Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dear Every TV Show Who Features Roller Derby...

Hello TV land, I'm always a little excited and a little apprehensive when I hear there is going to be roller derby episode.  Whenever my parents see one of their "shows" doing an episode, they call me up all excited to tell me, and groan internally.  Usually, these episodes are found in shows dedicated to murder or high crimes, so I already find that I'm flinching even before the episode starts.  The most recent Bones roller derby episode hasn't disappointed my cynical side, that's for sure.  It's like writers hear about derby and then decide that they don't need to actually do any research on it for the script.  Most of the time these episodes seems to be based on roller derby from the seventies; I guess it's more "interesting" as a plot device.  I've seen episodes from CSI to Bones to the Bachelor, and they're all horrible.  Maybe that's the only way screenwriters think they can portray derby, so, I'm here to give all you wanna be writers a guide to pissing off roller derby players all over the world. Clearly I'm joking.  Nobody should write like this, but here goes.

Step One.  Portray us as unbalanced psychos.  We play roller derby?  Obviously we are all murderers or degenerates, including the fact that we use drugs on a regular basis, hate authority figures (especially the police who are investigating the featured murder) or we are sexually deviant.  When the detectives come in and start investigating, please make sure they find out that the victim, a derby girl, has had several sexual partners and is sexually promiscuous with anyone that she could meet in a bar. Oh, and also make anyone who is a coach a complete perv.  Thanks!

Step Two:  Make sure the world knows the derby girls hate men.  Yes.  We hate men.  All men.  We hate our husbands, sons, fathers, coaches, brothers and cousins.  Men are the enemy.  They're the reason we join derby in the first place, because men all want us to be weak, even the ones helping us meet our derby dreams.  Derby is our revenge on men; and we do it to spit in their faces at every chance we get.  On the Bones episode, the victim was finding random guys and taking them to have sex on her ex-husband's front lawn; clearly she was not pleased with him.  This kind of hatred helps add to the storyline, especially if you have male officers investigating and interviewing the derby girls.

Also, please have one of your stronger female regular characters shame the derby girl into not hating all men.  That would be great.  Drive this point home by having the murderer be a female teammate; that shows how wrong we all are because automatically think that a man did it.

Step Three:  Exaggerate the violence of the sport.  Regular derby isn't exciting enough! Please make sure that there is a great deal of blood or crazy violence when you introduce your audience to the sport.  The Bones episode described derby girls skating through blood; that's a good start, because clearly we all have no fear of bloodborne pathogens.  Also in the Bones episode, one of the "skaters" was just wandering around while bleeding from a head wound.  Fantastic!   Disregard how the sport is actually played and show obvious fouls and make them seem like normal game play.  Show derby players engaged in a fight, and then have them be carried off yelling at each other; the CSI Miami episode did this amazingly well.  Also, please show derby girls not wearing correct protective gear, especially helmets or wrist guards.  We all know that girls are supposed to be sexy, and wearing helmets definitely will mess up their hair; we can't have that.

Step Four: Only focus on banked track and the Derby Dolls.  I love the Derby Dolls, but it seems like they are in every tv show, video or reference to roller derby in popular media.  I know it's because they're close by, but wow.   Clearly, all roller derby is played on a banked track; there is no other derby.  THERE IS NO OTHER DERBY!  Sorry WFTDA, MADE, USARS, you guys don't actually exist in TV land, or movie land, unless you're in a documentary.  (In hindsight, maybe that's a good thing!)


At least she has a mouth guard.  Image found here
Step Five:  Make the murder happen over something petty.  In all of the episodes that I have seen on TV, including two CSI episodes and Bones, the reason for the murder of one teammate was over something ridiculously petty.  This will imply that women don't really understand the definition of team, or teammate (because derby is a spectacle, not a real sport)  "She took my spot on the team, so I beat her to death with my skates."  "She was stealing stuff out of my locker, so I stabbed her in the eye."  Clearly derby girls can't actually deal with irritants in a normal fashion; the only thing we understand is violence!  Nobody who plays derby is actually reasonable!  (On a side note, I hope that no derby girl would use her skates to beat someone with; skates are expensive!)

Step Six: Have an inexperienced skater suddenly be drafted to be on a team.  This is a common meme in derby fictional situations.  Babe Ruthless learns to skate around her neighborhood, and suddenly becomes a jammer on a banked track team in Whip It.  Makes sense; skating on a flat surface that isn't a track is the perfect way to train for a banked track.  Anyone can roller skate, right?  Any woman can handle derby, because all it is skating and being mad, right?  There isn't actually any training or skill involved, right?

Step Seven:  Use the wrong vocabulary for derby.  We play games, so please have every character describe a game by using the wrong word "Match".  On the Bones episode, one of the characters who was the "coach" or "owner" of the team used that word and it just drove home the fact that research was definitely not done to write the plot accurately.  Two characters were describing what I think were supposed to be mohawk turns, and they called them "Fluffy turns."  Maybe that's a local term, but I have never heard any of the trainers, coaches or general derby community use it, so well done!

There you go.  Now we can all go out and write scripts for crime procedural shows involving derby.  Why try and educate people that derby is a sport?  It's better to keep it safely in the realm of jello-wrestling and donkey basketball; sexy, degenerate spectacle sells.  Thank goodness my parents are watching this representation and judging my choice of sports by it.  Thanks!

40 comments:

  1. Well, that is no different than the fantasy world they portray of, well anything, or everyone. I have the pleasure (or misfortune) to have done a lot of things on this planet many of which have been portrayed by actors NOT ONE of them was even close to truth.

    Especially on the "news" shows.

    If you are looking for truth from network TV, you will have a long and fruitless search.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I concur...but it is EVERY program. They all follow this weird formula. You would think they all wouldn't do thd same thing.

      Delete
  2. Some TV news stations have done sports stories and general news stories on flat track roller derby. They've done a good job in the time they are allotted to tell the story. TV shows however... not so much

    ReplyDelete
  3. They've only had it on one ep (but it looks like an ongoing storyline) on Bunheads, and it is banked track, but they seem to be avoiding some of these, at least.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's probably because the actress in Bunheads is a real life derby skater.

      Delete
  4. Tell us how you REALLY feel. Lol! It certainly portrays derby the way some of the fans see it, at least for a bout or two. They get excited by the violence and scary names, and women in tight clothes hitting each other on wheels! I think it's important to note how we market the sport... Our bouts have catchy, theatrical names and posters are almost always pictures of snarling, sexy women. A lot of skaters have colorful alteregos for derby, and use the sport to express an aggressive competitive nature they were taught to repress everywhere else. I think we've all had teammates who take it too far. Who take it home with them... How many get their names/numbers tattooed somewhere? There's definitely a sentimental connection to the theatrical nature of the sport that makes it hard to give up. I wish the writers would get it right, but I can see why they don't.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just think they have found a formula and that's what they're going to use.

      Delete
    2. I agree. It's a lazy way to write.

      Delete
    3. Agreed. Writers always portray "their" views and opinions in their writing. I'll bet NONE of the writers ever actually attended a derby bout.

      Delete
  5. I can totally get behind most of your points, and I'm SO glad you made them! Every niche sport, art, career, etc. that is interesting in any way suffers this ordeal though. Its not derby all alone, I promise!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I know it isn't, but it seems there are a run of these crappy shows doing crappy derby episodes lately.

      Delete
  6. The derby episode of Necessary Roughness was decent. I did call the ending from 10 miles away. However, they featured flat track and I think that they showed that we aren't foaming at the mouth.

    But I do get your point. They need to step it up and do more research. Loved your post. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. OMG. If I could get my gear on as fast as Angela Montenegro did in that episode of "Bones" I'd never worry about having enough time to gear up.

    ReplyDelete
  8. On the one hand - I hear you.

    On the other hand - roller derby was on TV.

    And someone who only watched Bones said to themselves, "Huh. Roller derby. I wonder if there's any of that near us?"

    ReplyDelete
  9. You left out the episode of Pysch, wherein a derby girl and two of her teammates were running a credit card scam, and they killed off another teammate who found out about their little operation. Cuz that's exactly what I do every time I hear about something I don't agree with, whether it's a teammate or not - I just kill someone. And honestly, I don't know anyone who commits crimes except my teammates.

    I think it's great that our sport is gaining publicity, but I agree that this type of story formula only serves to make more explaining necessary for those of us who understand that it's a real athletic endeavor and not just some flash-in-the-pan set of fishnets on wheels thing.

    I do appreciate the nod to some degree, but Hollywood is there to make money, so it's just going to get bent and twisted around to whatever works best for them. Thank goodness for the Wall Street Journal and other things that are helping get the word out in a better manner about what roller derby is really about!

    Keep writing. I love your stuff. :)


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was sad (?) i missed psych.....sort of?

      Delete
    2. Oh man, the Psych episode was SO BAD! One chick pulled a piece of tape off her skate and put it on an opposing skater's back to "mark" her so another blocker would hit her. Normally they vaguely portray it as it's played, but that one was totally bizarre.

      Delete
  10. http://www.derbylife.com/articles/2013/01/roller_derby_punchline

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you for the comment! It means a great deal coming from you. :) Reading today's post, I see we have similar thoughts on this. (As players, how could we not?) Too often derby is portrayed over and over again as a ladies prison movie on skates.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I agree with everything you wrote about Bones, which came very quickly on the heels of The Bachelor derby fiasco. I did see a very interesting Futurama episode immediately following Bones that featured Amy and Leela joining "Butterfly derby" where teams of super masculine, scantily clad women were physically assaulting teams of other super masculine, scantily clad women in an effort to get them out of an arena using giant butterfly wings. No skates but lots of shiny booty shorts, heavy on the traditional derby stereotypes, Kif and Fry were "derby widows" and the whole episode was about the necessity of losing your femininity and taking drugs to make you a stronger competitor in derby. I used to love that show. *sigh*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw that one. I imagine that they treat everything a little tongue in chedk...like south park.

      Delete
  13. So true! I've also always hated how poorly the tv world depicts figure skating...and that one hardly makes sense. At least with roller derby there isn't already a lot of television coverage of the actual bouts. Why the heck would a figure skating competition have a spotlight? I mean, seriously.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I agree with everything you said. I just loe it when someone I know comes up to me and says "Wow - I saw a TV show with roller derby in it, I'm surprised you play such a violent sport" Uh - huh.. sure ... and are you shocked boys play football? I did see a "My Little Ponies" episode with a short blip of roller derby in it. My nine year old finally thinks I'm cool! LOL

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have a lot of the same opinions. On one side, I hate the derby has become a last ditch effort to spike ratings, but I do like that it gives us skaters a conversation starter. http://eeniemeanie5x5.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/derby-on-the-tube/

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi there! I own a website in Brazil, about roller derby www.rollerderby.com.br and as I loved this post, I would like to know if I can translate it to Brazilian Portuguese and post it there (of course with credits and a link to the original post). thanks a lot! Facebook: Aline Mackevicius Martins

    ReplyDelete
  17. I hate the way, in most film, they dumb down Derby. As much as I dislike the depiction of our sport I try to find something positive in it. I've been in Derby for 5 years and at least now we are getting some recognition. If derby wasn't hot and a topic of interest they wouldn't be doing fallacy ridden episodes on it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe, but I don't believe in the idea that "All publicity is good publicity." Some publicity just makes things harder for us to clear up. I hate that our sport has such murky origins.

      Delete
  18. So. This episode and the bunheads, bachelor ones were part of the "derby dolls 10th anniversary celebration", Google it to see what I'm talking about. I get that they want to get derby out there in the mainstream, I just don't understand why if they are the ones initiating these ideas, why not speak up a bit about derby in general? Why not help the writers with storyline, background so that derby is portrayed in a different light? I dunno. I wasn't impressed with the episode, but wasn't upset either. But reading your post, I see things different now. A good read for sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That explains some of the comments I got on Facebook from Derby Dolls. I didn't know it was their ten year anniversary; I wasn't even considering them as part of it. Hollywood has been trampling our sport since 2006 on TV and movie, and I took the opportunity to write about that, not the leagues involved.

      Now, do I love their involvement? Not really, but that's not my call to make.

      Delete
    2. Haha yeah I had happened to see a post about it. I hate that we aren't taken seriously.
      Prime example, my sister who is in school for photography wanted to use derby for her "indoor sports" assignment. The teacher flat out told her derby isn't a sport, so it wasn't valid. Yeah, that didn't sit well.

      Delete
    3. Unbelievable. I have shot just about every sport there is, and there is no sport harder to shoot than roller derby. It is not easy to get good photos of a game where there is no goal, no ball, no definite lines, inside with crap light and refs zipping between you and the action at 35mph.

      Idiots.

      Delete
  19. I remember in the csi episode they kept calling it "the derby." drove me nuts.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Don't forget in CSI one skater accidentally wore another skater's mouthguard and didn't even notice. Happens to me all the time.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Great post! I spend the whole time of any 'derby episode' grinding my teeth and pointing out horrible errors.

    One thing though - I'm hearing 'match' and 'game' used more and more frequently these days. Your taste may vary, of course, but the gradual movement seems to be towards dumping 'bout'. It only contributes to the girl-fighting-not-a-real-sport impression the general media have, our league uses bout, match and game interchangeably. 'Helmet panties' for the same reason - you'll notice WFTDA refers to them as 'helmet covers' nowadays. Jokes about panties on the head just make me cringe.

    Urgh, I saw the CSI episode - I physically couldn't put another skater's mouthguard in, let alone by accident!

    ReplyDelete