The second episode of A League of Their Own is all about the expectations put upon us and the measures we take to live up to those roles. It’s about the smiles we are forced to wear, when all we want to do is to throw something. Or cry. Or both.
Playing a Part
As it was in the premiere, the second episode of A League of Their Own is divided into two stories. There’s the story of the White women who are allowed to embrace their love of baseball. As long as they play the roles they’re ordered to play. And the Black women who aren’t allowed to do even that. It’s also about the parts of ourselves that we have to keep hidden, from each other and from the world.
For Shaw and the rest of the Rockford Peaches, they are allowed to indulge in the sport they love. As long as they act a certain way. Dress a certain way. Look a certain way. And Greta more than any of them knows how good they have to be at playing the part. Sure, this indulgence might only last two weeks. And it might be frustrating and demoralizing to be viewed more for the cut of your hair and the curve of your leg than for your obvious talent.
But that’s the hand they’ve been dealt. And Greta there’s so much more on the line than being able to continue to play baseball. Because for some of the players – like Shaw and Greta, herself – their future as baseball players doesn’t just hinge on their ability to play the part. Their very safety could be on the line. The world was neither understanding nor forgiving of homosexuality (or bisexuality) back then. Or today, for that matter – in many places.
So Greta, Shaw, and the rest of the Rockford Peaches have to play their parts. As pinup girl ballplayers at least, even for those who don’t have to hide their sexuality. They also have to pretend not to be enraged by the blatant sexism thrown their way. And even their new coach, Dove Porter (Nick Offerman) pretends to believe in them when he really doesn’t. Though I suspect that he’ll come to realize how wrong he is to count them out so soon.
But, of course, the Peaches aren’t the only ones forced to put on a smile and play a part.
While the Peaches put on their act publicly, Max and Clance’s story focuses on the private parts women were forced to play. Specifically Black women. With fewer options to live up to the demands of those expectations than their White counterparts, no less. After all, when a mistake leads to Clance missing out on the crabs she ordered for the housewarming party, she isn’t allowed to go to the same stores White women frequent. When she does out of desperation, she’s ignored and treated with disrespect.
It isn’t until the clerk is put on the spot by a White woman that Max is able to get the crabs to save the day. And how infuriating must that be? But, just as Clance is expected to throw the perfect party, Max is expected to bear that blatant disrespect with a smile. Just as she’s expected to bear the similar disrespect showed her when she wants to pitch at practices for a Black men’s baseball team. Or apply for a job at a factory where Black men are welcome but not Black women.
And all the while, Max also has to hide her own sexuality. Well-meaning friends and family may be throwing her in the path of eligible men, but that’s not where her interest lies. With as much as Max has to repress of herself in public, moments like the scene in the previous episode – where she gives in to her rage – can surely come as no surprise. Sadly, neither is the fact she doesn’t give in to her rage completely and just burn the whole world down. After all, her very existence as a Black woman would have meant an endless string of closed doors and affronts, and hiding her frustration behind a smile would have been both a measure of self-defense and her daily reality.
A League of Their Own is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.