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Women, Sport, and Film - 2002
Student Papers
On Serendip

Fighting Kerry Keenan

by an anonymous student

Theme: Primarily, as we've discussed, this film is loosely based on the story of Lola Bardem, who as a student at Sarah Lawrence college was convicted of killing her lover and roommate, Sara Shield with a compound bow. Lola, an All-American archer, and three time cover-model for Sports Illustrated was the defendant in the case brought against her by the victim's family. The case, which I'm sure we all remember was important for many reasons, not only due to the strange nature of Sara's death, but also for the evidence brought against, and in support of Lola, including issues concerning her upbringing in a low-income neighborhood, her sexual orientation, and her gender.

Although Lola's case has been closed for almost five years now, the ramifications of the suit are still being felt. Since then, many of the nations colleges and universities have cut funding for sports that are considered "out-dated" and "dangerous", although many traditional sports like football, ice-hockey, track and field, and sailing still continue to receive a large sum of funding—often being cited as sports that are associated with the identity of the school, and therefore untouchable due to pressure from alums and television networks that broadcast the games nationally. However, and perhaps more importantly, the film will mainly be concerned with the case itself, and the uproar it caused in the media.

Protagonists: For our purposes, Lola's name has been changed to Kerry. Although the film is ultimately constructed temporally along the events of Kerry's case, the main protagonist is an 18 year old high school senior named Darby Brennan, who is at the time of the case is being pursued by elite universities to join their basketball team. The news that we as viewers gather about the case is filtered to us through Darby's perspective. Although initially naïve with respect to the world of competitive women's sports, Darby's experience watching the case ultimately influences her decision about playing sports in college.

Other than her testimony, Kerry herself doesn't have much of a main part. Rather, it is the media's portrayal of Kerry's case that occupies much of the narrative, and should lead the viewer to question the portrayal of women in sports. Often scenes in the movie will be filmed to give the viewer the feeling of being the audience of news telecasts. However, in order to emphasize narrative perspective, Darby will often comment on the information we receive, questioning how her own life could possibly be construed by the media, and her own activities misinterpreted in the interest of television ratings.
Issues: Although there were many issues that were brought up in the case, we've chosen two to really focus on, that will drive the plot.

1. Raised in low-income, Latino neighborhood, the defendants in the case use Kerry's upbringing in an attempt to create an excuse for her cold-blooded behavior. Although she is Caucasian, Kerry's rough childhood on the street of New York City is accentuated to explain her actions many years later, when in a fit of jealousy she kills her lover, after Sara places ahead of her in the Olympic trials. The lawyers emphasize Kerry's inability to cope with being placed behind someone so close to her, as in her early childhood, those that came in second were often either forgotten, killed in gang-warfare, or left to live a life with little chance of social mobility in the ghetto. Kerry's lawyers also accentuate her natural "need as a woman" (we're trying to keep this as close to the real case as possible) to be loved, coddled and taken care of, and how the lack of these things in early childhood leads to her brutal attack on someone who many considered her best friend.

2. Secondly, the film focuses on the media's portrayal of women athletes. One of the most interesting facts about Lola's case was the media's refusal to cast a beautiful young girl as having the capacity to murder in cold-blood. Although Lola testified in court (and we'll have Kerry do the same in the film), that her only motive was to "off the only real threat to her success", the media persisted in it's attempt to skew her insatiable competitive drive as anything than a pure desire to be the best. Also, we will note, (though not emphasize) the sexualization of Kerry's lifestyle, and how the media translated her relationship with Sara into a "sex-crazed lesbian romp". However, as the issue of Kerry's sexuality was rarely the focus of either the case or the media's coverage, it's not something that we've chose to spend a lot of time with.

Finally, though we are all aware of the results of the Bardem trial, the film is primarily concerned with how the events of the case affect Darby's decision to play sports in college. Although she begins the film with the idea that women's sports had become a fairly liberal arena, Kerry's case ultimately leads Darby to refuse her offers to play sports in college, embittered by her experience watching the case and discussing it with her peers.
Any changes can be sent to me directly.

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