On Skins, lesbian character Tea cheers because, as actress Sofia D’Elia says, “she likes to be around a lot of girls.”
“Of course girls love to hang with girls,” Babbit said. “Softball teams, field hockey teams have always overflowed with mini dykes to be. But, yes, I think cheerleader femme types join to hang with their friends — and it’s only natural they might start finding them hot.”
”I think it’s certainly part of the appeal,” Avenatti said. “As a confused 16-year-old, all I knew was that I wanted to be close to other girls, and I definitely had red-faced sputtering moments in the locker room with my teammates. However, cheering is also about skill in dance and tumbling, and a love of performance.”
While it looks like the new trend of lesbian cheerleaders is progressing in a positive fashion, the ideal of the sexy Sapphically-indulging spirit girl is based on the male gaze. With the hot, promiscuous cheerleader stemming from the NFL’s marketing team and then being expanded upon in pornography, it has perpetuated a stereotype that some women involved with the sport are in it for the other women.
The predatory lesbian is a very common storyline, so including a lesbian cheerleader could be an easy plot device for writers who feel obligated to include a gay girl in the mix or who want to titillate by suggesting that in a gaggle of women, at least one or two of them have experimented sexually with another. But there’s also a glimmer of hope that the new characters are moving beyond this stereotype and are more akin to what Babbit tried to do with her protagonist in 1999.
“I think cheerleaders are like Barbie,” Babbit said. “Very iconically female and American. And to make that icon lesbian is subverting an archetype — culture-makers are trying to find new themes for tired characters.”