What Did the Cheerleader Do Wrong?

Are all blonds dumb? Do all Canadians like hockey? Do all writers think their first drafts suck?

We all know that there is truth behind stereotypes. Sorry. It’s true (and yes, your first draft of anything probably does suck).

But I want to know exactly what the cheerleaders did to receive an entire (or nearly so) genre’s disdain?

I’ve spent the last ten years agreeing with the anti-cheerleader crowd. I even slam the head-bobbers a time or two in my ms, Saw It Coming (SIC). The funniest part of this whole post is that I was a cheerleader. In fact, I was the most evil of all cheerleaders. (GASP!) I was the head cheerleader. (Please don’t hate me, please don’t hate me!)

When I was in high school, it was awesome to be a cheerleader. I was PROUD to be a cheerleader. But once I got into the real world, it became my dirty little secret. People would say, “What did you do in high school?” I always responded, “Oh (fumble, stall) I danced for a private dance company.” Or I’d say I was a Student Body Officer (head cheerleader was an elected position at my school, I wasn’t lying).

There were mean cheerleaders. There were cheerleaders who stole boyfriends (this is not a confession). There were cheerleaders who weren’t on the Honor Roll. But for the most part, we were a bunch of girls who had fun.

My mom always said that the rest of the world hated cheerleaders because they were jealous. Maybe she was right.

As adults I think we excise the demons we’ve pent up since high school in our writing. We take out our personal vendettas on the side characters by basing them on a stereotypes of someone who bothered us, bullied us, or irritated us in high school.

OR, I could be way off the mark. Maybe it’s just me that does that.

There is a side character in SIC that is totally based on the jock-girls I knew in high school. She’s smart, sassy, and totally, totally rude. Were all the sports chicks like that? No. Did a lot of them make fun of me (and the rest of my squad)? You bet. My character slams cheerleaders in my book, which reads pretty accurately.

So here’s my question for the day: Do you use stereotypes as you build characters? Do you have a dumb blond, a smart Asian, a fabulous gay guy? And, is there any particular character that you give negative personality traits because you’ve built that character on a real-life model?

P.S. Kathryn brought up in my previous post a YA paranormal romance, Evermore, where the main character was a cheerleader named . Yes, in her flashbacks she was a cheerleader and she was still a nice girl (I know, miracles never cease). But as she reflects on the friends she had during her time as a cheerleader she realizes that they were shallow backstabbers. In fact, her best friend (also a cheerleader) steals her boyfriend (a jock) once she’s out of the picture. Even though the author gave a little wiggle room for a singular cheerleader to be good, she still manages to slam the whole group.

P.S.S. I just re-read Kathryn’s comment and wonder if we’re talking about completely different books. Evermore is by Alyson Noel. You said Nevermore. I could be totally off base, which would not be a new thing. Sorry.

12 Comments

  • Lindsay N. Currie

    Hmmm, stereotypes. I’d like to lie and say that I don’t, but I think I probably do. For example, I prefer characters that are a little more aggressive. . . the act now and think later kinds of guys/gals rather than the drama queens. Flawed, but with a good heart. That’s an attractive combination to me.

    Also, I know I model some characters after people I knew in high school. It’s not always someone I disliked, but the fact remains that those memories are still so fresh that I’m writing characters based on them. Guess that’s why I’m drawn to YA still – even after being married for 12 years and having 3 kids LOL!

  • William Kendall

    I know I’ve modeled at least one character after a real person. An ex-brother-in-law that I dislike got the full treatment of being made an ass of in my work in progress… not that he’d even read it. His idea of reading ends at the sports page.

    I’ve thought of using someone I know of, a guy who refers to himself as an intellectual guru and the defacto “governor general of North America” (his words), as a blowhard know it all who gets his comeuppance, but I’ll have to find a way to work that in.

  • Becky Wallace

    @Lindsay: Isn’t crazy how high school still feels like yesterday? My biggest problem is that I went to HS with my brother- and sister-in-law. We have a lot of mutual friends/experiences.

    And BTW, my SIL was a jock-chick, but my character wasn’t based on her…but maybe one of her friends.

  • E.J. Wesley

    Good point. Maybe a majority of authors were never cheerleaders, or maybe a belief that the majority of their audience isn’t (and therefore would be more likely to identify with the stereotypes)?

  • Tracey Neithercott

    You know what’s funny? In my high school the cheerleaders weren’t the pretty, mean girls. No one paid them any particular attention. The girls in sports were the popular girls. Plus, our football team sucked so the football players weren’t the cool, hot guys. Those were the soccer players. I think my high school decided it was sick of stereotypes.

    Also, feel free to use that in a book. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Norma Beishir

    William–I see you’ve divorced your sisters, too!

    As for the popular, pretty and/or mean girls in high school…there was justice. They all got married to guys who with age lost their looks and had dead-end jobs. Some divorced and were left struggling to raise the kids with no help from their deadbeat exes. Not one of them because a published author on the national bestseller lists.

    (Doing the happy dance–YES!)

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