think in the middle of all the hype over the film “Whip It,”
local media would be jumping all over it any way they could to
wrangle in some younger viewers to pay attention to their newscasts
for a day.%uFFFD But alas, and much to my dismay of having to use an
internet term, all four of our local affiliates made an Epic Fail of
it this week. ---
The movie hits theaters today with its main plot focused on a Texas teen named Bliss (Ellen Page) as an outcast filled with angst looking to belong, and in turn finds friendship and joy in the sport of roller derby. I’d talk more on it, but I believe Scott Renshaw does a better review of the film in this week's issue. As with any press that comes with a film you’ve probably seen Page, Drew Berrymore (who makes her directorial debut), rapper Eve, Kristen Wiig, and maybe Zoe Bell making the rounds on the morning programming and talk shows throughout the week. Talking about the film, the fashion, the stunts and skating regiment, giving respect to the actual derby girls they got to put real games on camera, and sell it as Page’s big follow-up to “Juno.”%uFFFD But that’s the national work you see and expect from the networks, and in turn locals tend to find a regionalized tie-in so there’s some consistency to your day. …And here’s where everyone dropped the ball.%uFFFD
None of our local stations bothered to do anything with, well, ANY of the local roller derby organizations we have in Utah. It seemed almost as if none of them even existed in the eyes of television this week, which is both depressing and insulting. Why run stories from the Associated Press or any syndicated entertainment show on the film when you have the genuine article in your own back yard? Is it that hard to do research on them, let alone build a small packaged story on them? The leagues do get exposure from print media, both major papers and all of the indies and zines, but the few times we’ve seen the sport on television its usually with whatever “roving reporter” they could scrounge up in the mornings to basically make fun of their nicknames and pretend to be “one of the team.” When in reality if any of them dared to lace up a pair and try to really compete, they’d be tossed around the track like a sack of garbage and eventually kiss the floor more than their spouse. Besides, as we’ve seen this week, its much safer for all of them to go play dress up and cover the haunted houses.
Reflecting more on the topic at hand it seems all four stations tend to skip over the gals as just a passing fad. In fact, to dare consider them a “sport” is a taboo among some producers and on-air talent. Which is rather dismaying considering what they view as “sports news. This past weekend the SCDG held its championship game at the Salt Palace, a game that could have easily made any of the evening newscasts with highlights of hard hits. A task that would have only required one camera man to grab footage and take mild notes for the weekend sports shows (which all run an hour and NEED material). But instead everyone chose to focus on the soccer team we barely care about who lost and probably won't make the playoffs, and Boozer crying like a child with a skinned knee about still making a mountain of cash to play on a team he dislikes.
The women who take part in all the derby leagues bust their ass on an almost daily basis before and during the season. They don’t get paid to play, they don’t get a bonus for winning the championship, they don’t make bankable deals with Sprite or Nike, and their off-season isn’t spent living in mansions getting fat and complaining about what team they’ll be on next year. They take black eyes, bloody lips, scuffed chins, concussions, bruises galore, and even cracked and fractured bones in the process… and play through the pain without a physician on hand to drug them up. They play for the fun and competition of the game, as well as the comradary and friendships you can’t slap a pricetag on. At the very least they deserve better recognition for their efforts.
The film is sure to bring about some degree of awareness to those who didn’t even know the sport was back in full force with a vengeance, and most likely will bring about added success for those involved. But it’s a shame with all the people linked to the process of making stories happen on localized broadcast, no one thought twice about doing something closer to home. Of course now that I’ve said that I’m sure someone is thinking “oh yeah, we’ll show that blithering idiot!” And they’re free to put forth whatever effort they’d like behind it. But I believe anything done after this point, even if its nothing, should serve as an example of both television's short-sightedness and their ignorance of local culture. To what degree... well... how about I let you decide on that one.
All photos from Mark Alston.