June 1, 2007, - 12:20 am
By Debbie Schlussel
Long before she played “Karate Kid‘s” girlfriend onscreen, actress Elisabeth Shue fought to play on her suburban New Jersey high school boys soccer team. And now, she and her brother, Andrew Shue, have made a movie about it.
“Gracie“–a fictionalized version of Ms. Shue’s fight to play soccer on the boy’s team in the ’70s–debuts in theaters, today. The movie is directed (and its story conceived) by Davis Guggenheim (Shue’s husband), who also directed Al Gore’s fake-umentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” And like that documentary, the message and facts in this fiction are highly disputable. And like “Inconvenient Truth,” Gracie is just as agenda-laden. It’s just what the feminists at the fringe Women’s Sports Foundation ordered.
For the rest of America, though, the movie’s pro-Title IX, in-your-face sports feminism is dated, with girls dominating high school and college sports through Title IX lawsuits and other overly aggressive programs. And the Shues’ views are extreme. When I interviewed Andrew Shue–best known for his stint on the 90′s FOX Soap “Melrose Place”–he donned a pajama top and told me point blank:
Once we get rid of all of the college men’s basketball and football programs, then things will be great. Then we won’t need Title IX, anymore.
That’s long been the suspected motive of Title IX advocates in women’s sports, whose militant, Title IX orthodoxy–with even the Bush Department of Education backing them up–has resulted in the elimination of many men’s sports programs from colleges and universities nationwide. Famous collegiate men’s swimming and diving programs that produced so many American Olympic Gold Medalists in the ’80s and ’90s have all but disappeared.
Then, there is the target audience of “Gracie” and the message it sends them. Though the movie has a PG-13 rating, it’s being heavily marketed to young girls as the feel-good teenage Rocky-in-a sports-bra movie of the year.
But that’s not what this movie is. Instead, the message to young girls here (and their mothers) is that unless they play sports–with the boys–they will get into trouble. Grace Bowen is a 16-year-old who fails in school and begins to become sexually promiscuous–all because her parents wouldn’t train her to play soccer with the boys. But once they relent, all is saved and Gracie, once again, is the studious good girl. Her best friend remains a spectator on the sidelines and–along with other non-athletic females in the stands at high school–is a smoking, trouble-making slut.
But recent studies show that playing sports does not stem promiscuity in young girls. In fact, many girls have begun to exhibit the aggressive sexual behavior of their male jock counterparts.
Equally troubling, there is a constant, in-your-face misogyny displayed by all of the males in the movie that simply did not exist in the ’70s in America, at least not in my experience as a high school tennis player and runner. Her father is against her. Grace’s little brothers constantly make remarks like, “Girls lose their brains when their boobs start to grow.” A mulleted male soccer player is only interested in Grace for sex and dumps her when she won’t give in. But she gets her anti-male revenge by becoming his competitor in soccer and beating him.
Even Grace’s mother, played by Elisabeth Shue, opposes her daughter’s quest to play soccer. Gracie’s mother tells her:
For us girls, life is a sh*t sandwich. We all gotta take a bite.
The “sh*t sandwich” bit is repeated by Grace a few more times throughout the movie. That’s not the ’70s childhood I remember: brothers making misogynist comments, fathers deriding and ignoring their daughters, and mothers swearing at them, with all of it being solved when their daughter beats all of the boys in a soccer “payback.” All of this, Andrew Shue, admitted to me did not happen to Elisabeth Shue in real life.
When I asked him why it was necessary to put that in a movie aimed at young girls, he told me, “that’s life.” Studio representatives and her mother were upset I asked Carly Schroeder, the 16-year-old soap opera veteran and star of the movie whether it was necessary for her to utter the S-bomb in a movie targeted to young girls in which she’ll be a role model for them. They called me “unprofessional” and “out of line” for asking about it. That’s the problem. They don’t want to and can’t defend “Gracie,” its content, and the messages it sends to tween and young teen girls.
Schroeder’s ambitious mother was upset I asked her daughter the question. Memo to Mrs. Schroeder: If you are bothered with my legitimate questions about your daughter’s dialogue in the movie, maybe you should have had a problem with her uttering that dialogue. Your kid’s movie is being deceptively pimped on girls much younger than her and mothers who–unlike you–haven’t read the script before blowing $10 to see it.
Then, there’s the aggression displayed by “Gracie” star Schroeder, herself a female athlete, that is troubling and emblematic of girls in sports today. Like the message of the movie, it’s all about she-power beating the boys. Schroeder–who looks like a blonde California prom queen–told me that she was a wrestler in school, wrestling boys ages 13-18. “And I whipped their butts,” she proudly told me. Inside the body of a Valley Girl, lurks the heart of Rosie O’Donnell and Billie Jean King.
Schroeder seemed startled when I asked her if that was somehow disturbing that she was proud to physically beat boys her age. She said no and proudly volunteered that her best girlfriend is a lineman on a high school football team and beats boys down all the time. Schroeder decried that girls in high school play softball and not the tougher baseball. “Softball is girlie.” But what’s wrong with being girlie? This is the new, glamorous feminism?
The tagline of the movie is “The Rules of the Game Are About to Change.” They already have, and for the worse.
It’s not surprising that Schroeder never saw “The Karate Kid.” In that 1984 flick, Elisabeth Shue played Ali Mills–the glamorous, pretty, feminine cheerleader Ali Mills.
These days glamorous and feminine are no longer in for girls. It’s whipping the boys’ butts that is.
When Al Gore’s director and the Karate Kid’s real-life girlfriend meet Title IX, it’s not necessarily a good thing.
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