'Dare Me' is the Queer Drama You’re Looking For [Review]
[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for the first season of USA Network's Dare Me.]
In the world of contemporary film and television, there’s no shortage of teen dramas to sink your teeth into. Now more than ever people are more pulled in by quality. Most want to consume a show that has moments which will make you hold your breath and clutch your blanket. And that’s exactly what you’ll get from USA Network’s Dare Me.
Dare Me is a show, based on the book of the same name, that focuses on the world of competitive high school cheerleading and the relationship between Addy (Herizen Guardiola) and Beth (Marlo Kelly) once their team gets a new coach. In the very first episode you’re presented with the dynamic between the two girls, best friends both with single mothers, that seem otherwise inseparable. They’re clearly archetypal popular girls and have no issues causing trouble or getting into it. Then enters their new coach, Colette French (Willa Fitzgerald), who has no intentions of bending to Beth’s dominant presence on the team. Rather than being put off by her, Addy slowly becomes obsessed with Colette and how she feels around her.
I certainly can’t avoid the tension between Addy and Colette. It’s something you can feel right through the screen. But, there’s also no avoiding the power dynamics and age gap that make their relationship uneasy. Not to mention Colette is also a mother and a wife to a husband that she’s cheating on with old flame Sarge Will (Zach Roerig). Colette is a subtle manipulator (who may not always realize it) which doesn’t register with Addy or anyone else who gets pulled into her web. Yet for Addy the connection is intoxicating and an escape from being the Black girl who wants to believe she’s got the same chance as everyone else. This is a core reason why Colette pulls Addy into her life and mess; given Addy’s vulnerability and desperation for something else, it doesn’t take much for Colette to emotionally seduce her.
As the show moves along there are captivating moments and revelations between Beth and Addy, some of which make you wonder why she’d chase Colette at all when Beth would clearly do anything for and with her. It brings up the very real idea of yearning for something (or in this case someone) that you already have, just to experience a shiny new thing. In Episode 7, titled “Scorched Earth,” there’s a moment between Beth and Addy that sums up this idea. As they are about to go on stage at Regionals, Beth confronts Addy about her being so emotionally aloof:
Beth: This isn’t about me, this is about you. The things that you never admit, what you do, what you want. You just smile and you smile and then you stab me in the fucking heart. Addy: Nothing’s ever enough for you, Beth. Beth: No, it’s my fault. It’s my fault for falling for it. For you again and again and you are never going to choose me. Addy: We’ve been waiting for this our whole lives. Beth: How come, Addy...how come you never choose me? Just tell me the truth for once in your life. What is it about her? What does she have that I don’t know?
With almost no hesitation Addy tells her “She isn’t you,” adding to an already heartbreaking situation. The realistic instability of the characters and their relationships is what sets the show apart from other dramas. Nothing is cookie cutter or overly melodramatic.
Of course the show explores more than just cheerleading, high school rivalries, and the triangle between Addy, Beth and Colette. It also takes on bitterness as a result of parental abandonment, sexual assault and suffering in silence, the pressures of competitive cheerleading, self destructive behavior, and, eventually, covering up a murder. Nothing about the show is boring, despite it being a very slow burn; it offers shocking moments when you least expect them and pulls you into the complicated world of a humdrum small town that wants to make something of itself. Dare Me firmly grasps the concept of growing up and wanting to find yourself but losing yourself at the same time. Its phenomenal cinematography, acting, writing, soundtrack and atmosphere make everything so magical. If you’re desperately craving queer content that has drama, thrills, and mystery — this show will satisfy that very craving. Dare Me is available to stream on Netflix, and more information about it can be found here.