Coach Jimmy Dugan and Big Dottie Hinson, together again! Tom Hanks and Geena Davis had a mini-League of Their Own reunion at Sunday night’s 11th Annual Governors Awards, where he had a hand in honoring his former co-star. Following a heartwarming introduction by Hanks, Davis received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (aka an Honorary Oscar) for her work to end gender inequality in the industry.
In his speech, Hanks pointed out the fact that the pair’s cult classic about women in the All-American Baseball League was ahead of its time. “Back in 1992, Geena and about 600 other women, and one guy — one guy — starred in a film focused directly on gender bias,” Hanks said, with that one guy being his iconic Jimmy Dugan. But Hanks focused on Davis’ character, Dottie, who pushed through any pushback against women in baseball to become one of the league’s best and most beloved. That trademark moxie isn’t unlike Davis in real life, said Hanks.
“[Davis] has an abundance of the very best qualities any human being can share with others. Throughout her career she has chosen roles that show women as complex characters in control of their destiny,” he said, before making a joke about “mansplaining” and why a white middle-aged man was chosen to present the award.
Then, Davis took the stage. And that moxie? It was on full display. Davis, whose important work in fighting for gender equality includes running the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, said Hollywood may as well put its reputation to good use. “If we’re supposed to be a bunch of gender-fluid intersectional feminist, then by god, let’s do it right!” she deadpanned.
Davis touched on how underrepresented in film women are, as well as the problematic ways women in media are portrayed in comparison to their male counterparts. It’s especially frustrating when you consider the fact that the sort of gender constructs that exist in film could easily be avoided. “However abysmal the numbers are in real life, it’s far worse in fiction — where you make it up. It can be anything you want, and we make it worse than the crappy reality,” she lamented.
Fortunately, said Davis, it “can be fixed absolutely overnight.” She encouraged everyone in the audience to take out their current scripts and “cross out a bunch of first names of ensemble characters and supporting characters, and make them female.” There’s the first step. “With one stroke, you have created some non-stereotyped characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they have gender swap,” said Davis.
Of course, this sort of systemic change won’t necessarily come easy. But, to quote A League of Their Own, “The hard is what makes it great.”