The Depiction and Characterization of Women in Sport Film

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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  • 1 Department of Health and Human Performance University of Houston, Central Campus, Houston, TX 77204-6321
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Female involvement and accomplishments within sport have reached unprecedented levels. This has been due, in part, to the passing and enforcement of Title IX. Yet, few films have embraced female achievement in sport as indicated through their depiction as heroines (ìsheroesî). The author analyzed the salient similarities and differences between the depiction of women in sport theme feature films (sport films) before and after Title IX. Emphasis was placed on the aggregate number of sport films, type and content, and perceived social and cultural significance of female depictions. Content analysis and archival research methodologies were employed. These included the systematic examination and coding of all identified American sport films highlighting heroines from 1930-1999 (N = 41), as well as the analysis of critical reviews of the sport films which were unavailable for viewing. Based upon results there has been a notable increase in the depiction of women as heroines in sport films after Title IX. However, like their predecessors, women’s athletic prowess was trivialized in many of the films by their comedic themes and attentions to heterosexual attractiveness. These findings, as well as others, raise intriguing questions regarding the messages communicated through sport films.

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