Had I seen it before: Yes! It’s one of my all-time favorites.
What IMDb says: Two sisters join the first female professional baseball league and struggle to help it succeed amidst their own growing rivalry.
– At least one sports movie
Why I picked it: I still needed a sports movie, so I defaulted to one of my long-standing favorites.
What I liked about it: Most movies have one central relationship that makes or breaks the whole story. A large part of why A League of Their Own works so well is that it nails that central relationship between Dottie and Kit. These two are constantly at odds with each other, yet we never doubt their love for each other. As critical as Dottie is of Kit, she’s the first one to stand up for Kit whenever someone else criticizes her.
What I love about these characters and this relationship is that I think a lot of people can see themselves in both sisters. Even if we didn’t have an older sibling, I think a lot of us can relate to being insecure about our looks or abilities because we’re comparing ourselves to someone else. I also think a lot of us can relate to feeling like we’re constantly making sacrifices for someone we love and yet the other person remains ungrateful. The tension is very raw and real, and pays off big time in the final game.
The movie also does a great job of exploring the sexism these woman had to endure. The movie came out in 1992 when perhaps watching women play baseball didn’t seem so revolutionary or compelling. I think it was imperative to provide historical context so that the audience can truly understand just how big a deal this league was.
- We get that with scenes of the players in charm school.
- We get that when the women are first informed that they will have to play ball in a skirt.
- We get that when they are told they will be chaperoned, and that tobacco, alcohol, men and basically fun in general will not be allowed.
- We get it when a talk radio host complains about how WWII is screwing up gender roles and that girls playing baseball is one of the most egregious examples of it.
- We get it when Jimmy Dugan complains that these women “aren’t ballplayers, they’re girls.”
Because the film consistently reminds us how limited the world’s definition of femininity was at the time, we’re able to see the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League as more than just baseball. We understand that these women have never had an opportunity like this before. Every time management threatens to dissolve the league, the stakes are high because most of these women don’t have other careers they love to return to. We understand that society is watching women be tough and strong in ways they never did before. The league is part of this larger feminist movement.
I also want to commend the movie for representing a lot of different types of women. Marla is often ridiculed for her looks, but she plays alongside a former Miss Georgia. May is promiscuous but many of her teammates are happily married. Kit loves baseball and could make a career out of it forever, while Dottie wants to move back home and raise kids after her husband comes home from the war. None of these things are portrayed as right or wrong, just different.
What I didn’t like: The movie is really white. Now, it takes place primarily in 1943, when the USA was undeniably a very racist place, so I give it a bit of a pass. And perhaps it’s not really fair to use 2018 standards of feminism when critiquing a 1992 movie.
The film does at least pay lip service to women of color for two seconds, when one black woman throws a ball past Dottie back to the pitcher. This is as if to say “look, the reason we didn’t put black women in the movie is because it’s 1943 and America is still really racist. We totally get that black women can play just as well as white woman.”
That being said I can’t help but think that if this same movie HAD been made in 2018, it would’ve done a better job of driving this point home. For all the lengths it goes to to show how terrible life was for white women in this era, it does very little to acknowledge how black women had it even worse. Now for me personally, this isn’t enough to really ruin the movie, but it is something I noticed this time around that keeps the film from being absolutely perfect.
Will I watch it again: Yes! I don’t know when, but it’s too good not to.