“She’s Got Game”: The Role of the Female Protagonist as Mentor and Muse in the Sports Films of Ron Shelton

By Ralph Lamar Turner.

Published by The Sport Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Since the earliest of Hollywood’s sports-themed films in the 1930s, most of the films have centered on males, and the rules laid out for female characters have been simple: women are welcome in the fan club but not in the clubhouse, as helpmates but never as teammates. When female characters have ventured beyond those boundaries, as team owners, for example, they have played a primarily antagonistic role. In fact, because of its potential for disastrous distraction, a mere relationship with a female character is often shown to be fraught with danger, either mortal or professional or both. In contrast, screenwriter and director Ron Shelton, whose work has frequently focused on the world of sport, both at the amateur and professional level, has tossed out those tropes in his portrayal of female characters as active participants in the athletic and personal success of the male players. More than simple love interests, these women function as mentors and muses for the players, and often as dominant positive focal participants in triangular relationships with other players. While the male players may begin primarily intent in “getting on base” with a new love interest, these interesting females are shown to possess the knowledge and intuitive understanding of the game to both inspire and instruct, and to propel the male protagonists to a winning conclusion.

Keywords: Film Studies, Sports and Culture, Film and Culture, Women and Sports Films, Sports Films of Ron Shelton, Feminism, Women and Sport, Sociology of Sport, Popular Culture

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.61-68. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 600.297KB).

Dr. Ralph Lamar Turner

Assistant professor, Library Science, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, UT, USA

Dr. Turner has a special interest in the philosophical and socio-cultural implications of sport. After earning graduate degrees in such varied fields as comparative religions, exercise physiology, library science, and higher educational leadership and policy analysis, Dr. Turner served as a Fulbright Scholar in both Germany and Turkey. He is presently an assistant professor at Southern Utah University.