A League Of Their Own Didn't Leave The Legacy Geena Davis Had Hoped For

"A League of Their Own" is celebrating its 30th anniversary this summer, and in the intervening decades since its release, Penny Marshall's baseball dramedy has found its way into the National Film Registry, while the immortal line, "There's no crying in baseball," has made it onto the American Film Institute's list of the 100 greatest movie quotes of all time. To date, the film has raked in over $130 million on a $40 million budget, which qualifies as at least a triple if not a home run, and its other player stats include a solid 81% Rotten Tomatoes review rating. Prime Video is reviving the property with a "League of Their Own" streaming series in August, and more than just nostalgia bait, this series and the very fact that we're still talking about Marshall's film shows that it still holds a special place in people's hearts. 

For Geena Davis, however — who starred in the original "League of Their Own" alongside Tom Hanks, Madonna, Lori Petty, and Rosie O'Donnell — the film's broader legacy vis-a-vis gender representation was not quite what she hoped for. Back in 1992, Davis was coming off an Academy Award nomination for "Thelma & Louise," another notable feminist film, but in a July 2022 interview with Vogue, she lamented that there was not an immediate wave of women-centric films after "A League of Their Own." Its success, while laudable on its own, did not seem to sway the opinion of producers or studio executives about what was marketable, as she describes it:

"It was very interesting to learn that ... having a successful movie with women in it didn't change any opinion about women's movies in Hollywood. They were still all of the mind that women will watch movies about men, but men won't watch movies about women."

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media

In 2004, Davis funneled her frustration with Hollywood's gender bias into the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, an organization that made headlines a few years back for its development of a software tool that uses machine learning technology to detect unconscious bias in the text of screenplays. Rather than being something that seeks to rewrite scripts by algorithm or AI, the Spellcheck for Bias, as the tech is called, simply functions as another writing aid such as Grammarly or the like. The difference is it helps writers — and companies like Disney, which pledged to use it for all their movie and TV projects — see their blind spots in terms of providing roles for women and other underrepresented groups of people.

While "A League of Their Own" may not have moved the needle as much as Davis hoped back in 1992, seeing that gave her the motivation she needed to make great strides with her Institute on Gender in Media. She concluded by saying:

"Now, the lead characters in TV shows made for kids are gender-balanced for the lead characters, and also in kid-rated movies we've reached parity in the lead characters, which is unheard of. It's just astounding for that to happen. When we started, in movies it was only 11% with a female lead character, and now it's 50%. So we're excited."