Cinema Connoisseur: Roller Derby film never goes off track
Credit: Mongrel Media
Roller girl Basket Casey is out for blood.
This has to be the greatest time of the year for sports fans. The Major League Baseball season kicks off in early April. The NHL playoffs usually begin around this time. There is the continuation of March Madness. But, most importantly, it is the time of year when many roller derby leagues start their seasons.
Originally gaining a huge following in the 1940s, the mostly female sport has experienced a revival in recent years. It is even under consideration to become a medal sport in the 2020 Summer Olympics. This is great news; for while, I have always had the utmost respect for the athletes involved, many have viewed it as fringe sport. Yes, some have thrown it in the same category as jousting, dwarf tossing and hide and seek. I don't like to brag, but I am quite the hide and seek player. I once hid behind a sack of potatoes for 45 minutes before the other players gave up. So if roller derby gets accepted into the Olympics, I feel hide and seek has an outside shot as well, and I could do Canada proud.
The 2007 documentary Blood on the Flat Track: Rise of the Rat City Rollergirls puts the fledging sport under the microscope, and introduces us to the colourful athletes that make up the game. The Rat City Rollergirls league is based out of Seattle, and began to draw huge crowds in their first two years — no wonder, with a roster of competitors with monikers such as: Punchin' Judy, Cybil Unrest, Bruise Lee, Ann Munition, Pia Mess, Blonde an' Bitchin', Darth Skater, Jowanna Ass Kickin' and Payne Gretzky.
The women of the Rat City Rollergirls are tough and fast as anyone who has knowledge of the sport would expect. The one thing I didn't know is how many different hats (or helmets) the competitors must wear. Not only are they the featured talent, but they take care of many of the behind the scenes tasks. Putting together the programs, booking venues and assembling the track are just a few of the jobs these women take on. You wouldn't catch athletes from some of the other major sports getting their hands dirty like this. I'd like to see LeBron James try to use Microsoft Publisher to design an advertisement for a Miami Heat game. Baseball star Alex Rodriguez may have plowed many fields, but he'd be hopeless trying to mow the grass at Yankee stadium.
Not only do the women have to manage many different aspects of the sport, but they also have a lot of other things on their plate. You might be surprised to learn that multi-million-dollar roller derby contracts do not exist. So these women have to juggle their derby responsibilities, their day jobs, relationships, and sometimes their children. Incidentally, child juggling is also one of the sports being considered for Olympic inclusion in 2020.
Hopefully if the inclusion in the Olympics does happen, the deserving women of roller derby will be given more coverage by the major sports media outlets. It is really in a unique position, being perhaps the only female dominated sport. Unless you consider wet t-shirt contests a sport. And I do. Major sports media outlets don't want to cover that, either, no matter how many professionally written letters I pen.
Blood on the Flat Track: Rise of the Rat City Rollergirls is a terrific documentary that will give you a whole new appreciation for the stars of a quickly rising sport. It really showcases the camaraderie that exists between the athletes (even those on rival teams), and the bumps and bruises that these women endure. It will all be worth it though once Syphilis Diller, Wikibleedia and Susan B. Agony become household names.
It has been another great year writing for the Interrobang. I especially want to thank whoever it is that updates the Interrobang's website… perhaps it is the day job of a roller derby girl? Hope everyone has a nice summer. You can read all the reviews I have written from my decades-long career as a film reviewer at cinemaconn.com. You can also follow me on Twitter (@cinemaconn), where I will now be reviewing films in 140 characters or less... in haiku form.