Nobody can deny that Bring It On is a cult movie of our generation. The 2000 cheerleading movie set a pop culture bar, pushing cheerleading to the forefront of teen culture, amplifying new fashion and beauty trends, not to mention... spirit fingers. Aside from all that though, it was the the 99 minute gem that sky-rocketed Gabrielle Union's career. Bring It On wasn't the first cheerleading movie that Union had in her sights, but it was certainly the first that enticed her with its clear-cut social justice theme — even more so after the former denied her a role in what ended up an all-white cast.
“I had wanted this cheerleading movie Sugar & Spice, but they didn’t go black on any of the roles,” she said in a recent interview with ELLE, discussing her career timeline. “I couldn’t even audition.”
Following on from the disappointment of Sugar & Spice, a second cheerleading film (Bring It On) caught her eye, and it wasn't for the cute pom-poms. “In Bring It On, the story is about cultural appropriation, and how the hard work of African Americans has been repackaged with blond hair and blue eyes. The social justice of it appealed to me.”
The film's narrative surrounding cultural appropriation is often overlooked by it's super-girly Hey Mickey exterior, but it's not really that hard to miss, as it's the key aspect of the plot: a white cheer squad rips off the cheers of a black cheer squad from an underprivileged side of town. Bring It On offered a strong black female role that she hadn't had the chance to play in the other cult teen movies that she'd appeared in (She's All That, 10 Things I Hate About You), and her love for playing those kinds of badass roles has grown with her career.
Given that Union has forged a path for herself as a strong, black woman in an industry that regularly takes undercuts and advantages of people of colour - especially women - it's great to know that her decision to join the Bring It On cast nearly 20 years ago still aligns with the values and social justice issues that she is a loud voice for today.