Many of the great gay films and TV of our time—often beaucase of the times we’ve lived in—do not have outwardly gay characters. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ginger Snaps. Basically every classic (and even some of the new) animated films from Disney are chock full of queer coded characters… yes, mostly villains, but hey, slay. And look at Elsa!
But then, of course, there is A League of Their Own, the 1992 dramedy starring multiple queer icons like Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, and Rosie O’Donnell. Originally created by Penny Marshal, another mother-of-gays, the film is an inspiring call-to-arms for women of all stripes, along with plenty of camp moments and lesbian subtext. It was a revolution back in the early 90s’, and helped create on-screen bonafides for people like Madonna. However, Rosie’s character, Doris Murphy—clearly queer—is only ever shown having “problems” with her husband, and is deemed to simply need “a new start.” Not one baseball player in the flick is, technically, gay. No lesbians here! This is a ridiculous assertion, of course, as competitive sports have always had strong contingents of the Friends of Dorothy within them… even if they were sometimes still in the locker room closet, as it were. Think of the Romans or the Greeks!
So it’s surprisingly refreshing to watch the revitalized, 8-episode A League of Their Own series on Amazon, created by none other than Broad City-creator and all-around badass female,.
And you realize within the events of the first episode that everything will be discussed. And shown.
Truly, the episodes deal with so much queer drama that this new take on the beloved original feels like a spiritual successor to both its source material and other seminal queer shows like “The L Word.” Set in the yesteryear of 1940’s America—Amazon Studios seems to have a penchant for creating in this time frame, a la The Marvelous Mrs Maisel—the new series runs its storyline in something of a parallel to the 1980’s film: there is still a group of baseball hopefuls in WWII-era Illinois, they’re still named the Peaches, they’re still coached by a down-on-his-luck ex-pro (Nick Offerman), and they’re still funded by a publicity-hungry candy magnate. And, yes, the women are all still handling the difficulties and deep misogynies of their time, as usual with grit and determination, in order to break through that glass ceiling and get the recognition and paychecks they deserve for doing what they love to do: play the game. But this time, instead of small hints or subtle nods to the all-too commonplace episodes of misogyny, racism, and queer-phobia, Jacobson’s A League of their Own deals with those subjects matter-of-factly. There are no coded scenes here!
When Maxine, played with fire and wit by Chanté Adams, is turned away by the Peaches’ owners, not because of a lack of talent at the sport but rather by virtue of her skin color, it’s clear what’s happening—and Maxine says as much to her friend Clance, played by the wonderfully likable Gbemisola Ikumelo. Or when the team is strictly instructed to wear skirts while on the field and to wear makeup and always speak softly while in public, Carson’s bisexual friend and take-no-prisoners teammate Greta, played by the always cool D’Arcy Carden, says it plainly: “Why do you think they’re doing all this, Carson? It’s to make sure that we don’t look like a bunch of queers. Do you get that? That’s what all of this is.” There are passionate, unencumbered scenes of female-on-female love, explorations of lesbianism and bisexuality, and more than enough butch and femme queens to leave any viewer happy.
So if this new A League of Their Own seems like one of the most LGBTQ-centric projects in a long time to you, you’d be right. Mainstream media has been dubbing the new series as “the gayest thing on TV,” and without giving too much of the overall plot away, we can confirm: it is!
To celebrate the success of A League of Their Own, we invited friend of the magazine Abbi Jacobson to be our end of summer cover star! Bedecked in Marc Jacobs and Issey Miyake (may he rest in Power), Jacobson took the time to sit down with us and show how far she’s come as an actor and a creator—and just how much there is still yet to come.
Full look, MARC JACOBS. Shoes, CASADEI. Earrings, SOLOMEINA. Choker and necklace, SEASONAL WHISPERS.
The following conversation has been edited and condensed.
Hi Abbi! Loving the new series. Great to see a hometown hero doing so well!
You’re from Philly too?
So let’s talk about A League of Their Own; first off, did you play sports as a kid?
Oh yeah, especially soccer. I was actually on a travel soccer team that went around the tri-state area. I also played softball and basketball. I would play with my dad and my older brother in our front yard all the time. My dad and my brother are really into the Philadelphia teams. When I was a kid my dad and his friends would split season tickets for the Flyers.
That’s true Philly dedication.
When did you first watch the original A League of Their Own?
I think I saw it in a theater, and it was one of those films that I watched all the time once we had it on VHS. It was like Sister Act, Home Alone, and the Mighty Ducks all in one. I’ve seen it so many times. It’s also one of those movies that if I’m in a hotel, and I’m flipping through the channels, if it’s on, I’ll just start watching it wherever it is, ’cause it’s so nostalgic. I still love it, and back then, I hadn’t really seen a film, I don’t think at the time, with a group of women playing sports like that. Since I played a lot of sports as a kid, I felt very connected to it. Also it was just such a fun team, the energy and the spirit of that film was definitely something I was drawn to as a kid.
So Broad City wrapped up entirely in 2019.
It feels like forever ago but it’s actually pretty recent.
Full look, COACH.
Totally. Were you already working on A League of Their Own by the time that ended?
Yes, actually. Will Graham, who created the series with me, was working on Mozart in the Jungle, and while he was in his hotel room, he put on the TV to have some background noise while he worked. And it was A League of Their Own. And that helped him come up with the idea for the series, a show that could tell more stories and expand on that universe. He approached me to do it with him in 2017, when I was just about wrapping up production on season four of Broad City. I don’t even know if at that time we necessarily knew we were ending Broad City, but I was like… I can’t imagine saying no to this.
What was it like creating some of this during the lockdowns from COVID?
Besides the pilot, which we had shot already, the whole rest of the season was written remotely and virtually. It was the first time I’ve ever been in a virtual writer’s room, obviously, but we were able to cast a little bit of a wider net and hire new people because of it. We have writers from LA, NYC, Germany, and England.
Full look, ISSEY MIYAKE. Shoes, JEFFREY CAMPBELL,
The media has been picking up on a recent tweet of yours, which called out the homophobia surrounding sports and sports media. Apparently, in 2022, there are still masses of people out there who think what you’re doing is wrong because the new series is “too gay.” Hard to believe.
Agreed. But you’d be surprised. I think that this kind of thing reminds me how much living in NYC or LA and surrounding yourself with your queer community, you can kind of remain in a bubble where you feel like everything is accepted in the larger context of our country, when in fact, it often is not. It’s all very…tiring.
Full look, PLEATS PLEASE ISSEY MIYAKE. Earrings, COOLOOK. Shoes, AGL.
Yeah, and the misogyny mixed with homophobia being lobbed at you and the crew is also heinous. Not to change the subject, but if Brittney Griner were in the NBA as opposed to the WNBA, she’d be home by now and we wouldn’t even be discussing it any more.
But for what it’s worth, I think it’s good you’re putting out a lot of really important content, and I think the series gives space so all the characters can be fully flushed out and their whole stories told.
And these are really important stories, but they’re also really fun and interesting and relatable. Listen, we did the research when we were working on this, and the more we researched the backstory of women’s baseball in America, the more we were like, Oh shit, that is a story. And so is that. And that. Straight, lesbian and bisexual women were playing the game the whole time. But many, if not all, of those stories haven’t really been told. Until now.
Without giving too much of the plot away, Rosie O’Donnell herself makes a great cameo in the sixth episode, as an out-and-proud lesbian speakeasy owner. What was it like working with one of the original ‘Leaguers?
We were never going to have a lot of cameos from the movie, just to really differentiate it from the original. But we felt like if we were going to have one, then it should really be Rosie. So I asked her and she said yes. And then I asked her if she would come in and talk to our writers, and so she came in for a couple hours and talked to everybody. That was a really special experience for all of us, I think. She talked about what it was like to do the film and what it was like to be queer back then. I don’t even think she was out when she made the movie. She’s obviously such an important part of American queer history, so it felt right for her to do it. Rosie’s character on the series is a huge part of Carson’s journey into finding her queer community, and she’s part of an episode which really shows both queer joy, as well as the very real danger of being queer. It’s joyous and devastating.
Agreed. And what’s next for you? Do you think you’ll do another season of A League?
We haven’t been picked up yet, but I really hope that we do. And then the other thing I’m doing right now is I just optioned this short story. I don’t know when exactly I’m gonna get to do this, but it’s this incredible short story which we’ve written as a feature and I want to direct it. I can’t say the title or jist of it yet, but I’ve only ever directed television, so film is next. I’m very excited about that.
Suit, ICEBERG. Shirt, SCARLET SAGE. Earrings, NINA BARBETTO. Necklace, COOLOOK. Shoes, AGL.
In some ways, things have gotten much better for the LGBTQ community, but also in many ways, much remains the same. Do you have any advice for helping us to keep moving forward in a positive manner?
I think we can work to elect the right people, that’s first. From the top to the bottom. Local elections are so important. I actually think the local elections create more change than anything else. And I know this is perhaps a bit cliche to say, but I also think that representation is so fucking important, and that’s why I was really excited to do this show and to create these characters, to put them out into the world. Because the more full, more nuanced representation we have, the more I think we’re moving in the right direction for people to be seen. Mainstreaming is really, really important.
Dress, PLEATS PLEASE ISSEY MIYAKE. Boots, AGL.
CONNECT WITH ABBI JACOBSON:
Photos / @shervinfoto
Styling / @styledbyphil
Story / @alexblynn
Makeup / @rebeccarestrepo
Hair / @rheannewhite
Styling Assistant / @_meekahh
PA / @juliaadambola
Cover Art / @pearllzhang