Saturday, February 11, 2012

Moneyball and Breaking Dawn

(Trigger Warning for childbirth, specifically death in childbirth.  I won't go into any more detail than I just did, but I didn't want it to come out of nowhere.  Also Spoilers for both movies.)


A couple days ago Amazon told me about its top selling products in DVD, two stood out to me (mostly because I'd never even heard of the rest.) One was The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, which I have not seen but did follow Ana Mardoll's live sporking of, the other was Moneyball which I have seen.

I've been thinking of the two movies ever since. Since I haven't actually seen Breaking Dawn, I could be way off on all parts of this that relate to that.

Even though Moneyball doesn't pass the Bechdel test, even though it only has three female characters that I remember and two of them were barely in it, even though it's pretty much entirely about men working at a male team in a male league, I think that it probably does somewhat better on the things it says about female people.

Moneyball says that if you're a girl you can play the guitar and do it well. Breaking Dawn says that if you're a young woman you can get married (to someone who doesn't respect you or your ability to make decisions for yourself, and your inlaws will push you around regarding the wedding) get pregnant, die in childbirth, and be reincarnated as a stagnant being defined in large part by a lack of goals or ambition. I can't speak for others, but given those options I think I'd prefer the guitar.

It's not that there's anything wrong with getting married and having a kid, and there's a decent chance that the girl from Moneyball will do one or both of those things later on, but while she's still a child she's managed to do something Bella Swan and the ones who sparkle never really do: she's found something that she cares about, something that she likes doing, and she's doing it. She's playing a guitar.

It's such a small thing, but it makes a big difference to me.  The movie was not, by any stretch of the imagination, about the girl.  It was about her dad.  Yet when she does step into the story we see her doing something for herself.  When the two of them go out together it's guitar shopping because that's what she wants.  She found something she likes and is doing it.

Bella is not about to start doing that, and I think that's a problem. I don't mean that Bella should go out and form a musical group (Bella Swan and the Sparkles).  I'm talking more along the lines of hobby and guitar certainly doesn't have to be her thing, but it would be nice if she had found something. Anything. From what I personally know of Twilight, and what I've been told about it by others, we never see that.  Instead someone with a lot of apathy flavored only by large quantities of looking down at others joins a tribe, and indeed species, whose defining characteristic seems to be that they don't care except when it comes to noting their own superiority. That's not a positive message in my opinion.

There's also a class divide in the two movies. Twilight is about people who own their own island and have privilege like you wouldn't believe. Moneyball is about people who are struggling to cope with a lack of resources when surrounded by and forced to compete with those who have so much more. It's also about people who were passed over, looked down on, rejected and discounted. Its about people who, within their field at least, have the opposite of privilege.

Moneyball is based on a true story where Twilight was imported from the Cthulhu Mythos.

And, breaking away from Breaking Dawn here, Moneyball has really solidified in me my belief that championships aren't that important. This definitely goes against a lot of thinking in sports, but I find that for me who wins the last game isn't so important.

There's a reason that it's the World Series rather than the Championship Game. Deciding who is the best team with one game would be silly. One game is a fluke. In itself a game means nothing. You might as well decide the outcome on a single inning for all of the sense it makes. You have to look at things in aggregate to see which team is actually better, hence the use of a series rather than a game. But at the same time, isn't one series pretty damn small too, all things considered?

If a team were to win every single game they played in until reaching the World Series, which they lost three games to four, that would be the most amazing record in all of baseball, it would be nearly impossibly good, but at the end of the day the story would be about how they weren't the best after all, and probably some narrative about how they choked when the stakes got high.

That will almost certainly never happen, where World Series wins come like clockwork. Barring labor disputes or, I suppose, giant unprecedented catastrophe you can count on a World Series wins happening at a rate of one every single year. It's not rare, it's not all that special when you think about it. Someone has to win. Even if every team in baseball were to suck, someone has to win.

Yet that's where the focus lies. Four to seven games at the end of the baseball season. When my dad found out that I might be going to see Moneyball he pointed out that the team in question didn't win. They lost. So what could they possibly have accomplished? He repeated that reminder (Which bioled down to, “They didn't win anything. They lost.”) on multiple occasions even after I watched a movie about a season in which they didn't win which pointed out rather clearly that they didn't win.

They didn't win in the end, and for some people that's all that matters.

It's in the film itself. The main character will claim that if they don't win everything then nothing they did will matter, they will be discounted, they will be brushed off, it will all be for nothing because the only thing that matters is winning the last game. There is an attempt to convince him otherwise, and the existence of the movie seems to indicate that his fears of being totally dismissed were misplaced, but I don't think there's much indication that he ever stopped thinking that it only matters if you end up champion.

Personally I'm much more impressed with the middle. There have been 107 World Series winners, in 93 more years there will be 200. Should baseball endure this will continue on for centuries like clockwork. The earth has made a circuit around the sun; someone has won the World Series. How many times has there been a 20 game winning streak? Can we predict when the next one will happen? (No.)

That's more interesting to me. Not, “We won that thing that's won once a year,” but, “We did that impressive thing that hardly ever happens/has never happened before.” The Oakland As were the first, and thus far only, team in the American League to win twenty straight games. The record in all of Major League Baseball is 21 (unless you put your fingers in your ears, say, “I'm not listening,” and insist that there's no such thing as tie game, in that case it's 26.) It's not something that happens much, it is something that to my eyes is a lot more impressive than doing that thing that's done every single year.

Anyway, Moneyball, I recommend it. It's a good movie. Even if you know nothing about baseball.


  1. I don't do sports unless I'm participating, which these days I don't. But I was rather struck by a fragment of a sentence:

    "a true story where Twilight was imported from the Cthulhu Mythos"

    Picture it. A struggling author is having trouble getting her ideas onto the page. She pokes around her church basement looking for inspiration, voraciously reading all sorts of old religious instructional pamphlets and other improving works. Then she comes across that one that makes everything make sense: it's not about the sparkle, it's about the tentacles! She starts writing furiously, and millions take their first steps into a larger world...

    1. So I've been thinking about this on and off all day. Do I leave it as it is, or do I add some much needed punctuation? I never fixed "respecting our deitary concerns" after Will Wildman pointed it out. I think I'm going to do the same thing here and leave it as is.

      A true story where Twilight was imported from the Cthulhu Mythos is too interesting a mistake to correct.