I realized five minutes into Lifetime‘s Identity Theft of a Cheerleader, which premiered September 7, that it was going to be a journey. Is the made-for-TV movie good? Not in the Oscar-bait sense, of course, but it is unquestionably enjoyable. Partially-based on a real-life story, it follows Vicky (Maiara Walsh), a 30-year-old woman who steals a teen’s identity in order to re-enter high school and become a cheerleader. Her motivation? To win the affection of her mother, a former cheerleader herself, who berated Vicky as a child for not following in her footsteps.
Vicky becomes obsessed with living out this cheerleader fantasy—so much so that she kills anyone who threatens to expose her secret. “My mother always said I lacked ambition,” Vicky says right before her first kill, her eyes wide and terrifying. “That was the old Vicky. I’m Caitlin now, and Caitlin makes mommy proud.”
The scene is creepy, but in a campy, I-can’t-believe-this-is-actually-happening way. That’s how Identity Theft of a Cheerleader hooked me. It’s no secret that Lifetime’s bread and butter are movies like this: far-fetched, head-scratching plots with lies, murder, and sex sprinkled in. What is surprising: Movies about cheerleaders are particularly successful for the network.
“Any time we had movies with a cheerleader theme, they just worked,” says Meghan Hooper, Lifetime’s SVP of original movies, co-productions, and acquisitions. “They would out-deliver and outperform.”
So Lifetime is leaning in with a month-long stunt aptly called “Cheer, Rally, Kill.” It started on September 2 with The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders, in which a high school’s new girl takes on the maniacal head cheerleader. The aforementioned Identity Theft of a Cheerleader followed soon after. This coming weekend the stunt will end with The Cheerleader Escort (September 14), about—you guessed it—a college cheerleader who moonlights as an escort, and the equally dramatic Undercover Cheerleader (September 15). These films vary as far as plot goes, but thematically they’re similar: They involve real or fake cheerleaders doing an assortment of sneaky, evil, and bonkers things.
It’s an interesting conceit. In their own bizarre way, these movies subvert the image of the Queen Bee cheerleader so often found in pop-culture. (Think Brooke Davis in One Tree Hill or Cheryl Blossom in Riverdale.) It’s a heightened, at times hilarious, look behind that “popular kid” curtain—a space I never occupied in high school. After watching a few of these Lifetime movies, I’m not too upset about that.