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Women, Sport, and Film - 2004
Student Papers
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"Men Can't Jump...But Women Can"

Naomi Spector

As the year 2010 has arrived, the problem of the portrayal of women in sports no longer lies in their fight for equality and opportunity, but in fighting off the competition with men. It is no longer an issue of women not being taken seriously or being looked down upon if they decide to be athletes, but that men want to take part in competition with women in sports. This film thus focuses on the struggles that the male protagonist faces in trying to compete with the popularity of women's sports and his desire to take part in the world of women's sports.

Women in this film are portrayed as strong characters who are highly capable of doing what they do -- being professional basketball players. Their struggles lay in their dealing with fame and all the complications that it entails. These include rumors of financial problems, affairs, and infighting among teammates. The female protagonist is a character who can "do it all." She has a family, including two young children and a husband. She was raised in a proper household, but held on to her dreams of playing basketball for a living. The beginning of the film shows her struggles as a child in fighting against stereotypes, being taken less seriously than the boys, and being discouraged from playing sports. However, as she reaches high school and beyond, the sky is the limit. Her opportunities increase as women's sports in the general society are given greater emphasis and professional leagues are established for all sports that had an equivalent male league. The women's leagues' visibility and popularity rise among fans who become disillusioned with all the infighting that had been occurring in the male leagues. Soon, the financially disadvantaged male leagues decide to challenge the women's leagues to compete against each other. This is where the major climax of the film occurs.

The male protagonist had been involved in a financial scheme within the male basketball league which ended in the murder of a major basketball star. He ends up broke, without friends, and with no possibility of playing professional basketball, especially in light of the financial distress that the league was experiencing. He knows of the success that the women's teams had been recently having and approaches the manager of his ex-team with a plan for reviving the popularity and financial wellbeing of the male league. His idea is to combine forces with the women's league and begin competing against their teams, with the possibility of even beginning co-ed teams, depending on the public's acceptance of the male-female teams playing against each other.

Since most of the public already viewed the female players as superior to the male league in their playing abilities as well as in their personal comportment, they were intrigued by this notion of male and female teams competing against one another. At the first game where a women's and a men's team play against each other, the stadium is packed. There are far more fans in support of the women's team than the men's. Prior to the start of the game, the audience sees the female protagonist's nervousness as she remembers the way she had been teased by her male classmates as a child for liking to play basketball. Having not played with males since childhood, she is not quite certain what to expect from this game. But, the coach and her teammates are all positive and sure of their capability to beat the men's team just as they beat other women's teams.

At the same time, the audience sees the male protagonist's demeanor prior to the game. He is laughing with his teammates in the locker room, completely relaxed, espousing the idea that this will be an "easy win" and that this is their real key out of financial distress and their decline in popularity. Then, in contrast, among the fans in the stands the audience sees support for the women's team almost across the board. Almost all of them are carrying signs, banners, and wearing jerseys with the female team's logo on them. The national media has been discussing this event for the several months leading up to it, and many bets have been going around about who will win the game.

The game takes place and in the last few minutes of the game the score is tied. The audience sees the nervous faces of both the male and female protagonists. Through the end, the female team members maintain a positive view of the game and maintain confidence in winning. They know that their future popularity may depend on this game and that if the men win, perhaps they will return to their former glory. At the same time they retain a confidence in their abilities and in their past accomplishments they are certain that they can win this game. On the other side, the male team is truly worried. They too know that the outcome of this game weighs heavily on the future popularity and acceptance of the male league. The time-out is up and the players return to the court. It is the last few seconds of the game and the score is still tied. Then as the last two seconds appear on the scoreboard, the female protagonist shoots and scores a "three-pointer," becoming the triumphant victor of the game.

After this historic game, the media swarms the players and everyone is discussing the game. It becomes the biggest sports story in a long time, even making news stories on the national evening news. There are fans on both sides who each defend their favored league the men or the women. A new breed of fans thus arises those who like watching male versus female basketball. In light of this interest more inter-gender games are scheduled. This trend also branches out into the other sports leagues. These games become very popular, more popular than either male or female games alone had been earlier, allowing both leagues to prosper from the initial event. Now neither the men's nor the women's league is favored over the other, and they are simply involved in a normal sports rivalry as individual teams regardless of the players' sex. Both the male and the female protagonists are successful within their own leagues and in their personal lives, both achieving what they had initially set out to accomplish in their lives to play basketball.

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