A League of Their Own originally released in 1992, so why review it now? Because it made a huge impact on me as a girl. A month ago, on May 6, 2020, the last surviving member of the real 1943 Rockford Peaches Team, Mary Pratt, passed away at 101. The Rockford Peaches are one of the teams highlighted throughout the film; Mary is not memorialized by name.
A League of Their Own, is on the face of it, a sports movie about women playing baseball during World War II. There aren’t many movies about women playing sports, which mirrors the 1943 (and somewhat current) sentiment that people do not want to watch women play sports. The movie follows the young women being recruited, trained (in baseball and proper lady etiquette), and ultimately reaches the crescendo of baseball at the World Series. Between practices and games are moments of the characters being gentler, more womanly. One character is a mother who has her son with her, throughout the playing season, who she has to look after. One woman shows her nurturing side by teaching another woman to read. Several of the women worry about their husbands and other men, being away, fighting the war.
The movie walks a fine line around many topics that affect girls past and present. It looks at representation of women as “less than” — there is a scene where men argue about who would want to watch women play sports. The movie tackles femininity in several scenes — notably showing etiquette lessons and when a father apologies for his daughter’s appearance because his wife has passed and he’s done the best he could raising her to be ladylike. The movie touches on equality in marriage and society — discussing women leaving the league when their husbands return from war or just returning home to be homemakers. When the war is over, the returning men will need their jobs back.
What the movie does portray, positively, for girls is that girls can! They can play sports. They can have value beyond the traditional ideal beauty – [spoiler alert] the girl whose father apologized for her looks finds love and marries, and her husband thinks she’s gorgeous, too. They can be both strong and soft.
An added bonus to girls everywhere, the movie was directed by Penny Marshall. She was one of the most celebrated women film directors. She was the first woman director to have a film gross more than $100 million at the US box office. In two industries dominated by men, sports and movie directing, A League of Their Own tells girls that they Can(!) and this is what makes the movie great for girls of all ages. The movie does not shy away from gender inequality or hardship. At age 9 it gave me the belief in girls’ and a woman’s ability to succeed. I will note, one of the downfalls of the movie and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is a lack of women of color. Unfortunately, the women’s league was also segregated like the men’s professional league was mostly segregated at that time.
Girl Museum Inc.