Women, Sport, and Film Course

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FORUM ARCHIVE

WEEK 4

Name:  Mya Mangawang
Username:  mmangawa@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  girlfight
Date:  2004-02-20 09:08:17
Message Id:  8306
Comments:
Good morning. Thanks for the great participation last evening. Here are the discussion questions we didn't get to tend to last night:

Director Karyn Kusama's emphasis on Diana's environment (family, school, housing projects, etc.) can be seen as a critique of those social structures Kusama called "forms of oppression and violence." However, this emphasis on Diana's environment could also be seen as a way to explain or even apologize for such an aggressive young woman.

Do you think Kusama does a better job at challenging gender stereotypes or reinforcing them by "apologizing" for her aggressive protagonist?

Is Diana's aggression somehow made more "acceptable" because she is a poor Latina? Likewise, does Kusama make Diana more "acceptable" by emphasizing such a prominent (heterosexual) love story?


Name:  Jen Colella
Username:  jcolella@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Diana
Date:  2004-02-23 00:18:23
Message Id:  8382
Comments:
Hey everybody,

Wow, those are good questions, and I hadn't thought of the background story as an apology for the aggression, but I don't really think she was apologizing. I think, for the director to actually have intended the school and projects to act as an excuse, she would have had to imply something wrong with Diana being a boxer. An apology implies wrongness and regret, and I sensed no hesitation in defining Diana as a fighter. In fact, I think the emphasis is on why women should all be fighters against social constraint, and why they shouldn't feel sorry or "masculine" or "deliquent" for being aggressive. The school and projects might operate as motivating reasons, but they are not excuses.

As to Diana's sexuality, I think it reinforces femininity even while taking on a role defined as "masculine". A heterosexual relationship assumes, stereotypically, a feminine and masculine presence, and I think the way Diana fills the feminine part is much like she fills the role of daughter/son. She manages to want and acquire men while fighting against them. If Diana were homosexual, I feel it would have been a complete pushing away of the male as husband, father, and brother, not to say men don't need to be completely forgotten, but I think the purpose of the movie was better attained by having her balance gender roles with a "normalized" heterosexual relationship since it challanges the "normalcy" of that relationship from within. If Diana had been a lesbian, it would have reasserted the "normal" relationship by establishing Diana had no part in it: the aggressive woman has no part in it. I feel, in this case, her wanting a "man" was a more powerful statement of her strength.


Name:  Sarah
Username:  shalter@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-02-23 02:07:22
Message Id:  8386
Comments:
Do you think Kusama does a better job at challenging gender stereotypes or reinforcing them by "apologizing" for her aggressive protagonist?

I think Kusama does a better job at challenging the stereotypes. Clearly, Diana's background does lead to her violent nature. We learn in the scene where Diana challenges and "beats" her father that a lot of her anger comes from her mother's passive role to her father's violent habits. But I think this only helps show how Diana came to the place she is today. The challenge exists in her transforming her aggressive tendencies away from violence (which would only end with her expulsion) and into a sport that allows her more focus and control over her life. I don't see it as an apology, I guess, because I could see the character of Diana played just as easily by a boy. She's an angry person, not just an angry girl, and the movie shows her as she learns to combat this anger.


Is Diana's aggression somehow made more "acceptable" because she is a poor Latina? Likewise, does Kusama make Diana more "acceptable" by emphasizing such a prominent (heterosexual) love story?

That's a tough question. I guess her aggression is more acceptable because of her background. We'd have more trouble believing this story if it followed a wealthy girl who went to a prep school, rather than a girl who lives in the projects. But, then again, I don't think her violence is acceptable. Perhaps because she came from a violent world, the violence comes more easily to her. But I don't think it makes the violence acceptable.

I think the love story did contribute a bit to the goal of making Diana more acceptable. On one hand, we see more sides of Diana; she can fight and fall in love. But I thought it is a little weird (maybe even contrived) that she has to fight .. da da DUM ... the man she loves. It's like in the end of A League of Their Own. Of course the final scene has the sisters battling it out; that's how Hollywood does it. I think the final fight could have been one with Diana fighting a friend or some big opponent and winning any way because she has the courage, strength and focus to do so. Fighting her boyfriend? That's a little weird. On one hand, I understand that adds more drama to the movie. Sure, the boy doesn't want to fight his girlfriend. Makes sense. I wouldn't want to punch a lover either. But I also see why they had to go though with it. I guess the fight helps show how Diana can triumph above everything.


Name:  Julia F.
Username: 
Subject:  
Date:  2004-02-23 11:55:28
Message Id:  8390
Comments:
Hmmm... Although I can see where the "apologizing" standpoint could be seen, I think that including her family life is for background information. An explanation perhaps, but not an apology. In all movies, the main character has to have background information, or else the viewers will not be able to see where the character is coming from, and therefore will not be able to understand the character fully. I think that Kusama does an excellent job of challenging gender stereotypes in the movie. Diane, from the start, does not act as girls are typically portrayed, so the viewers are forced to reevaluate their preconceptions right away.

I don't think that Diane's aggression is meant to be made "acceptable." I feel that if the movie is to make people reevaluate their gender stereotypes, then even seeing aggression in a female as something to be made "acceptable" is ignoring the point of the movie. Diane's aggression is perfectly ok without any reason. I suppose the only thing that needed to be done was to channel it.

Regarding to sexuality, I do think that the point of her romantic interests was to demonstrate that female athletes can be heterosexual. I'm not really certain if it was there to make Diane more acceptable to the audience or not, but if it was, then I think that it missed the point of breaking stereotypes.


Name:  Katie Aker
Username:  kaker@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Commentary 1
Date:  2004-02-23 17:43:45
Message Id:  8397
Comments:
Kusama apologized for her protagonist by making excuses for the aggression as well as blaming the environment. Although Kusama creates a strong woman who pushes the bounds of gender stereotypes, the apologetic nature of the presentation deludes the message of a strong woman in a 'male sport'.
In this film, as well as Bend it like Beckham, for some reason there had to be a man supporting the woman in sport that was trying to create new boundaries. Although this makes the film more socially acceptable, it would have been nice for the strong woman to succeed without a love interest for a change. The film would have made a bolder statement, even if it wasn't as accepted as it might be with a love story element.
Name:  Kate A.
Username:  kamlin
Subject:  
Date:  2004-02-23 21:08:05
Message Id:  8405
Comments:
It does not seem that Kusama is apologizing for producing a strong, ambitious and talented athlete out of a difficult background she is showing the opposite: a girl that can achieve her dreams in the face of adversary (cliqued, I know, but a great movie). Same goes for the issue of race. Diana's identification as a Latina didn't make her more acceptable as a member of a predominately male sport her environment makes me think that "poor latinas" were expected to be excessively feminine (or at least they were expected to be as such in the world of the film). However, I do believe that having Diana fall in love with a man made the film more "acceptable" to mainstream audiences. Perhaps (unfortunately!) too many individuals would not understand and esteem a movie about a homosexual female athlete in our homophobic world where women who play sports are criticized for being overly masculine. I would love to see a comparison about the reviews of sports films that include heterosexual and homosexual female heroines
Name:  ria banerjee
Username:  sbanerje@bmc
Subject:  
Date:  2004-02-24 02:27:48
Message Id:  8431
Comments:
I do think the background of the movie was really important, and I agree, I think it was more to validate than excuse the protagonist that the director showed her squalid surroundings. Giving a reason for the way she is - violent, and wanting to box - doesn't mean that the director (and thus, the audience) is required to see her as 'bad' or 'wrong'.

I also think that the issue of sexuality could have been handled a bit better. The movie reminded me a little of the great sportswoman we saw in the first movie - I forget her name - who was marvellous at any sport she played, including running, jumping, diving. However, she ended her life playing golf - a more sedate sport, and she took to wearing her hair long and donning dresses. Obviously the tomboyish, almost asexual image that she had in her youth was not socially acceptable once she got older, and she eventually succumbed to the more 'acceptable' look.


Name:  Mya Mangawang
Username:  mmangawa@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  GIRLFIGHT 2
Date:  2004-02-24 09:42:50
Message Id:  8442
Comments:
These were very thoughtful and helpful responses. I must admit, I am with Jessie (Group 3) and remain "definitely conflicted about this film." While as Talia (Group 2) suggests, Kusama does a good job at "show[ing] us something about [Diana's] socio-economic situation" that ultimately manifests in what Laura (Group 4) called a "positive rebellion," parts of the film remain troubling. Perhaps it is that it does feel a bit like Kusama is as Katie (Group 1) suggests "blaming the environment," but my uneasiness stems most directly from the fact that aggressive females (and their representations) are still so often and so deeply entrenched in explanations and assurances.

Can you think of any films in which there is an aggressive female protagonist for whom there is neither an explanation for her aggression (a traditionally "masculine" attribute) nor an assurance that she is heterosexual? Can anyone remember the cover of the first Women's Sport Illustrated (this should get you ready for this week's film)?


Name:  Jes
Username:  jbourne@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Response 1
Date:  2004-02-24 22:44:18
Message Id:  8476
Comments:
Director Karyn Kusama's emphasis on Diana's environment (family, school, housing projects, etc.) can be seen as a critique of those social structures Kusama called "forms of oppression and violence." However, this emphasis on Diana's environment could also be seen as a way to explain or even apologize for such an aggressive young woman.

Do you think Kusama does a better job at challenging gender stereotypes or reinforcing them by "apologizing" for her aggressive protagonist?

Is Diana's aggression somehow made more "acceptable" because she is a poor Latina? Likewise, does Kusama make Diana more "acceptable" by emphasizing such a prominent (heterosexual) love story?

I think she does apologize a lot. Being poor, being perceived as unattractive, being latina, not having a female presence in her life.... I think all of these things were put forth as a reason for Diana to want to fight. At the same time, I think a movie about a white, middle class, pretty girl with two stable parents would have been a lot harder to sell. I think most people wouldn't perceive her as having a 'reason' to fight-- and according to society, women need a reason to fight, unlike men. So, yeah, Kusama is sort of reincorcing stereotypes. I'm not sure which she's doing more, though, reinforcing or challenging. Besides, cutting out the poor/latino/no mother part wouldn't have allowed Kusama to address very many of the other issues-- such as how Adrian wants 'out' of their neighborhoods. Or Diana's conflict with her father, and the issue of domestic abuse.


Name:  Jes
Username:  jbourne@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Response 2
Date:  2004-02-24 22:56:29
Message Id:  8479
Comments:
These were very thoughtful and helpful responses. I must admit, I am with Jessie (Group 3) and remain "definitely conflicted about this film." While as Talia (Group 2) suggests, Kusama does a good job at "show[ing] us something about [Diana's] socio-economic situation" that ultimately manifests in what Laura (Group 4) called a "positive rebellion," parts of the film remain troubling. Perhaps it is that it does feel a bit like Kusama is as Katie (Group 1) suggests "blaming the environment," but my uneasiness stems most directly from the fact that aggressive females (and their representations) are still so often and so deeply entrenched in explanations and assurances.

Can you think of any films in which there is an aggressive female protagonist for whom there is neither an explanation for her aggression (a traditionally "masculine" attribute) nor an assurance that she is heterosexual? Can anyone remember the cover of the first Women's Sport Illustrated (this should get you ready for this week's film)? I... can't think of any movies where there is an agressive female protagonist without an assurance of heterosexuality and without a reason for her being agressive, no. Not of the top of my head, at least, though if I gave it some time, I might be able to come up with one. There are occasionally women in movies who are agressive for no reason, but they're background characters and generally portrayed as a bit strange anyway. If there is a strong female character who is agressive, some part of the movie is usually about her learning to 'give in' to her feminine side. Man, I want to see that happen to the male lead character of some gore-fest explosion movie.

I don't know what the first Women's Sport Illustrated had on it. But I've looked at a few of the covers avaliable online, and I've noticed that generally the biggest things on the cover are about how women can make themselves look pretty, not about women's sports.


Name:  kate a
Username:  kamlin
Subject:  
Date:  2004-02-25 16:37:15
Message Id:  8493
Comments:
I hate to admit it, but I can't think of an answer to either of these questions. The only thing that even sort of came to mind was Kiera Knightly's character in Bend it Like Beckham. Additionally, I have never read a copy of Women's Sport Illustrated....or Sports Illustrated. The only time I even notice any Sports Illustrated is when the "swimsuit edition" comes out. That issue always makes me extremely angry because I can fathom no link between sports and women lounging around in tiny bikinis getting ogled at.
Name:  Jen Colella
Username:  jcolella@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Response #2
Date:  2004-02-25 18:05:46
Message Id:  8498
Comments:
There are a number of movies now portraying aggressive (not just in sports, but also in businesses and lawfirms) woman, but it's hard to think of one where her sexuality is not acutely defined and reinforced by the other aggressive male counterpart, like in Thomas Crown Affair. Geena Davis often plays strong female action roles, but in the end embraces femininity. The closest I could get to an aggressive, not necessarily heterosexual or apologized for woman is Signorey Weaver in Aliens, most specifically in the third movie, but even then the second movie seems to reinforce a longing for family.

I don't really read Sports Illustrated, men's or women's, and the only time I notice it, like Kate said, is when the swimsuit issue is out. I have no doubts even Sports Illustrated makes the same excuses for aggressive females and purposely tries to suggest their femininity.


Name:  Katie Aker
Username:  kaker@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Commentary 2
Date:  2004-02-25 18:54:55
Message Id:  8501
Comments:
After a considerable amount of thought, I could not think of any films where there is an aggressive female protagonist where there is neither an explanation for the aggression nor assurance that she is heterosexual.

According to the official site (at http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/siwomen/): "The December 2002 issue [was] Sports Illustrated Women's last." Another setback for women in sport. Looking at the covers from the Spring of 1999 to the last issue, the cover women (& men) began showing more skin as time progressed. The July/August 2002 issue was a mostly male swimsuit issue in a magazine that was supposed to be about women achieving in sport. The issue exactly a year before dealt with how women's soccer was saving the sport. By gradually objectifying the women more and more, at least on the covers, the magazine was giving in to the past ideas instead of embracing the ideal strong woman in sport, no matter what she looks like.


Name:  Julia F.
Username:
Subject:  2nd Comment
Date:  2004-02-25 23:18:10
Message Id:  8511
Comments:
I think that I'm going to have to go along with everyone else on this and say, no, I can't think of any movies that fufill those qualifications. Aggressive female characters always seem to have something in their past that explains their character, like a death in the family, poor family life, defeats early in life, illness, etc... Truthfully, I doubt that there are any. Umm...I've never seen the first Women's Sports Illustrated and really don't know much about the magazine.
Name:  Sarah
Username:  shalter@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-02-26 02:10:10
Message Id:  8518
Comments:
Can you think of any films in which there is an aggressive female protagonist for whom there is neither an explanation for her aggression (a traditionally "masculine" attribute) nor an assurance that she is heterosexual? Can anyone remember the cover of the first Women's Sport Illustrated (this should get you ready for this week's film)?

Hmm. Every time I think of a self-possessed woman from a movie, she's either a drop-dead gorgeous model (Knightley in Pirates of the Caribbean) or she falls madly in love with the male character. (The best example I can think of at this time is Trinity who was really aggressive in the beginning of the Matrix, but was fated to fall in love with "The One" who saved her life. And then, of course, she awoke him with a kiss).

Someone above mentioned Ripley from Alien, and I thought that was a good point.

I've never seen a Women's Sports Illustrated, so I have no idea.




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