Penny Marshall is an amazingly diverse and unique actress and director of American films. She has directed one of my favorite movies, A League of Their Own and various other films such as Big, Renaissance Man and Riding in Cars With Boys. Her acting career, which includes Laverne and Shirley has also had a strong influence on her directorial achievements as well. She has grappled with failed relationships, struggles between family and career and her strong passion for sports.
Her movies have all included some sort of masculine/ feminine struggle or a gender role battle of sorts. In Big, for example, Tom Hanks is a child who has been transformed into an adult man. A huge scene in this movie occurs when the main female character, Elizabeth Perkins, seduces him and has him lose his virginity. The following day, Tom Hanks appears more mature, more adult-like in his nature and most importantly, more masculine because of the seduction of his female co-star.
In the film, A League of Their Own, which is set in 1943, Marshall attempts to show the strength, perseverance and character of the female characters through one of her passions: baseball. In this film, she explores gender roles, sexism, feminism, and the struggle for independence experienced by women in WWII United States while their husbands were at war. Marshall also shows the pain and defeat some women experienced after the war ended, when, after working so hard to support their husbands at war, they were forced to leave the workforce and return home. Marshall uses her filmmaking to demonstrate that women have a huge voice, and can lead and take control over any situation. This is somewhat indicative of what Humm is trying to say in Author/Autor: Feminist Literary Theory and Feminist Film. Humm states, “the separation of the female way of thinking, and a recognition that women's experiences have been effectively silenced by a masculine culture.” In other words, Marshall is attempting to break free of the silence of the “Masculine culture” that has dominated the female voice by playing the boys at their own game. By using masculine activities controlled by a female group, she demonstrates that women can take charge and empower themselves in any situation.
Marshall’s desire to show something different is reflective of Bell Hook’s stance on the viewer in the cinema: “truth be told, lots of us, myself included, go to the movies to learn stuff. Often what we learn is life transforming in some way." Marshall attempted to transform and empower women by showing them how women were able to carry an entire country on their own. They were, in fact in, “a league of their own.” Marshall showed that although gender roles were so strict, and so rigid, the female character could be strong and could be better than the boys.
Hooks, Bell. "Introduction Making Movie Magic." (n.d.).
Humm, Maggie “Author/Auteur: Feminist Literary Theory and Feminist Film”