May 10, 2018

42: Shower Scenes and Gay Symbolism, but No Doug Adams

I was drawn to a movie entitled 42, because it's the answer to "life, the universe, and everything" in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  I figured it was new adaption of Hitchhiker's Guide, or a biopic of Douglas Adams.

Turns out that it's a biopic of a baseball player named Jackie Robinson.


I had vaguely heard of him, but I didn't know in what context.

Maybe in the phrase "Before you can say Jackie Robinson," meaning "quickly"?

No -- that phrase has been around since the 18th century.

I find all sports incredibly dull, especially baseball, but I watched anyway. Maybe there would be some nude locker room scenes.

Jackie Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman) was the first black baseball player to break the color barrier, playing for previously all-white teams, first the Montreal Royals, and then the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The movie doesn't cover his whole life, just the period between 1945 and around 1948, when he first joined the Dodgers.  He experiences significant resistance: hotels refuse to house the team, ball parks refuse to let them play, some of his own teammates quit, there are racial slurs and death threats.

The recreation of racial segregation in late 1940s America is interesting, but I have to fast-forward past the recreation of all the baseball games.

It's also interesting to note that the arguments used to justify banning black players are identical to arguments used against gay athletes today.  Bad for morale!  Fans won't show up!  They'll be sharing our locker rooms, showering with us!

There are lots of wives and kids in the movie, and gay people are not mentioned, but there is an interesting scene with a gay reference:  Jackie doesn't shower with the other players, to avoid causing problems.  But one of his teammates, played by Hamish Linklater,  isn't having it:  "Come on," he says, "Take a shower with me. That didn't come out right.  I mean, let's all shower together."

There's also a gay subtext relationship between Jackie Robinson and Wendell Smith (Andre Holland), a reporter who is following his career, and breaking a color line of his own by being admitted to the press box.  They have such strong chemistry and are shown hanging out so often that at one point I said "Are you guys going to kiss, or what?"

Most of the cast consists of recognizable stars, with substantial beefcake:

Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher (teammate who gets involved in a scandal)

Alan Tudyk as Ben Chapman (racist teammate)

Ryan Merriman  (left) as Dixie Walker (racist teammate)

Jesse Luken (left) as Eddie Stanky (non-racist teammate).   I looked it up; there really was a person named Eddie Stanky!

His parents shortened it from Stankiewicz.  They must not have realized what it meant.

Lucas Black (left) as Pee Wee Reese (non-racist teammate)

Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey (the head of the Dodgers)

Max Gail as Burt Shotten (another head of the Dodgers.  Apparently baseball has a lot of bosses).

Ok, so why is this movie called "42"?

Turns out it's Jackie Robinson's team number.

What an obscure reference!   There's no one on the face of the Earth who will see the title "42" and think "A movie about a baseball player!"  How about "Jackie Robinson"?

See also: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, pretty much. Also, Jim Thorpe.

    There's also the "locker room stupidity" one now, as if there aren't gay guys in your locker room already.


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