“There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls” serves as the tagline for the upcoming USA show Dare Me. And based off the first episode, this opening phrase presents an appropriate warning for the story and characters we will encounter...
...On the surface the show is about competitive cheerleading. However, delving deeper into the show we see the dark underworld of the sport and the lives of teenage girls. The competitiveness for top cheerleader, body-shaming, and even the physical dangers of the sport become apparent within the first few minutes of the show. Once the story establishes the stressful world of cheerleading, Dare Me gives more insight into the added pressures of the life of a high school girl.
Based on Megan Abbot’s Anthony Award nominated novel Dare Me, the main plot follows Beth Cassidy ( Marlo Kelly) and Addy Hanlon (Herizen Guardiola) who rule the cheer squad in their small non-descript Midwestern town. Just a couple of fun-touting high school girls who drink booze and show off their cheer skills to the boys. After the foreshadowing opening which transpires three months after the start of the show, we see a warm and sunny day which shows two girls (especially Beth) who are on top of the world. Unfortunately, the pride and cockiness quickly become challenged when a strict and cruel new coach enters their lives. Collette French (Willa Fitzegerald) pushes the girls physically and also mocks the girls’ bodies during their first practice together.
While the appearance of the coach seems to serve as a moment to further solidify the bond between our two main characters, Addy begins separating herself from Beth as she puts great effort into deviating from their normal hang-out routines. In the novel, the character development comes largely from the perspective of Addy and how she perceives the other teenagers in her life. However, the TV show (at least in the first episode) deviates from this a bit by introducing the family life of both girls. Possibly the inclusion of the parents will allow for more character development, or perhaps we will see the story from more than just a teenager’s perspective. Beth comes from a well-off family, but seems largely ignored at home, which would explain why she acts out so much. In contrast, Addy comes from a home where her mother possibly pays too much attention to her because this single-parent household puts a great deal of effort into dictating which dreams the daughter can follow.
The first half of the episode will have you wondering “why are these people putting themselves in these situations?” Which is a valid question. Addy does not seem to like Beth and Beth seems intentionally cruel to her supposed best friend. And the coach does not seem to want to deal with teenage girls, yet she returns to her small hometown with the sole intention of working with high school cheerleaders. Some long-time relationships reach breaking points in the pilot episode as we see Addy distancing herself from her childhood friend and instead finding herself forming a bond with the new coach. However, Beth’s obsessive and self-destructive behavior shows their friendship is not a two-way street as Addy remains an emotional hostage, unable to leave Beth out of fear of dangerous consequences. The coach also puts herself in a compromising situation with a high school boy, so even though the first episode delivers a great deal of danger and intrigue, you have to wonder if the series will find a way to keep up with the dramatic pace set by the first installment. With the taunting title of “Dare Me” we can only assume the stakes will raise with each episode.
Dare Me takes place in a fairly average looking Midwest high school, however, even if you are one of those people who did not care for your high school years, nor for teenage dramas you will still find some merit with Dare Me. A lot of the stereotypical high school hierarchy and angsty attitude which have become synonymous with teenage girls does not make an appearance in this show. Instead of awkward crushes and sitcom-esque issues, we witness sex, scandal, and scarily possessive behavior. Unlike the high school pep rallies some of us might be all too familiar with, these cheerleaders are not using their peppy can-do attitude to encourage us to continue watching. Nevertheless, there is something about this squad that will leave you cheering for more.
Dare Me dares you to watch when it premieres on USA Network December 29th.
By Amylou Ahava
Like Amylou's writing? Leave her a tip here through Ko-fi!