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Women, Sport, and Film - Fall 2005
Student Papers
On Serendip

It's a Carefully-Formulated Structure—Explore it, and it Will Not Hold

Ana C.

While chick flicks and women's sports films are distinguished by the quirks of their protagonists, the voices of their characters, and the twists in their plotlines, they all share the common demand for our feisty heroines to challenge themselves in new ways. These challenges can be emotional, like Bridget Jones' ability to forgive Colin Firth's character for his pride, even as she apologizes for her own prejudice against him and his mother's reindeer sweater. The tests can also have underlying physical qualities, like Bridget's goal to reach the ever-elusive "perfect weight," or Kit's yearning to score the winning run in a major game. Whatever shape or form these trials might take, it always falls on the protagonist to resolve them.

Almost without fail, our heroines employ the help of their friends or love interests in the quest, for a time allowing themselves—albeit grudgingly—to be guided towards what the outside parties surrounding them deem best. A clear example of this occurs in Bend it Like Beckham, when Jasminda follows her parents' and sister's will, attending her sister's wedding instead of playing in the soccer championship. However, it would not be a women's empowerment film (or Hollywood at all) if it ended in this self-sacrificing way; Jasminda's father cedes permission for her to play in the game, and it is with this small opening that she blazes her way into victory, proving herself first as a daughter, then as a soccer player, soon after as a friend, and later on, as a girlfriend. It seems that she must fulfill all of these roles for the movie to end on a hopeful, upbeat note. indi women in saris line-dancing to "Hot, hot, hot." While these movies present important questions around gender roles, racial prejudices, ethnic tensions, and class conflicts, it is always on a rather superficial level. While these mainstream films poke at the collective consciousness about these dyanamics, they rarely push into real development, maintaining a tongue-in-cheek tone throughout the film.

We not only see this in the way the film begins, with Jasminda digitally inserted into Beckham's soccer game, but also in the unlikely conclusion, with Hindi women in saris line-dancing to "Hot, hot, hot." In another case, we witness homophobia in Jules's mother, as she worries that her daughter might be a lesbian. She is relieved to find that she is mistaken, but when she regains her composure, she mumbles "Not that there is anything wrong with being a lesbian..." This off-hand comment skewers the hypocrisy of moderate liberalism, as it sets different standards for society than it does for personal "policies." However, without continuing the development of this message, the comment is lost to a montage of music and dancing, fading into the smattering of sociopolitical statements that are rarely explored.

Chick flicks and women's sports films are quite similar, each ascribing to a closely-defined formula that walks a clear-cut line to the conclusions we expect to see as an audience. It is only when this line becomes three-dimensional that we begin to explore important themes of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.

Oftentimes in class this semester, it was frustrating to be traveling in circles around the same, somewhat limited topics. However, this was not for a lack of inquisitive minds, and certainly not for a lack of a strong teacher; rather, we discovered that we can only go so far with the themes that are brushed upon in the world of the chick flick or even the women's sports film. Chick flicks and women's sports films are the Pandora's Box of the movie business, providing fodder for discussion that can only be continued and explored more fully outside of the movie's context.

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