transphobia and transphobic comments, some fatphobic comments, and instances of sexual harassment
Queer sports comic starring sapphic cheerleaders and a transfemme MC? Yes please and thank you!
Cheer Up! is exactly the kind of comic that's perfectly suited for a visual medium. Not only does it showcase a Shineshine x Grumpy wlw ship dynamic, but it also normalizes fat bodies, brown bodies, and trans bodies in athletic spaces, which is incredibly needed. This is a story that's less about actual cheerleading and more about finding a sense of belonging, athletic teams functioning as found family and support systems, and learning how to socialize through organized sports. Though Bebe's squad doesn't always model perfect allyship, they accept her and support her and stick close to her in order to keep her safe in public spaces, and that's part of what makes her feel more confident in her own experience and expression of gender.
Above all else, I think this comic does a great job tackling discussions about hypervisibility for transfeminine folks, especially, and how transfemme people are often looked at and treated as spectacle rather than as individuals. Bebe fears not presenting in a hyperfeminine way because she's been conditioned to believe that presenting as anything less than "the perfect woman" makes her undesirable. She has a hard time confronting people, saying no, or standing up for herself because she doesn't want to be labelled as "aggressive" or "combative," especially when it already feels like people are "doing her a favor" by just letting her exist. The story really speaks to these unspoken standards of "perfection" that we hold trans people to, expecting them to perform to the extreme ends of the binary (whatever that means) in order for them to be "real," and not allowing them to make mistakes unless they prove themselves to be "one of the bad ones."
That's why I enjoyed the dynamic between Bebe and Annie, because through rekindling their friendship (and possibly more) Bebe is showing Annie how to be gentle, empathetic, and how to explore her own femininity, while Annie is showing Bebe how to be assertive, confident, and how to stand up for herself. It was nice to see their really sweet second-chance-friends-to-lovers dynamic blossom over the course of the story, and I was definitely cheering for them.
The only small set-backs for me were related to pace and story arc. Because comics are usually a faster-paced medium operating within a much smaller page count, some of the character development or realizations felt a bit sudden at times, which didn't allow for that full sense of satisfaction. And the other thing was that some of the side characters (both Bebe's own father and also her teammates) made some very pointed and anti-trans comments, and while they grow and learn over the course of the story, they're never made to account for those comments nor do we get to see how they reached those moments of growth. Overall, not anything that took away from my enjoyment of the story, but things that I would've liked to see explored further.
That said, if you're like me and you enjoy queer sports comics that are sweet, funny, and full of friendship, this is definitely one for you to add to your list!