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Women, Sport, and Film - Fall 2005
Student Papers
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Chick Flicks and Sports Films: Social Expectations

Dana Bakalar

Both Bridget Jones' Diary and Love and Basketball support societal expectations for women's behavior. Although Bridget Jones is the clearer case, Love and Basketball also supports the idea that women are more complete with a man, that they should act in a feminine manner and be pretty in order to have a good life.

In Bridget Jones, Bridget is portrayed as a neurotic, obsessive woman, who absolutely needs a man in her life in order to feel good about herself. First she has an affair with her boss, who is only using her for sex and who subsequently cheats on her. Meanwhile, she keeps running into Mark Darcy, a friend of the family who she thinks is a total dork and not at all desireable. Over the course of the film, she comes to love Mark, and finally he leaves his young, thin fiancée for Bridget, and the film ends in a kiss. In some ways, the character of Bridget mocks society's ideals about womanhood- her comfort eating and body conciousness are over exaggerated for humour purposes, and her everlasting search for a man is also portrayed as humerous.

In the beginning of the film, all of these negative and gendered characteristics are on full display in Bridget, who sleeps with her boss, tries to mold her body using huge underpant, obsesses over her weight, and generally fails at her work and social life. The film proposes to tell us as viewers that a woman like this is great the way she is, and can be valued for herself, but it ends up telling us the opposite.

When Bridget finally gets into a relationship with Mark Darcy, who supposedly likes her the way she is, she is finally happy. In this way, the film supports the idea that a woman needs a relationship with a man in order to complete her and validate her personality.

Bridget's mother goes through a similar path in the film. She has also strayed from her ideal man, Bridget's father, and taken up with an inappropriate partner in the form of the TV salesman. This man does not love her for who she is, but wants to make her into a fabulous television personality. Mrs. Jones' return to the side of her long-suffering husband, while it does support the idea that a woman should be loved for being who she is, also supports the idea that the only way she can do this is by being verified by a man.

The women in Bridget Jones' Diary are broken, neurotic, and imperfect, but they finally find happiness in the arms of a man who can accept and love their flaws. These women are unable to see themselves as good, and need a male to confirm it for them. This supports societal expectations that women should be weak and dependant, needing a man to live happily ever after with.

Love and Basketball is a sports film, and as such portrays women differently than Bridget Jones' Diary did. However, in the end it still supports the idea that in order to be really happy with who she is, a woman needs to have a man verify her goodness. Monica, the main character, loves basketball and has since she was a child. She is also in love with Quincy, who she met in the neigberhood when she was eleven. Over the course of the film, they both pursue professional basketball, and both succeed in getting into the big leagues. In college, however, they break up, and Monica's subsequent career feels empty without the love of Quincy. When they meet up again, Quincy leaves his ditzy fiancée for Monica, and becomes a supportive father, watching her as she plays basketball.

On the surface, this seems different than Bridget Jones. Monica is a strong woman, and she does succeed in her chosen career. However, when one looks closer it is clear that similar messages are sent by this film. Love and Basketball also supports the idea that a woman cannot be complete and happy without a man to love, regardless of her personal qualities.

Monica is a strong woman, and a great basketball player. She gets into the big leagues, and ends up playing in Europe, but in order to get there she does need to change herself somewhat to fit more feminine patterns of behavior. She is disciplined in high school and college basketball for being too loud and angry at setbacks, for speaking up to the ref the way men do. The film comments on this, asking why men can behave that way and be in the NBA but Monica gets pulled out of high school games because of it, but in the end Monica changes her behavior in order to fit in and be more feminine, to stay in the sport.

Monica's mother wants her to be girly, to do her hair, to go to dances, but Monica has no interest in this. Despite her seeming unfemininity, Minica does end up fulfilling her mother's expectations. Although she ends up strong and successful in her sport, she cannot do this without the love and support of Quincy. When Monica is playing ball in Europe, she is feeling disaffected and alone, missing Quincy. She is on the verge of quitting the sport when they reunite at their homes where they first met.

In Love and Basketball, like in Bridget Jones, the woman needs a man to be self actualized and happy.

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