I was a little wary before going to see 42. Jackie Robinson is such a huge figure in American sports and history that I wasn’t sure if the film could do justice in showing how important he actually was. I consider Jackie Robinson to be the important political figure in sports history above even Muhammad Ali. He died when he was 53, so young and what I guess is from the stress of what he did. Here are 5Takeaways from the film 42.
Sports is the ultimate meritocracy
In America, there are so many professions where looks matter. Even in political realm where lawmakers instituted Civil Rights legislation, the way you look matters a lot. You have someone like Chris Christie who may make a good President (I believe he will run in the next election), but people are constantly bashing him about his weight. Jackie Robinsons broke the color barrier in sports during the 1947, it took until 2008 for an African-American president to be elected. But still a woman, Jewish person, Spanish person or other person of color has not been elected to major political office (President or Vice-President.)
In sports this is not the case. Not only did Jackie Robinson break the color barrier a full 61 years before Barack Obama became President, but according to the film it really did not take long for the hometown crowd in Brooklyn to accept him as one of their own. There are so many examples of people with weird or different looks being welcomed into the sports world. Jim Abbott, a pitcher for the Yankees, was born without a right hand, pitched in the major leagues for 9 years and even pitched a no-hitter in 1993. Pitchers like C.C. Sabathia or David Wells are HUGE, but as long as they could play, they could play.
Don’t be mistaken why Branch Rickey did what he did
In the first scene of the film we see Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford) telling Harold Parott (played T.R. Knight) and another executive that he has decided to bring an African-American baseball player to the major leagues. Surprised, the two men ask him why. Instead of Rickey explaining that “all men are created equal” or that it is simply the right thing to do, Rickey says, “Because money isn’t black or white, it’s green.” He means that by bringing Robinson to the major leagues he will be able to generate more profit by African-Americans flooding the gates to see one of them play. I don’t know if this good or bad, but it clearly worked to some extent. And throughout the film Rickey never calls Robinson a “friend” or simply a “man.” He refers to Robinson as “negro” or a “black” man.
According to www.baseballparksofbaseball.com, the attendance at Ebbet’s Field, actually decreased about 500,000 people from 1946-1947 during Robinson’s first season. It wasn’t until 1948 that it seems Robinson was actually accepted as attendance went from 1,398,697 people to 1,633,747 people. But with Robinson on the team, the Brooklyn Dodgers did win more games. The Dodgers won the pennant two out of the next three years, 1947 and 1948, only to lose in the world series both times.
Why can’t there be an LGBT player in one of the four major American sports?
Throughout the film you always see Jackie Robinson showering alone. He waits until his other teammates are done in the shower then goes by himself. Towards the end of the film, a pitcher, Ralph Branca, asks Robinson, “Why don’t you shower with us Jackie?” Robinson answers, “Well, I don’t want to me you guys feel uncomfortable.” Branca says, “Your one of my teammates Jackie, I want you to shower with me, come on, come shower with me.” Jackie then starts laughing, insinuating that Branca wants Robinson him to shower with him because he is gay or something. Even the audience watching the film started laughing at the scene. But so what?
In a film that is all about accepting people for what they can bring into their table instead of how they look or what their opinions are, why was it so comical to people think their could be a homosexual baseball player? Even though Branch Rickey might have been financially motivated in giving Robinson a spot on the Dodgers, it worked. Same goes for LGBT people. There are tons of marketing campaigns targeted towards LGBT people and these work in giving homosexuals equal footing on a financial and hopefully one day on a political level.
The actor who plays Robinson was the worst performance in the movie
It is really hard to play someone like Jackie Robinson. Robinson was one way to the public, but who could really know how he was in public. In the beginning, Rickey makes it very to clear to Robinson that he needs to turn the other cheek when dealing with adversity. In the public view then, Robinson may not have been who he really was and there were no reality shows back then to “show” what he was like. The actor Chadwick Boseman speaks in a very low, almost growling voice the entire movie, when in real-life Robinson had a very high voice. Look at any YouTube clip and you can tell the difference.
The supporting performances are very good albeit a bit cartoonish. Ford as Rickey is pretty good and elicits a lot of laughs from the audience. Lucas Black is awesome at Pee Wee Reese and in a scene with Robinson actually shows what overcoming racism is like. Robinson’s wife is beautiful and has an incredible wardrobe. All the outfits could be worn today.
It’s a bit after-school specially
Any film dealing with overcoming with racism is going to be tough to make. But there are a bunch of scenes that really made me feel uncomfortable about how racism is spread and nurtured in young people.
There is one scene where a father and son are getting ready to watch the Brooklyn Dodgers play the Cincinnati Reds and they are having a pleasant conversation about how many runs Pee Wee Reese will score until Robinson runs onto the field. The father quickly launches into a racist tirade yelling the n-word at Robinson. The boy looking at his father, finds it acceptable (I guess) and the starts doing the same thing. I don’t know what life was like in the 1940s but I don’t this was how racism was fostered in the youth. I think it was nurtured at the kitchen table when parents would talk to their kids about issues of the time.
Overall, I really liked 42. It was really interesting to see Jackie Robinson going from the Negro Leagues to the Major Leagues. I liked a lot how they spend a lot of time with in the Minor Leagues, something I think is glossed over when telling his story. And although it might be hyperbole, Jackie Robinson really was an American hero. I give the film a B+ grade.