The Disney Treatment

A mix of reality, falsehood, emotional manipulation, and darned good storytelling. Photo is Disney promo materials.

If you see the new biopic Young Woman and the Sea–and I do recommended you see it–you should be aware that the actual James Sullivan, head of the American Athletic Union, was dead twelve years before the key events in the movie take place. It’s what ticks me off about these sports movies. What happened is fascinating in its own right, so why do they make up stuff? Why do they have to create false emotional tension, when the real tension is already in the story? And why do I cry every time when the athlete does the thing that I knew that they would do, all along?

Young Woman and the Sea is one of three Disney sports movies that I particularly like, the other two being Dangal and McFarland USA. All three might be termed shamelessly manipulative, but perhaps that’s the nature of our response to humans overcoming obstacles. In this post, I will point out some of the good and the bad about these movies, set the record straight for the “um, actually” crowd, but still give these all a thumb’s up. They deserve watching.

Historical Inaccuracy

Young Woman is about Gertrude “Trudy” Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel in 1926. Without giving away too many spoilers, fact checking of the movie details reveals that Trudy did have a near-death case of the measles as a child (vaccinate people!), she did swim with her sister, and her “coaches” did work to disqualify her in her Channel swim, though not the way the movie showed. And she did have a giant ticker tape parade, one of the biggest ever in New York.

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She Plays Sports, But…

Famed science fiction writer Joanna Russ once laid out the arguments against the value of women writers in a series of essays detailing typical criticisms of women’s work, which started with “She didn’t write it….” This list* came to mind as I pondered the discussion about the phenomenal achievement by the U.S. women’s soccer team in winning this year’s World Cup. With a nod to Ms. Russ, I offer my version of “She plays sports, BUT…”  Each time a complaint is leveled about women’s sports, women provide the answer, only to create a new variation of the “Yes, BUT…”  Call it, “She isn’t worth the sports money because…”

Kajmeister take-off of the famous litany by Joanna Russ: “She writes, BUT…”

The US Women’s National Team kicked ass every which way but Sunday, last Sunday. They want the adulation, respect, and money that goes with it. They’re getting the adulation, but the respect and money will be harder to get.

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