gave Navarro enough slack to turn into villains, it’s hard not to cheer on Trinity Valley in their national championship showdown.
What’s special about this, however, is that the entire series emphasizes that it’s all too good to be true. Fame is cyclical; he imploded Navarro, and Trinity Valley is the next to enter the celebrity assembly line. The Spotlight has a weird way of uncovering secrets and testing character, in ways that Trinity Valley has yet to face. Fame killed Navarro’s feel-good story, and there’s no reason to think the same couldn’t happen to TVCC.