The Portrayal of Female Athletes in Film
Portrayals and stories of women in sport and film are varied and unique to the woman, but some common threads can be found throughout these films. Understanding the culture of sport and how women are depicted as athletes in movies shows how society at large views women. The perseverance and strength of women athletes in unjust or unfair situations regarding their sport is a very important and all too common theme. Often in movies with women athletes, are breaking a mold or breaking assumptions about women. Such is the case in the three movies I will examine further: Bend It Like Beckham, Girl Fight, and Love and Basketball. Another main theme of women in sport and film is the unifying nature of sport to bridge all sorts of differences and gaps through its emphasis on teamwork and cooperation.
Bend It Like Beckham addresses many pertinent issues of gender, sexual orientation, and traditional versus modern cultural values. Jess, the main character, has a great talent for soccer to the dismay of her traditional Indian family. She gets recruited for a team and has to sneak around her parents in order to be able to go to practices. Her family expects her to be like her sister, get married early, settle down, and have kids. The image of the woman in sport portrayed in this film is that of one breaking the mold that is set up for her by her family, and culture. Even within the context of her own team she faces prejudice and hardship because of her culture. In a game, a player on the opposite team calls her a racially charged name, which upsets Jess immensely and she fouls out of the game. Another barrier that Jess has to cross is that of gender. She is continuously told by her friends, sister, parents and other family that she is not supposed to like sports or be good at them because she is a girl. Her mother wishes she would espouse a more feminine lifestyle instead of doing 'masculine' things like run, sweat, be competitive, active, and play sports and interact physically with boys.
In Girl Fight, many of the same issues are touched upon, and a few new ones are added. Diana, the protagonist whose struggle is to train to be a boxer in a poor neighborhood and to live in a world that expects very little of her. The dimension of a boyfriend is added into this...