Contesting Identities: Sports in American Film

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University of Illinois Press, 2003 - Performing Arts - 162 pages
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Since the earliest days of the silent era, American filmmakers have been drawn to the visual spectacle of sports and their compelling narratives of conflict, triumph, and individual achievement. InContesting IdentitiesAaron Baker examines how these cinematic representations of sports and athletes have evolved over time -- fromThe Pinch Hitterand Buster Keaton'sCollegetoWhite Men Can't Jump,Jerry Maguire, andGirlfight. He focuses on how identities have been constructed and transcended in American society since the early twentieth century. Whether depicting team or individual sports, these films return to that most American of themes, the master narrative of self-reliance. Baker shows that even as sports films tackle socially constructed identities like class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender, they ultimately underscore transcendence of these identities through self-reliance.Looking at films from almost every sporting genre -- with a particular focus on movies about boxing, baseball, basketball, and football --Contesting Identitiesmaps the complex cultural landscape depicted in American sports films and the ways in which stories about "subaltern" groups winning acceptance by the mainstream majority can serve to reinforce the values of that majority. In addition to discussing the genre's recurring dramatic tropes, from the populist prizefighter to the hot-headed rebel to the "manly" female athlete, Baker also looks at the social and cinematic impacts of real-life sports figures from Jackie Robinson and Babe Didrikson Zaharias to Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan."A must-read for cinephiles and sports fans alike,Contesting Identitesis a knock-out. Aaron Baker cogently combines previous work on identities, sports, and media and moves discussion to new levels. His analyses of how race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class are represented in feature sports films are consistently thought-provoking and intriguing." -- Chris Holmlund, author of Impossible Bodies: Femininity and Masculinity at the Movies.

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About the author (2003)

Aaron Baker is an assistant professor and the coordinator of film and media studies in the Interdisciplinary Humanities Program at Arizona State University.

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