Screenwriter for a Day

Amy Stern Women, Sport, and Film - 2003 Student Papers

For the past century, women and sports have been kept separate in the media as a whole. When they are combined, the portrayal of athletic women is appalling; it is seemingly impossible to be both "feminine" and accomplished at sports in movies today. Were I to write a screenplay dealing with women and sports, I would feel the need to make several changes to the formula as it now stands.

To make a movie about women's sports, the projected audience must first be examined closely. The typical film about women in sports today seems to be aimed less at teenage girls looking for role models, and more at teenage boys looking for eye candy. Perhaps the first, and most important, change in creating movies about women and athleticism would be to reevaluate this question of audience. To write a film that is truly about women's sports and current society, the screenwriter must make an active effort to divorce this objectifying look -- the "male gaze" famously described by Laura Mulvey -- from the movie itself. Through this, the audience would receive a much more realistic view of a character, who would look more like the average athlete than a movie star.

Another important objective would be finding actresses who fit the roles of the protagonists. It would be imperative to find someone who looks like an athlete rather than a model, which is to say, one who is muscular and toned rather than waif-like and weak. This is not to say that the actresses playing the protagonists would have to be unattractive; no, it would in fact enhance the movie to have women who are both beautiful and powerful. But their beauty would not be the only reason for hiring them.

Along these lines, aforementioned beautiful actresses would not all be "traditionally" beautiful, in the manner of Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush, but rather a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Most women in the media seem to be the "ideal" rather than the typical. A movie about women's sports which is meant to encourage women instead of objectifying them would need to make an effort to present people whose physicality its audience could actually reach. Movies wherein the heroine represents the intellectual or emotional goal, but whose physique is absolutely unattainable, discourage the viewer from striving towards the ideals the heroine embodies.

Similarly, the heroines should have a wide variety of personality traits. As shown in A League of Their Own, women united by a common goal (in that case love of baseball) can at the same time have individual quirks which made them not just a member of a group, but also a specific person. This encourages women to strike out on their own, even as they work towards a single target. This also provides the audience with a wide range of characters to whom they might relate.

Another important step towards advancing women would be a wide range of sexualities within the text. In most movies we saw, female characters were given token male love interests. In some, such as Blue Crush, the male characters seemed to be there purely to distract the viewer from the relationship between women. Lacking a character's definite proof of heterosexuality through the boys, the reader might misinterpret the homosocial relationships as homosexual behavior. While being athletic by no means implies that the character is homosexual, it also doesn't necessarily mean that she's straight, and it would be important to have at least one character who is in some way queer.

Logic dictates that a team sport would be more beneficial to the themes of female empowerment, independence, and interdependence than a sport about an individual character. Blue Crush and National Velvet dealt for the most part with single girls, who had supportive friends and family but no true equals. This would not fit the ideals of many girls working towards a common goal, nor would it allow for any true competition. A sport like volleyball or soccer would perhaps be the best examples to use; these require both teamwork and athletic prowess.

The protagonists, then, would be the team members, women who are forced to defy gender stereotypes while doing what they love most. As stated above, they could be intelligent, beautiful, funny, friendly, strong-willed, empowered, and sweet -- but they don't NEED to be any of these things. None of the heroines of the film would be perfect; perfection would work against the very ideals the storyline and theme would be emphasizing. Instead, they would seem very human, which perhaps is the most important quality missing from contemporary films about women in athletics. We see heroes and villains, characters who deserve to win and characters who function as obstacles. None of these are true examples for the members of the audience, who occupy the real world. By making the protagonists people who might as well be real, we could make sure that young girls would benefit from the portrayals.

| Forums | Serendip Home |

Send us your comments at Serendip

© by Serendip 1994-2002 - Last Modified: Wednesday, 02-May-2018 10:51:19 CDT