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Women, Sport,
and Film - 2003


On Serendip

Scripting a Woman's Sport Film

Rachel Hochberg

It just takes a glance through the pages of a newspaper or sports magazine, or a perusal of the sports coverage on the local news, to see that women's sports get drastically less coverage than men's sports. It's also easy to see that the women's sports covered most frequently and most completely are "feminine" sports, those our society considers more appropriate for women to participate in, such as tennis, figure skating and gymnastics. The more "masculine" sports (everything else) get less coverage, and considerably less than male teams in those same sports. This is an aspect of media coverage in our society that seems not to have improved over time, and will likely not improve by much in the near future. While women's equality has progressed in most other areas of life and society, sports in the media seem to stagnate. Similarly, equal treatment of homosexuals has also progressed in society, but in the realm of sports is again in a rut. Women participating in "masculine" sports like basketball, hockey and wrestling are often assumed to be or accused of being lesbians, simply because they're strong, tough. Both of these aspects of women in sports seem unlikely to improve in the near future, though hopefully even a little bit of progress will be made. So, today's cultural setting can serve as a backdrop for the writing of a screenplay in the year 2010.

The protagonists in the script I would write, as a screenwriter in 2010, are two women who grew up together in some rural area, most likely somewhere north, cold. As children, they learned to ice skate together. One of these women, as an adult, turned that skill and love for the ice into a career in professional figure skating. It will be revealed during the course of the script that this woman is actually a lesbian, but completely closeted; not even her childhood friend knows. It is also revealed during the script that this figure skater is in love with the childhood friend, and has been for several years. The childhood friend, also driven by a love for the ice, becomes an ice hockey player. She's tough, well-built, a large woman, and because of her stature and her sport, she is often rumored to be homosexual. She is actually straight, but has had bad luck in love, finding that many men find her too "tough," or assume that she is gay and don't pursue.

The plot of the script is fairly straightforward, though there are some twists and turns; The hockey player's team is making their way quickly up the ladder in their sport, nearing the championships, and as of yet undefeated. However, they get next-to-no media coverage. This angers the hockey player, and she comes up with a scheme to challenge the unjust bias of the media and to draw their attention to her rising team. Her idea, which she presents to the figure skater, is to pretend that she actually is gay, and be seen publicly with another woman, playing on the already circulating rumors about her own sexuality. She asks the figure skater, as her lifelong best friend, to help her and pretend to be her lover. This is, of course, a chance too good to pass up, and the figure skater agrees. The plan works: though they're both awkward at first, they soon start to get into their roles, holding hands and hugging after hockey games and eventually kissing in public. Once the media gets a whiff of this "relationship," they pounce on it, and the team gets drastically more coverage than they ever did before, via the hockey player's scheme.

However, they hockey player is gradually beginning to have real feelings for the figure skater, though she doesn't admit to them. Her confusion over these feelings and the constant media circus, as well as problems that start to arise between herself and her teammates, all combine to cause her plan to backfire on her; the day before the big championship game, the hockey player makes a public statement explaining the entire scheme, and reassuring the public that she is, in fact, straight. The figure skater is there with her, to back up their explanation, but when the hockey player declares that they are both straight, the figure skater speaks up, coming out formally and making it known that she has been a lesbian all along.

The issues being dealt with here are fairly clear; the first issue is the unfair and unequal coverage of women's sports in the media, particularly unfair coverage of "masculine" sports played by women. The second issue is homosexuality in women's sports; the misconceptions about women who play "masculine" sports, and the lack of acceptance and understanding that lesbians often face in the world of sports. In the end of the script, at the big championship game, the hockey player is so distracted by her personal problems and pressured by the media at the game that she misses a vital goal, and her team loses the game. Surprisingly, however, the media jumps all over the winning team, giving them the coverage they probably deserve for their athletic skill, ignoring the hockey player and tired of her scandals. The figure skater is there watching the game, and afterward, as she tries to comfort the hockey player, they both finally give in to what has been building throughout the script and get together.

The issue of media is resolved in a hopeful fashion; instead of focusing on the hockey player who drew their attention with her scheme in the first place, they focus on the winning team, the better athletes, and on the quality of their sportsmanship. The issue of homosexuality is dealt with a little differently, and the outcome has it's up side and it's down side. The hockey player, by getting together with the figure skater in the end, is perpetuating a stereotype about women who play "masculine" sports. However, happy homosexual endings in film are rare, and to deny two lesbians the same happy ending that a straight man and woman might have in a similar sort of film is also perpetuating unequal treatment. Perhaps perpetuating stereotypes about straight women and lesbians in sports is in fact the best way to demonstrate that these stereotypes exist at all, in the same way that the portrayal of the media helps perpetuate the unequal coverage of women's sports, and the disinterest in the actual skill of female athletes as opposed the their love lives and scandals.

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