[an error occurred while processing this directive] Women, Sport, and Film - Spring 2005
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'This Girl Can Play'


Krystal Madkins

3. It is the year 2010, you have been commissioned to write a screen play about women's athletics using race, class, gender or sexual orientation as underlying themes. Who are your protagonists, what is the story line, why have you chosen the style/topic? What is the outcome?

Main plot line

After years of playing informally with friends and family, 15 year old ZoŽ Foster decides she wants to play football with her high school. The 'problem' is that the football team at her school is for boys only and students, faculty, and the members of the community cannot imagine their beloved state champion team being intruded upon by a girl. ZoŽ is from a single parent home. She lives with her mother and older sister, Bianca. They are from a lower middle class family with wages earned by her secretary mother and sales clerk sister. For years, ZoŽ has embraced playing sports with the neighborhood boys as a way of taking her mind off her family's financial woes. These boys, after initially teasing ZoŽ and telling her girls don't play sports, generally come to accept ZoŽ's presence. When they learn of her plans to try out for the high school squad, however, many of the boys who have gone on to be on the team themselves, express indignation at the idea of ZoŽ joining the team.

ZoŽ's desire to try out for her high school football team creates excitement in the high school and community. There's an equal split between those who are on ZoŽ's side and those who are dismayed at the idea of a girl playing on an all boys football team. Initially, the coaches debate whether ZoŽ should be given the opportunity to even try out for the team but after agreeing to humor ZoŽ and themselves, the coaches agree to let her try out. ZoŽ tries out for wide receiver, a position in which ZoŽ is commonly known to excel. Although some of those at the tryouts know of ZoŽ's skill, others are astounded to see that she actually plays the position well. Despite this great showing ZoŽ is denied a spot on the football team. The head coach of the team contends that she won't be able to compete against other football players and that there is no time for any of the disorder that ZoŽ's presence on the football team could cause; that if the school wants to hold its title as state football champion there is no time for such shenanigans.
ZoŽ feels disheartened after learning that she has not made the team. Her mother, originally supportive yet tepid during the whole fiasco, becomes livid and insists that ZoŽ protest against the decision. With her mother's support ZoŽ does just that and manages to round up enough supporters that the football team reverses its decision and allows ZoŽ onto the team. Although officially on the team, ZoŽ is relegated to being a bench warmer. The coach contends that he doesn't need another wide receiver. ZoŽ is ready to protest again but feels that she will be perceived as a whiner and not have as much support as before.

Surprisingly, over time one of the assistant coaches recognizes how unfairly ZoŽ is being treated. He suggests to the head coach that she be allowed to come in sometime late during the next game and play for a few seconds. In spite of reservations, the coach eventually relents and agrees to let ZoŽ play. ZoŽ is surprised as everyone else when during the next game she is sent in late in the fourth quarter. ZoŽ manages to shake off her surprise and perform surprisingly well. She makes two key catches that put her team closer to scoring another touchdown...one that only sweetens their victory over the opposing team. After this impressive showing, ZoŽ is given more opportunities to play during games in a season that would see the team retain the state champion title. ZoŽ, however, is never allowed to start in any of the games though. As the movie ends showing gaining more recognition as a legitimate football player, a few ending words come up that state that during her senior year ZoŽ is allowed a starting position on the team. She becomes the first girl in her city to ever start on a high school football team.

Side plots

Jordan: One of Zoe's closest friends who is also on the football team. Jordan is one of the few people on the team to support Zoe from the very beginning of her attempts to join the football team. Jordan's popularity and charisma lead others to follow his example and support Zoe's endeavors. Jordan is also a closeted homosexual. He sees hope for an openly gay football player being on the team as the team becomes more accepting (for example, letting Zoe on the team). He, however, never comes out to anyone on the team but Zoe and Frank. He expresses his hope that some other player will one day come out as gay and still be successful on the team.

Frank: A friend of Zoe's and Jordan's who is the star quarterback on the team. Although raised in a football crazed family, Frank questions the importance and fun of football. He expresses interest in dropping football in order to play baseball only to be met with resistance from the coaches and athletic department of the school. Frank is threatened with the possibility of receiving lowered grades in his classes if he drops football for baseball. Once his family is alerted to his intentions, they too take part in abusing Frank. Thinking it all too much, Frank decides to continue playing football in high school but to pursue other sports in college.

Bianca: Zoe's sister who happens to be a state ranked tennis player. She became involved with the game after hanging out with more affluent friends at their country clubs. Bianca tries to convince her sister to try out for a more genteel sport like tennis. She thinks Zoe only wants to be the center of attention but eventually comes to see her sister's great love for the game. In the end she becomes her sister's biggest advocate.

I have chosen this topic to explore because I have always been interested in the absence of girls from football and baseball. After briefly considering baseball, I decided to focus on football because of its increasing role as "America's favorite pastime". I decided to look at high school football because I thought there would be a greater chance for women at this level versus the professional level. Although the focus of the movie is Zoe's attempts to join her high school's football team, there are side plots (listed above) which help in addressing issues of gender, sexuality, and class in the movie. In addressing gender roles, there is the contrast between the sisters and sports which are different in regards to women's presence. There is so much uproar at the idea of a girl joining the football team because of the role that the game plays in boys learning to be men and exerting their masculinity. A girl's presence threatens that. There are also issues with class. The reason that Zoe begins playing sports in the first place is because she wants to take her mind off financial problems. Sports act as a way for both her and her sister to take their minds off these problems. They take different routes though. Bianca chooses to play tennis with her wealthier friends in the hopes of taking on their 'upper' class values and showing that she has worth. Sexuality is the final theme addressed. Zoe deals with the questioning of her sexuality because of her interest in football. Although when asked she replies that she is straight, Zoe never goes out of her way to prove her heterosexuality. This is in contrast to some of her male teammates who have rotations of girlfriends which are 'due' to them (because of their status as football players) and also as a subconscious way to prove their heterosexuality. While the questions about Zoe's sexuality die down it is hinted at in the movie that the possible homosexuality of a male athlete would never die down. This is part of the reason why Jordan stays in the closet. Along with all these issues, there are general ethics issues, such as the deviance that Frank encounters. Although there are more issues that could be covered, I hope that these main ones could highlight some of the problems in sport and the strides that are being (or could be) made. [an error occurred while processing this directive]