I like baseball movies. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen The Lou Gehrig Story or laughed at Tom Hanks’ epic urinal scene in A League of Their Own, or cried over Bang The Drum Slowly. I’m sure I’m part of a roster of wives and girlfriends who asked themselves, “Why can’t (insert husband’s or boyfriend’s name here) be like that?” when Kevin Costner gave his “I believe” speech in Bull Durham. (To refresh your memory, it ends, “I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.”)

This may explain why I didn’t call foul on Moneyball until the day after seeing it. It wasn’t long, however, before hindsight brought the realization that the portrayal of women in the film is not about the ethos of baseball, but about a sensibility that is Neanderthal.

Admittedly, it’s a true story that doesn’t lend itself to a big part for a woman, but it takes place in 2002. Is it really possible that the scene of the high-heeled, mature secretary arriving with two trays of coffee — one for Billy Beane, the modern general manager, and the other for John Henry, a supposedly progressive team owner — actually happened? And was this scene necessary? Was Beane’s relationship with his own secretary (again a mature woman) truly limited to barking the names of people to whom he wanted calls placed (and, oh yes, asking if the coffee was made)? Couldn’t the beautiful and gifted Robin Wright have been given more than just one scene during which she was restricted to indicating her loyalty to her supercilious second husband?

I worked in Boston ad agencies in the Seventies. Some of the secretaries brought coffee to their bosses in 1970, but by 1976, the men were most definitely in charge of their own caffeine fixes. I very much doubt the Oakland A’s and the Red Sox didn’t get with the times by the new millennium.

Where does this leave us? Well, it would be silly to boycott an intelligent, warm film with such fidelity to the truth —particularly one being mentioned as an Oscar opportunity for Brad Pitt — but it wouldn’t be bad if we left some comments on Rotten Tomatoes pointing out (or even belaboring) this obvious flaw in an otherwise decent movie. (Count the number of women in the trailer below. – Ed.),At a minimum, it’s hard to believe that a story about a guy who bucks outdated thinking about the value of players is so clueless about outdated behavior views of the dignity of women.

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  • Kathryn October 8, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Dear Laura: Neanderthal it may have been; even such a portrayal left me delighted to see Robin Wright featured, but disappointed she had less than her gifts to do; but she wasn`t being herself or us, was she? . .. The point, at last & at least for me, is that, as Steve Jobs told his stories in 2005, to Stanford`s Commencement Seniors, you can only connect the dots in hindsight; we can`t know as we`re living which dots will glow for us, and guide us to what is important in our lives; whether this morning, as I regard my image and ask, “Am I happy in this?” Or whether we are listening to others, instead of ourselves. Being given the gift of having someone you love, who loves you, too, encourage you to listen for your own still, small voice, is an unusually undervalued prize. I have always thought that the feminism which puts past tense events and behavior on the short leashes of present sensibilities, is not truly in love with those from whom a performance is being demanded and judged — nor, does that demand necessarily want what`s best for the ‘other.’ It`s an old-fashioned notion, I am aware. But it suits me, and I`m grateful your trust in your readers stretches to the place where we may disagree — appreciating you, all the same. Fondly, Kathryn.

  • RozWarren October 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    But it isn’t naive to state in a review that a movie accepts and perpetuates tired old gender stereotypes. (I was grateful for the heads-up.) I’m guessing that a more progressive director making this movie might do things differently. At least I hope that he or she would.

  • Tamara October 7, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Wow Laura, I think you are tremendously naive if you think that things have changed that much. Especially in sports. Perhaps some admins aren’t bringing coffee anymore, but I work in the healthcare field and when an admin (even worse, an executive asst), you are expected to be the right hand person–which means getting food, making travel arrangements for family members, etc. And how did you feel about Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada? Was she being sexist? Or just a typical boss?

    And movies are supposed to depict whatever they depict–the idea that a movie should represent the best of things is also naive.

  • RozWarren October 7, 2011 at 9:06 am

    I am a big fan of the Bechdel Test for evaluating movies. To pass muster, a movie has to have:
    (l) Two women characters with names
    (2) Who have at least one conversation with each other
    (3) That isn’t about a man or men.

    It’s astonishing how few movies pass this simple test.

    Thanks for this essay!