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[personal profile] bookgazing posting in [community profile] ladybusiness

‘A League of Their Own’ is one of those films I will always settle down to watch, if I find it while flicking around through television channels. It doesn’t matter what time I find it, or how much of the film I’ve missed this time. I always find myself putting the control down, curling up and willing The Rockford Peaches, a fictional female baseball team from 1950s America, on to victory. So, what exactly is it besides my usual interest in sporting narratives that makes me love this film so hard?

1.) The film is based around an episode in WWII history that isn’t mentioned that often in typical coverage of that period. During WWII, baseball teams were destroyed as men went off to fight. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was created to keep interest in baseball alive (and bring in much needed money for the male team bosses). The women involved in teams that resemble the film’s fictional Peaches, receive less main stream notice than they should considering the fascination for all aspects of baseball that appears to exist in America. Media that makes me aware of under publicised history always gives me a little thrill.

2.) Obviously, with the story of female sports players at its heart ‘A League of Their Own’ is a film that focuses on women. There are so many ladies in this film1 and they all spend time playing baseball, as well as doing other things (like sneaking out to swing dance). They talk to each other about a variety of subjects such as baseball, the war, men, family and dreams. In the past, Lady Business posts have referenced links to several sources that show the serious, sexist gender imbalance in the film industry. Personally I like to see women represented in media, because woman are awesome and y’know exist, so films featuring women generally draw me in. Films where the relationships between those women are portrayed with energy and given significance get their own room in my heart.

3.) Geena Davis, who plays the film’s main Dottie Hinson, has been involved in several films and series that either worked hard to be feminist, or contained a female-centric focus. Renay tells me she is also a political activist who gave her support to The Women’s Sports Foundation and set up The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. A feminist star in a movie about women, giving a fun, convincing character portrayal! Whichever dude was taking a snooze when that happened, I thank him because it certainly is inspiring to see Davis portray such an admirable character, so vigorously.

4.) It's a funny film. Look proof that women can be funny! Oh wait, we had lots of proof already? Well now I’m all confused. Anyway, ‘A League of Their Own’ isn’t going to win any awards for comedic originality, but it’s as gently funny as any other film Tom Hanks has starred in and it makes me laugh.

5.) It tries hard to incorporate realistic historical commentary on social issues, instead of concealing any unpleasant history with jazz hands, like some many other feel good historical films (‘Leatherheads’ you are lucky I don’t bust your nose in). Dottie has a short interaction with a black women who would not have been considered for the league the Peaches play in, despite her clear talent, because of the ‘separate, but equal’ philosophy of racial prejudice present at the time. In this moment the film acknowledges that although the story of The Peaches succeeding in a traditionally male professional arena is a story of feminist triumph, not all women would have cause to fully celebrate this particular victory.

‘A League of Their Own’ also shows awareness of other compromises that would have been made as women tried to establish their right to play baseball. There are scenes where Dottie dramatically showboats to keep crowds interested. I assume a male player would have been disciplined for unnecessarily endangering score lines if he’d pulled similar tricks, but Dottie has no choice. She needs to win over crowds conditioned to be uninterested in women playing sports, or the women’s league will be wound up on the grounds that girls playing baseball doesn’t sell tickets. Other player’s must use flirtatious tactics to fill stadiums, which is a feminist compromise you perhaps wouldn’t expect of women fighting for equality, but again the Peaches have little choice. They need to fill stadiums if they want to keep playing (they really want to keep playing) and promises of kisses from pretty girls will put paying men in seats.

Here’s a feel good movie that is comfortable acknowledging the problems any historical feminist struggle has faced; the compromises made and the common place exclusion, without worrying that this will jeopardise the viewer’s support for the characters’ journey. It’s not perfect, but it has a good go at nosing some true representations towards its viewers. Tom Hank’s character, Jimmy Dugan, isn’t an instantly progressive male coach. Despite her consistent pro-female stance Dottie isn’t able to push back against the cultural conditioning that tells her being a wife is ‘enough’ once her husband returns home. Only through the depiction of the messy reality of history, can we see the true importance of the gains made in socio-political struggles.

There you go then, my reasons for shaking off the world’s claims whenever this film appears on television. Does anybody else have a bit of a thing for this film?

1 Including Madonna - I love early Madonna films

Date: 2011-09-08 06:20 pm (UTC)
dancesontrains: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dancesontrains
I'd never heard of this before, but it does sound really, really good! Have you seen Chak De!India? It's a Bollywood film with a fairly similar premise, only the team plays hockey.

Date: 2011-09-09 08:43 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
ChakDe India is very similar and very good! I highly recommend it! Oh, and Bend it Like Beckham is another good one.

Date: 2011-09-15 05:40 am (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
I liked her in that movie! When I saw her work again it was in Pirates and I didn't even recognize her, if that sways you at all! :D


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