It’s safe to say that women’s sport has never been in a better position than it is right now. England’s Lionesses made history by winning the Euro final and the Commonwealth Games has just become the first major multi-sport event to award more medals to women than men. But while we have plenty to celebrate, the summer of sport has also shed light on the discrepancies that have existed between men’s and women’s sport since time immemorial.
This August, new Amazon series A League Of Their Own – a reboot of Penny Marshall’s 1992 film of the same name – dives into some of these issues. Originally starring Geena Davis and Tom Hanks, the feminist comedy tells the true tale of a group of female athletes who formed the first professional women’s baseball league during WWII. Now, in its 30th anniversary year, the film has been reimagined as a TV series, written by and starring Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson.
Set in 1943, the story centres around the formation of the Rockford Peaches, a pink uniform-wearing women’s baseball team that aimed to keep the wartime sports industry alive. Desperate to make money while the male players are away at war, sponsors hatch a plan to form the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. But while it seems like an exciting opportunity, it soon becomes clear that those in charge are more invested in making money off ‘pretty’ players than showcasing their raw talent.
One of the women hoping to cut through the sexism is Carson (Jacobson), a small-town housewife who leaves her life behind to try out for the Peaches. With her husband away fighting, Carson makes the pilgrimage to Chicago and immediately befriends some equally enthusiastic prospective players. Greta (D’Arcy Carden) and Jo (Melanie Field) are dying to show the scouts their skills, dizzy at the thought that women have a chance to succeed in the male-dominated sporting space.
It isn’t long before the women realise that equal opportunities only apply to a certain type of player. Also hoping to make her mark on the industry is salon worker Max (Chanté Adams), who runs away to try-outs without her family’s blessing. Ready to show the execs what she’s got, Max and her bestie Clance immediately face hostility from the male organisers, who question their ability to play for an “all-American” team. The pair are subjected to racist vitriol and told to leave the field. Refusing to take no for an answer, Max sends a baseball hurtling through the air to the other side of the stands, to the shock and envy of every player in sight.
Things look easier for Carson, who gets the news that she is officially a Rockford Peach. However it becomes apparent that she might be embroiled in a battle of her own. After a few too many drinks with Greta, Carson lets slip that she might not be entirely happy at home. Writing a booze-induced letter to her husband, she announces her plans to move to Illinois and join the team, leaving behind their life together. The next day, Carson nervously confides in Greta about her confusion over the future, which culminates in a tender, back-of-the-bar kiss between the two.
Jacobson has noted the inclusion of LGBTQ+ women in the new adaptation as a hugely important part of the storyline. Aiming to represent the queer 1940s players of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the show’s impact has already been felt, with real-life alum and series consultant Maybelle Blair coming out publicly, aged 95, on the show’s press tour. Unlike the original film, which many regard as queer coded without being explicitly queer, the series feels like it holds the space, with casual nods to Jo “liking blondes” and visibly androgynous players discussing their refusal to play in a skirt.
The series has expanded its representation of other minority groups too, examining the racism experienced by Black female players in 1940s America. While the first episode only shows a slither of her capabilities, interviews have confirmed Max – who is based on three real-life baseball stars, Toni Stone, Mamie Johnson and Connie Morgan – as a co-lead throughout the eight-episode run. This should give the show ample space to explore the barriers to Max’s participation as well as her shining achievements.
Injecting a new, talented cast and updated lens into the well-loved story, Amazon’s A League Of Their Own steps away from its male coach-centred origins and shines a light on the heart of women’s sport: the women themselves. We’ll wait to find out if there’s still “no crying in baseball” but we’re pretty sure this series is heading for a home run.
A League Of Their Own begins streaming on Amazon Prime on 12th August
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