“You messed with the wrong cheerleader!” Vivica A. Fox announced towards the end of Lifetime’s The Wrong Cheerleader.
“Hell yeah, he did!” I shouted back at the television.
Now, one reason why I yelled that response is because Vivica A. Fox is a totally badass. She has appeared in almost every installment of Lifetime’s “Wrong” franchise and she always plays a no-nonsense authority figure that no one in their right mind would want to mess with. When Vivica A. Fox gives you advice, you better listen. And when she gets mad at you, you better run because she does not mess around!
The other reason I cheered was because she was telling off one of the most unsympathetic and evil abusers to ever appear in a Lifetime film. After spending two hours watching this guy gaslight and threaten his girlfriend, I was ready for Vivica to show up and verbally kick his ass and she did not disappoint.
Fox plays Coach Flynn in The Wrong Cheerleader. She’s the cheerleading coach at the local high school and it’s a job that she takes very seriously. As she explains to a new recruit, being a part of the squad means that you’re a part of a family. When a prospective cheerleader says that she understands what Flynn means, the Coach tells her that she won’t be capable of understanding until she actually experiences it for herself. And I’m just going to say that I probably would have been scared to death of Coach Flynn in high school because she would have taken one look at me and probably told me to drop the attitude, stop showing so much skin, and behave like a responsible young lady. And I probably would have done it too because, seriously, you don’t want Coach Flynn mad at you.
Coach Flynn is concerned about her newest cheerleader, Becky (Cristine Prosperi). Becky is dating Rob (David Meza) and, from the minute he first shows up at school, it’ obvious that Rob has issues. Along with having a violent temper, Rob is a relentless manipulator, the type of guy who tells Becky that everything he does wrong is because of how much he loves her. When he gets into a fight, he tells Becky that it was because he was defending her and that it’s actually her fault because she was wearing her cheerleading uniform. If Becky so much as looks in the direction of another guy, Rob loses his temper. Rob, of course, has a hundred excuses for his behavior, most of them having to do with his dysfunctional family life. Everyone can see through Rob. Everyone, it seems, but Becky.
If you’re looking for an expose into the sordid world of high school cheerleading, you’ll probably be disappointed with The Wrong Cheerleader. To be honest, Coach Flynn could have been a soccer coach and Becky a goalie without changing the film’s plot. (Though “You messed with the wrong goalie!,” doesn’t have as much of a ring to it as “You messed with the wrong cheerleader!”) But no matter. The film does a pretty good job of revealing the techniques that an abuser will use to maintain control over the woman that he’s abusing. Anyone who has ever been in a toxic relationship will recognize exactly what Rob is doing. The film also makes the very important point that if you do witness abuse, you need to say something. Just shrugging away the problem or hoping that things will somehow get better is not a solution.
For those of us who remember her as the always quirky Imogen on Degrassi, it’s interesting to see Cristine Prosperi playing a far more conventional character in this film but she does a good job in the role and she still looks young enough to pass for a high school student. (The same could not be said of some of her classmates.) David Meza does a good job playing up his character’s manipulative nature and, of course, Vivica A. Fox is a total badass as Coach Flynn.
The Wrong Cheerleader isn’t quite as over-the-top as most Lifetime cheerleading films but it has a good and heartfelt message and that’s definitely worth something.