Like a lot of
lesbians women, I played sports in high school. And I like sports movies. But trying to find a decent sports movie about female athletes is like trying to find a decent lesbian character on network TV – a daunting task, to say the least.
There’s Personal Best (track). Million Dollar Baby and Girlfight (boxing). A League of Their Own (softball). Wimbledon (tennis). Stick It (gymnastics). All You’ve Got (volleyball). Her Best Move and She’s the Man (soccer). And I suppose we have to count Karate Kid 3 (karate), and Blue Crush (surfing) – although the amount of whining in that film almost disqualifies it.
There’s also a 2005 documentary I haven’t seen yet about a girl’s basketball team called The Heart of the Game that’s supposed to be good, and a fictional movie called Tournament of Dreams about a girl’s basketball team that no one has seen yet, because the release date keeps getting pushed (supposedly it’s coming out this month).
Then there are my two personal favorites, Bend it Like Beckham (soccer) and Love and Basketball (basketball):
But that’s pretty much it. Around 15 movies total. (If I’ve missed any, please add them in the comments – I’m always on the lookout for more!)
There are 45 titles listed on IMDb with the keyword “female athlete” – but this list includes movies like Playboy Playmates at Play, the original Bad News Bears (in which Tatum O’Neal plays the pitcher on a boy’s little league team), and the 1951 classic Racket Girls, aka Wrestling Women USA, about “a gangster who manages women wrestlers as a front for his bookmaking, drug, and prostitution rackets.”
Add the prevalence of movies like this to the fact that romance is almost always given equal footing with competition in stories about female athletes, and it’s no wonder Americans don’t take women’s sports seriously.
The good news? The number of women’s sports movies has grown exponentially recently – most of the movies I listed above were made in the last 5 or 6 years. So maybe we have some momentum going. Maybe 10 years from now, we’ll actually have 30 movies about female athletes. Probably half of them will star Hilary Swank and Michelle Rodriguez, in movies where they juggle the demands of being a world-class golfer/bowler/ping pong champion with being a good wife, but whatever, I’ll take it.