*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the movie A League of Their Own. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
Every era has its own ideal of female beauty. Though the external images change, the expectations of how to be a “proper woman” remain the same. This, of course, does not include playing sports in either a formal or informal team. In A League of Their Own, Doris Murphy (Rosie O’Donnell) is far from the idealized 1940’s pinup (unlike her best friend Mae Mordabito). A resident of New York City, Doris has a zaftig figure and speaks with a stereotypical NYC accent.
Joining the AAGBPL gives her the opportunity to feel like an insider. After spending years feeling like an outsider due to her physical appearance and her love of baseball, Doris has finally found her people. She also finds the confidence to believe that she is worthy of being loved and not forced to be with someone for the sake of being with someone.
But she also has a temper. When Kit Keller (Lori Petty) has an argument with her sister Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis), Doris makes a joke at Kit’s expense, which leads to a fight that changes the course of their relationship. Doris does not just talk the talk. She walks the walk. When pushed, she is not one to be messed with.
To sum it up: Then and now, seeing women who are not a size 2 is still revolutionary. In both the character and actor looking like the average woman, it allows those of us who are not modelesque to see themselves on screen.
We all know the image of women that Hollywood and Madison Avenue projects. Though we know that this image is completely unrealistic, we are told in both subtle and not to subtle ways, that this is who we have to be.
When we initially meet Becca Wasserman (Marissa Jaret Winokur) in the 2003 TV movie Beautiful Girl, she is content with her life. She is happy in her career choice as a 4th grade teacher and wants to teach her young students to be proud of who they are. Becca is what is referred to in Yiddish as zaftig. She has a supportive mother, Amanda (Fran Drescher), a loving fiancé, Adam Lopez (Mark Consuelos), and her grandmother, known as Nana (Joyce Gordon), who supports her unconditionally.
Becca’s perspective begins to shift when she runs into Libby Leslie (Reagan Pasternak), a former high school classmate who did not make those four years easy for her. With a limited wedding budget, she enters the local beauty contest to hopefully win a trip to Hawaii for her honeymoon with Adam. Will she win and more importantly, will Becca stay true to herself or conform to the image she is seeing around her?
The best thing I can say about this movie is that it is cute. The acting is good and the topic is as timely then as it is now. But it is a little too preachy for my sake. If I am to be honest, I prefer Winokur as the lead character in Hairspray. It has the same message, but the narrative has a subversive element that makes it appealing without being oversimplified.
Food is more than the physical nourishment our body needs to function. It can also be stand in for something else in our life that has not been entirely dealt with.
In the new Melissa Broder novel published earlier this year, Milk Fed: A Novel, Los Angeles transplant Rachel was raised Jewish, but those days are long gone. Outside of her job at a talent agency, the most important thing is her physical appearance. She counts calories like the world is ending and can be found after work at the gym, furiously working off whatever she eat earlier that day. Following up on her therapist’s recommendation, she cuts of all communication with her mother for 90 days. Since she was little, Rachel has been constantly reminded to watch what she eat.
Shortly after, she meets Miriam, the zaftig employee behind the counter of one of Rachel’s favorite frozen yogurt places. Miriam is more orthodox in her practice of their mutual faith and intent on making sure that her soon to be new friend is well fed. Taken by Miriam, Rachel goes on a journey of family, faith, sex, and learning to love yourself.
I loved this book. Instead of being one of those obnoxious skinny women who makes the rest of us feel unattractive, Rachel is human, complicated, and completely relatable. I loved her emotional trek as she opened herself up to eating, Miriam (and everything Miriam represented), and learning to let go of the parental criticism that makes itself too comfortable in our consciousness.