It’s been over 20 years since Bring It On was released, and the iconic teen film has been the source of many a cheeky reference, from spirit fingers to Cliff’s cringey bon-bon song. Even though the film is now a cult classic, star Gabrielle Union has recalled her role in the film opposite Kristen Dunst as Clovers’ head cheerleader Isis, and says he regrets how she portrayed the character. And the reason has to do with long-standing racial stereotypes.
Gabrielle Union has now written her second book titled You Got Anything Stronger? and she has an entire chapter dedicated to her Bring It On character Isis. She touches on this in an appearance on Good Morning America, and says that she wishes she would not have “muzzled” Isis by reigning in her anger. Here’s what the Bad Boys franchise star says, exactly:
I do think it was a mistake. I was given full range to do whatever I wanted with Isis in Bring It On, and I chose respectability, and to be classy and take the high road. Black girls aren't allowed to be angry, certainly not demonstratively angry, and I muzzled her.
Gabrielle Union is not one for sugar coating things, and she explains that not having Isis feel and react with the anger like the other members of the Clovers had was a mistake. By having Isis take “the high road”, she, in a way, may have allowed the unfair stereotype of the angry Black woman to continue. Kristen Dunst’s character’s team the Toros had not only stolen one cheer, but had been rewarded for stealing years worth of creativity from the Clovers, a predominantly Black team.
The injustice was clear to pretty much everyone who watched the film: the Clovers were overwhelmingly a better team in both physical and creative talent. Despite that obvious fact, the Clovers had not been given the credit they deserved nor were they ever recognized as the talent they were. Thankfully, the film did have the decency to give 1st prize to the Clovers at the end of the film, but that hasn’t stopped Gabrielle Union for being stuck on how Isis should have been portrayed.
In the same appearance, Gabrielle Union says that she should have let Isis explore her anger more. What the Toros team had been doing was wrong, yet Union feels that the way she portrayed Isis may have downplayed just how bad the transgression was. Here it is in her own words:
I would have allowed her her full humanity, and part of being a full human is the ability to express rage when harmed. When you don't really allow yourself your full range of emotion and you muzzle your own emotions, it allows people to think, 'Maybe what I did wasn't that bad.’ I would have given her all the anger.
While more angry may have made Isis more human and given her team strength, the way Gabrielle Union played Isis was nowhere near weak. Both Union and Isis exuded strength anytime she was on screen in Bring It On. In fact, Union’s performance in Bring It On just may have been the most unrealistic thing in the movie - solely because the woman who was Isis was so much beyond a high school senior in both presence and maturity.
I don’t think there is anyone who would call Gabrielle Union’s portrayal of Isis weak, although she's reflecting on how she played the beloved character. Even so, Union has grown as an actress and has seemingly learned from the self-proclaimed mistake she made when playing Isis. She has since played a number of Black women who could never be described as “muzzled” and is staying true to both who she is and what she represents on big screen. If and when a true sequel ever happens, it would be exciting to see how Union brings Isis back with this new perspective on the character.