Persephone Movie Club: “A League of Their Own”

Welcome back to the Persephone movie club! This week’s selection is A League of Their Own, based on the true story of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. I hadn’t watched it in years and had forgotten just how good a movie it is!
DVD cover of A League of Their Own, showing Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, and Madonna

Discussion ideas:

  • Do you feel like the movie wanted us to be more sympathetic to Dottie or Kit? How does Dottie reflect traditional gender roles versus Kit’s more adventurous (dare I say feminist?) personality? Have your attitudes toward the characters changed in the 20 years since its release?
  • When movies are based on true stories, how much responsibility do they have to stay accurate to what really happened? The characters are inspired by real players but with the details totally changed to fit the story better, and while in the movie the league doesn’t get popular until the players start showboating, the real league was successful right from the start. Does it do a disservice to history to change details like this (implying people didn’t want to watch women play when they actually did) to make it more dramatic?
  • There’s a brief scene where the ball rolls to the edge of the field and is picked up by an African-American woman who instead of tossing it to Dottie a few feet away, hurls it over her head to another player to show that she’s just as good as the women who are allowed to play. Did you like that the filmmakers acknowledged that while white women had increased opportunities during World War II, other women were left out?
  • Do you think Dottie dropped the ball on purpose to let Kit score the winning run in the World Series? Were you happy that the sister who wanted it more won, or sad for the rest of Dottie’s team after following them for the whole movie?
  • Should there be crying in baseball? :)
  • Related, raise your hand if you cry like a baby at the end when the real former players are shown at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown!
  • Why the hell don’t we have professional women’s baseball today? One look at college softball teams and the USA Softball National team shows that the talent exists; why isn’t there as much interest in women’s sports as in men’s?

The next meeting of the movie club will be Friday, August 17; we’ll be watching 2010’s Winter’s Bone. I haven’t seen it yet but have heard that it’s amazing! It’s currently streaming on Netflix Instant. As a special bonus, we’re coordinating with the PMag book club and will be discussing the book by Daniel Woodrell that weekend as well!

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[E] Hillary

Hillary is a giant nerd and former Mathlete. She once read large swaths of "Why Evolution is True" and a geology book aloud to her infant daughter, in the hopes of a) instilling a love of science in her from a very young age and b) boring her to sleep. After escaping the wilds of Waco, Texas and spending the next decade in NYC, she currently lives in upstate New York, where she misses being able to get decent pizza and Chinese takeout delivered to her house. She lost on Jeopardy.

12 thoughts on “Persephone Movie Club: “A League of Their Own””

  1. I feel like whether you’re more sympathetic to Dottie or Kit depends heavily on your birth order. While I understand why Kit gets so upset, I’m much more sympathetic to Dottie. She just wants to do her own thing, she’s not trying to cause trouble, she’s actually just trying to help Kit, but Kit never appreciates her. But I’m also a typical “oldest” in my family. If I were a younger sibling constantly overshadowed by an older sister, I can totally see how Kit would be my favorite.

    1. Yeah, it was apparently TV broadcasts of the men’s major league games that killed the league, not the end of the war. Until then people didn’t care that it was women playing; they just wanted to watch a baseball game live and didn’t have any MLB teams in the area.

  2. Raising hand as someone who ugly cries and the end.every.single.time. I grew up in the Racine/Kenosha area and as a youngin’ I got a kick hearing them mentioned in this movie.This film helped be me aware of local history and I can remember going to the Racine museum and seeing an All American Girls Baseball League display and being really excited that I knew about it because of this movie.I think Dottie let the ball go on purpose sort of like how she was letting go of Kit and allowing Kit to shine on her own since Dottie knew this would be her last game. Not quite the same as a professional womens league but  they have a Living history league that plays and wears period accurate attire and equipment more info here http://www.ww2girlsbaseball.com . Ps the smaller local ballparks look nothing like the ones in the movie.

  3. Crying should be acceptable anywhere, in my opinion. During the end sequence is no exception.

    I like that all the scrapes you see in the movie were real. Not cool that the actors got hurt, but I liked that they used them to add authenticity.

    Of note: “Don’t catch the clap.” is one of my go-to phrases for writing in cards or other places — like my friend’s wedding memorial book this past January. Perfect for nearly every occasion!

    1. I was cringing hardcore when I found out the injuries were real. The giant red bruise especially; it apparently took a year to heal. Ouch!

      I absolutely love that you wrote “Don’t catch the clap” in your friend’s wedding book. Dying laughing!

  4. League of Their Own is one of my all time favorite movies . . . it has it all, historical significance, humor, heart, great characters, great writing and great acting.

    I guess you could look at the two sisters as traditional vs. feminist but that wasn’t the first idea that popped into my mind.  I saw it as the sister that everything seemed to come so easily to and the one who had to work so much harder for it.  Dottie seemed to float thru her life with a grace and an ease that Kit desperately wanted but alway seemed to feel like she was in Big Sis’s shadow.  She is able to finally achieve greatness when she is traded to another team and gets to step out of Dottie’s shadow and they come face to face in the penultimate climax of the movie.  I don’t think that Dottie dropped the ball on purpose as she never in the past would let up on Kit in the past.  At many points in the movie, they were in head to head competition and Dottie always gave it her all.  Their coach, Jimmy, remarks that Dottie “plays like (she) loves it”  even though she claims that she could walk away at anytime.

    There was some truth in the way the AAGBL was portrayed in the movie.  Yes it was incredibly popular the first year it was played.  But it was only played in four really small city markets like Racine and Kenosha.  The games were played in the small town venues that would of course fill up and the whole town came out to support them.  When they went on to expand in larger markets the next year like Chicago, they played in the men’s ball stadium where there were many more seats, larger fields that made it almost impossible for the ladies to hit home runs and without advertising and many more choices of things to do in  a big city, the games were not well attended.  They had to work hard to improve the attendance, so the movie took some shortcuts but was largely correct in its portrayal of the events.

    I think the script sparkles as do many of the performances of the actors.  One of my favorite quotes of all time that I have used with my kids as they were attempting to do difficult things comes from Jimmy Dugan as he is chastising Dottie for walking away because it got too hard . . . he says “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.  The hard is what makes it great!”    I also think that this film was a pivotal role in Tom Hanks transformation from a cute, lighthearted comedic actor into the academy award winning actor that he became.

    I whole heartedly agree with you about the ending of the movie where we get to watch so many of the real ballplayers to the backdrop of the best song that Madonna has ever written and performed.  I still go into the ugly cry when I watch these women still so full of heart and competitive fire while Madonna nostalgically delivers the most beautiful melody and lyrics:

    “This used to be my playground.  This used to be my childhood dream. This used to be the place I ran to whenever I was in need  . . .of a friend . . . why did it have to end”

    So many of these ladies have since passed away and think about this movie and this song every time I read of their passing.  Not many movies have that kind of impact on me these days!

    Thank you for posting about this wonderful movie!

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