I confess that baseball may be America’s pastime, but it’s never really been my thing. That said, you tell me D’Arcy Carden is starring in cell phone commercials, and I’m tuning in. I’ve seen The Good Place. I know what a fabulous actress she is. So getting me to watch A League of Their Own was an easy sell. And, boy, am I glad it was.
If you’ve seen the movie by the same title, you know more or less what you’re getting into with this one. The series is set in the same time period. It tells the story of a newly created all-women’s baseball team – a different one than in the movie. So we’re following all new stories in a familiar setting. And, if the first episode is any indication, the series will be every bit as good as its precursor.
For the Love Of…
Since the series is about a women’s baseball team, there are a lot of players involved. No pun intended. But the series primarily follows Carson Shaw (Abbi Jacobson of Broad City). We start off the series with Shaw’s mad dash to the city to make tryouts. She’s a little introverted and awkward. Her awkwardness might be a little overdone at times, in fact. She’s also discontented with her life and not really certain why.
Well, we may not know why, but Carden’s character Greta Gill has one or two guesses. And it turns out she’s right on at least one of them. (I also am right when I say that Carden has sexual chemistry with absolutely everyone she interacts with. I just don’t know if that’s always intentional or occasionally an accident.)
It’s no doubt a product of the times. At least to an extent. Shaw – like all her fellow players – have grown up with certain Expectations for what she should look like and who she should be. (Of course, the restrictions on women who don’t look like her are even more stringent. But we’ll get to that.) She’s supposed to be a housewife and mother. Full stop.
And, to be fair, those restrictions aren’t entirely lifted by this new opportunity. The players are still told how they have to dress and act in public. They’re assessed as much (if not more) for the shape of their legs as their skill on the field. The door to being Something More is cracked, if not fully opened. But for the first time, they are invited to pursue a passion outside of perfecting the soufflé. Or, I don’t know. Encasing foods in various Jello molds. I’ve seen cookbooks from back then.
But while (White) women could pursue one passion, they weren’t exactly invited to pursue all of them. Such as any romantic interest they might have in each other. Luckily, Shaw has Greta, who helps her to see there might be a little more reason for her perpetual feelings of not belonging – and her abrupt decision to run away from her husband returning from war – than she’d originally thought. She still has more to figure out, like whether Greta’s kiss was solely a means to open Shaw’s eyes or whether there might be genuine interest behind it. But her eyes are opened now, at least, and she won’t be able to pretend they’re not.
Of course, only some women are being afforded the opportunity to step out of their socially proscribed roles. It isn’t true for everyone. No matter how good they may be.
This is true of Max Chapman, who even I can tell has a hell of an arm. She has every bit as much talent as the other women. Maybe even more. But when she shows up at the try-outs, she’s turned away because she’s Black. And because she’s Black in 1940s America, she can’t even give in to her well-deserved rage and frustration at her lack of opportunity compares to other members of her gender. Or race, since she has fewer opportunities than White women or Black men.
Actress Chanté Adams (and Gbemisola Ikumelo, who plays her friend Clance) absolutely steal every scene she’s in. She’s guaranteed to have you rooting for her to get to follow her dreams by the end of the first episode. I can’t wait to see how she gets there.
A League of Their Own is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.