“A League of Their Own” establishes historical representation of lesbian identity, delights our reviewer
On Aug. 12, Amazon Prime released the first season of “A League of Their Own,” a spin-off of the 1992 film of the same name. What stands out the most in this new series is that the creators brought the queer subtext of the original film to the forefront of the story, which centers on an ensemble cast consisting almost entirely of queer characters. I went in expecting a show about baseball with maybe one or two queer characters — what I found was a story about lesbians in the 1940s, and also some baseball.
“A League of Their Own” begins with protagonist Carson Shaw (played by executive producer and writer for the show Abbi Jacobson) leaving her hometown in Idaho for Chicago, where she tries out for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Along the way, she meets Greta Gill (D’Arcy Carden from “The Good Place”) and Jo De Luca (Melanie Field). A parallel storyline follows Max Chapman (Chanté Adams), a talented pitcher who, as a Black woman, is not given a fair chance to try out for the All-American Girls League and struggles to find a team that will let her play. While their storylines frequently intersect, they never fully converge.
After Carson and Greta both make the Rockford Peaches, they begin a relationship. Simultaneously, Max is revealed to be in a relationship with a female client at her mother’s hair salon. Together, these introductory queer storylines shed light on the reality of being in a same-sex relationship in 1943.
At the forefront, the show beautifully depicts elements of queer community and kinship. The sixth episode, my personal favorite, centers around Carson discovering a gay bar. It soon becomes a space where she can not only be with Greta in public, but also where the other queer characters of the series finally have a chance to open up about their identities both to the audience and to the world within the show. Similarly, Max attends a party hosted by her transmasculine Uncle Bert, where she dresses in masculine clothing and meets a woman with whom she can dance openly. These moments of queer love and joy felt so meaningful and liberating after several episodes full of secrecy and sneaking around.
However, “A League of Their Own” never romanticizes the 1940s, in relation to both sexual orientation and race. Greta expresses the importance of staying safe as a queer woman, explaining how every time she begins a new relationship, she always makes sure to be seen in public with a man. Uncle Bert has a tense relationship with his sister, Max’s mother, which has led Bert to be largely estranged from his family. Max is able to reconcile this relationship in her own way, although her internalized homophobia persists at the beginning of her newfound connection with Bert.
At first, I was hopeful Max would finally be able to join the Peaches or that the characters would never be caught together, but this would have been a fantasy, which is an area the show accurately shies away from. “A League of Their Own” celebrates the fact that queer people existed and lived fulfilling lives during this time period without erasing the struggles and dangers they faced at the same time. It also highlights that while the All-American Girls League was an entertaining and worthwhile pastime, it still excluded Black players. I appreciated these touches of reality, as they made the show feel even more meaningful and representative of the queer community and people of color.
Overall, “A League of Their Own” delighted me with the diverse queer cast, found family, camaraderie and light pink baseball uniforms with skirts. In this article only so much of the show’s depth can be addressed, so I highly recommend watching it. As one of the few shows I have seen that successfully balances queer joy with queer hardship, I sincerely hope that it will be renewed for another season.