Saturday, April 2, 2022

A little something for the weekend?


I wasn’t going to recommend a movie for this weekend. Rather, I was going to recommend that you watch the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Game Sunday night, mostly so that you can watch Minnesota high school standout turned UConn star Paige Bueckers be awesome. South Carolina is favored to win, but I’m rooting for UConn.


But I am a science fiction writer, whose job it is to speculate about the future, and this column is supposed to be about movies in particular and popular entertainment in general, so I’m going to go out on a shaky and dangerous limb here and give you another reason to watch this game. If current trends continue, and the NCAA sticks to its current policies, this may be the last NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship that’s settled by actual women.

This is not a knock on genuinely transgendered people. I’ve known a few. It’s a tough life, and I am sympathetic to their struggle. But as long as the NCAA sticks to its stated policy that gender is solely a matter of how an athlete identifies, physical biology be damned, then it’s only a matter of time until Title IX and the entire idea of women’s sports becomes meaningless, as the top ranks of college women’s teams fill up with people who formerly were back-benchers on men’s teams but now identify as women.

Ridiculous, you say? Alarmist, even? There aren’t that many men who will choose to identify as a woman just to land a spot as a starter on the varsity squad? 

This is where the science fiction comes in. In another forum I was having a disagreement with a writer who objected to a particular sci-fi trope: that of people voluntarily choosing to replace perfectly healthy body parts with artificial augmentations just  to gain an advantage in their chosen field of endeavor. I think the argument can be settled with just three words—“actresses” and “breast implants”—but if you want to delve deeper, history is full of examples of people who have chosen to undergo body-modification surgery—sometimes extremely painful surgery—to give themselves an advantage in some field of competition. I mean, consider castrati, for God’s sake.

If you have ever been around elite athletes, you know that plenty of them can and will do whatever it takes to gain a competitive edge, ethics and fair play be damned. So it doesn’t take too much imagination to envision a future in which, say, top athletes routinely have their feet replaced with prosthetic blades, if it gives them a competitive advantage, and if the rules of the competition allow it.  

Which brings us back to the NCAA. As things stand now, men don’t need to undergo surgical or even pharmaceutical modification to compete as women; they simply need to declare that they identify as women or transgender to go right into head-to-head competition with biological women. While there won’t be a lot of men who choose to go this route, there will be enough men—enough really good but not elite-level male athletes so hungry for glory that they’ll do anything to be on a championship team—doing this so as to make the entire idea of women’s athletics meaningless. 

“Ridiculous!” I heard someone in the back of the room say. “No one would go that far! What about after college? Will they continue to identify as women for the rest of their lives? I suppose you think they’ll get drafted by the WNBA!”

That is an interesting question, isn’t it? But as for whether they’ll continue to identify as women after they leave the college bubble and their competitive days are over, I think the answer to that lies in just one word: “LUG.” Get a lesbian friend to explain it to you. 


Right. This is supposed to be column about movies, so let’s pick out a suitable movie. In keeping with the my mood today, may I suggest—

WARNING! This is not a movie for everyone! 

It’s a Farrelly Brothers comedy (There’s Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber, Shallow Hal), which means it’s not just offensive, it’s trying as hard as it can to be as offensive as possible in as many ways as possible. The premise at first glance sounds absolutely cringe-worthy: Johnny Knoxville plays “Steve Barker,” a man who gets tangled up in a plot to fix the Special Olympics by pretending to be developmentally disabled, thus enabling his uncle to make a small fortune on sports betting. 

Sounds awful, right?

Actually, while the film is loaded with the usual Farrelly Brothers gross-out and bodily fluid humor, the story has a good heart. It was made with the cooperation and final script approval of the Special Olympics committee, and features more than 150 people with intellectual disabilities in small parts and supporting roles. In a weird way it’s a sentimental film—perhaps even a bit schmaltzy—with a feel-good ending in which Barker learns his lesson: that intellectually disabled people are still people, each with their own talents, interests, and desires, and that what he was trying to do was wrong.

Then he makes amends. 

As I said: it’s not a film for everyone, but it’s worth considering—provided you have a high tolerance for the Farrelly Brothers brand of gross-out humor.