A Delightful Surprise: The Intersection of HELLCATS and Plato

In last week’s episode of HELLCATS “Remember When” (written by James Eagan), the show highlighted a powerful message by tapping into a particularly haunting quote from the ancient philosopher Plato.  The quote was so unexpected that I actually had to re-watch the entire scene to fully appreciate how beautifully the quote was used.
HELLCATS is a show about competitive cheerleading, and most recently how the demands of maintaining a scholarship has put Marti Perkins (Aly Michalka) at odds with her law school studies and her efforts to free a man currently on death row.  In “Remember When,” in order to convince Marti to bury an incriminating DVD implicating the school’s star quarterback in the crime that put another man in prison – a move that would destroy simultaneously the school’s football program and cheerleading program, thereby putting everyone’s scholarships in danger — the Hellcats cheerleaders shared their stories of what motivated each of them to become competitive cheerleaders. 

It was during these revelations that Marti’s roommate and fellow cheerleader Savannah (Ashley Tisdale) told the story of why she abandoned her former parochial college Memphis Christian and applied to Lancer University.  Savannah shared, “I had this theology class with this amazing, wonderful professor.  He taught us about how Plato said, ‘people can’t see the true world — we see it reflected like a shadow on the wall of a cave.’  He showed me that I spent my whole life looking at the shadows, and I’m not getting an accurate picture.” When asked why she left Memphis Christian when she had such an amazing professor, she flatly replied, “He was fired for teaching us about Plato.”
Savannah was referring to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” from The Republic.  It is one of the most famous philosophical quotes in history and has inspired debate for centuries.    It is horrifying to imagine that any college would ever fire a professor for teaching Plato.  But Savannah’s story served two distinct purposes:  it explained her choice to abandon her restrictive upbringing and join a less restrictive college; and it served to remind everyone who heard Savannah’s story that we cannot spend our lives looking through a prism.  We need to embrace the world around us – not just seeing it with rose-colored glasses or through our own narrow self-interested focus.  Plato’s message was to emphasize that, as human beings, we prefer to see the “shadows,” and not the reality that exists around us.  It is too harsh and scary to see the naked, unfiltered truth of how the world is – or, essentially, reality is too difficult to face.
The lesson in HELLCATS served to remind the cheerleaders that, while they may be concerned about their scholarships, are they willing to sacrifice another human being’s life simply so that they can obtain a college education?  Can they ruthlessly stand by and do nothing while a man sits on death row awaiting execution for a crime he did not commit — a man who the Hellcats cheerleaders could save if they were willing to put aside their personal goals and desires?

Initially this episode felt like it was simply a trip down memory lane. But couched carefully amongst the reminiscing was a powerful message about choosing to embrace a cold, harsh reality over hiding in the comforting cocoon of an egocentric life.   It is too easy to hide in our self-imposed caves only watching the shadows on the walls.  But to live removed from the world-at-large creates a multi-tiered level of danger for those who do so.  Willful ignorance is living a life of fear.  Fear of what we do not know – fear of the unknown — fear that we cannot handle things as they exist — and fear that our safe little worlds will be ripped apart.
Just like Savannah refused to be coddled and have her perceptions of reality determined by those who would filter her education, the Hellcats refused to stand behind a veil of secrecy so that an innocent man was put to death.  They voted unanimously to turn over the DVD as evidence to have the conviction overturned – even if it meant sacrificing their own scholarships in the process.  It was not just a matter of doing the right thing, it was choosing to live a life without fear — to not be one of the people living in a cave staring at shadows on the wall.  
The Hellcats may worry about how they will be able to afford a college education without their scholarships; but they will live without the guilt of knowing they sent an innocent man to his death because they were unwilling to live outside their “caves.”
It was an applaud-worthy episode and one that I fear not enough people either watched or for which they understood the significance.  Just like HELLCATS embraced Plato, so should we all.  After all, the time of the caveman is long gone. We now live in the era of the Internet and wi-fi.  It would be too easy to hide in our own computer-generated “caves” and ignore the real world.  But the price of that is that to do so is to live in fear and to miss out on the joys of what is really out there to be explored and discovered.  Bravo to HELLCATS for embracing Plato and teaching us all that we need not live in self-imposed isolation and fear.

Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).

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