Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter posted an article that suggested Amazon Prime Video has granted A League of Their Own four final episodes, a truncated second season. After we posted the news, we heard on good authority that, actually, the ALOTO team is still pushing for more than that. We’ve decided to join that fight — the #MoreThanFour campaign — by sharing what this show has meant to our TV Team.
When we asked how we could help, what we heard was, “Help Amazon Prime Video understand the impact of the series.” And so, we would also like to ask you to share YOUR stories in the comments. What sets A League of Their Own apart? What difference has it made in your life? What does it mean for the culture? Please share this post with your friends and fans and ask them to add their voices to the call!
“Top-to-bottom, the queer characters of A League of Their Own became full, heartfelt, messy human beings.”
Carmen Phillips, Editor in Chief
In the finale episode of A League of Their Own’s first season, the Peaches have lost their first two games against the Blue Sox, and if they lose one more — it’s over. They’re done. They’re out.
At a team practice, Carson returns to a book that was first given to her by her girlfriend and teammate, Greta, all the way back at the beginning of the show: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. It might seem strange for a motivational speech about baseball. But you see, it was never only ever about baseball.
“Let be something every minute, of every hour, of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry or have to much to eat… Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something, every blessed minute.”
That moment has been at the top of my mind lately because the full quote was tweeted out on Sunday by A League of Their Own co-creator Will Graham — likely, as we all now know, in the middle of prolonged, hard negotiation with Amazon Prime Video ahead of A League of Their Own’s supposedly shortened second season. Every Blessed Minute. The fact that A League of Their Own’s last message to fans was about being of service, making use, says more in and of itself than I’ll ever be able to write in this blurb. But I am going to try.
I could write about how hashtag #RepresentationMatters — a metric by which, of course, ALOTO knocks it out of the park (excuse the baseball pun). I recently said to colleagues that it should be considered the new gold standard. It’s not just that the show took an already beloved, classic property that has lived in the hearts and minds of a lot of us for decades and breathed a life into it that didn’t seem possible 30 years ago — that it took the racism, homophobia, that lived at the edges of Penny Marshall’s classic and instead turned it inside out onto the main stage. It’s that top-to-bottom the queer characters of A League of Their Own became full, heartfelt, messy human beings. It’s that Black and Latine queer characters were not merely made to exist as one-dimensional sidekicks or comic relief, but instead with their own interiority. It’s that a Black trans person’s story could be told and not be rooted in trauma, but in love — in family. It’s that we could have space to imagine ourselves in a past that is so often straightwashed and whitewashed that we’ve been force-fed to believe that we didn’t exist when nothing could be further from the truth.
But the truth of the matter is that I am not naive. I am clear eyed that television is first and foremost a business. When our shows get cancelled, that’s the narrative that’s reached for first. Oh it was too niche! It couldn’t find a large enough audience to justify the cost! That story has been retold so many times, by C-suite executives and mainstream media, and it’s rarely as black-and-white or clear cut as they want to make it seem. Prime Video does not release streaming numbers, but here is what we can tell and what we do know: Categorically, A League of Their Own was one of the streaming network’s highest rated shows last year; that it’s online engagement and brand awareness continues to grow week-to-week even months after its release — without any new push from Amazon; and that while it’s audience was primarily domestic, it was large, large enough to outpace other shows that have already been renewed. As the Editor in Chief of the largest LGBTQ+ women’s website, a website that heavily draws from TV/Film coverage, I can also tell you this — across the board, the engagement and traffic we received on A League of Their Own puts it in the elite company of the top three shows we covered last year. Period. We’ve already started planning for the second season as a cornerstone of our television coverage because, based on hard data, we have the utmost confidence that it would continue to be a hit for years to come. I only wish Amazon would do the same.
“They didn’t dip every single Black character and their storyline in turmoil, trauma, and pain. Instead they chose sweetness, smiles, and joy. THAT MATTERS.”
Shelli Nicole, Culture Editor
Here is the thing and I am about to use the fuck out of my “caps lockwp_postskey, so get ready babes.
It is so WILDLY RARE that Black queers, lesbians, and dykes are in historical things IN GENERAL, but it is extra rare when we are not slaves or magical negros in said historical things. THAT MATTERS. This show takes place in 1943 — the writers could have been incredibly lazy and pulled from some of really terrible times for Black folks and Black queer folks to get inspiration for the storylines of their Black characters. But you know what they did instead, WENT THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION. They didn’t erase the reality but they didn’t dip every single Black character and their storyline in turmoil, trauma, and pain. Instead they chose sweetness, smiles, and joy. THAT MATTERS.
Do you know how DOPE it was to see Max Chapman being called a stud by the preacher’s wife that she was in love/lust with? How it felt to see her in that suit, or newsboy cap? How it felt for her to not have one but two brown skinned love interests? To see her have a best friend who loved and supported her? To see her make out with another Black person on screen?
Do you know how FLY it was to have Clance be this hot and talented comic book nerd? To see her excited for marriage and a mortgage and kids? To see her pursuing her dreams despite all the whiteness in the comic book world in 1943? To see her sharing with Black kids cool nerdy shit and just being her fly, funny, kind, honest self? To see her in love with her man and flourishing in that?
Do you know how SEXY AND BEAUTIFUL it was to see Bert & Gracie have a full, sweet, strong, loving relationship? To see Gracie accept her baby and not give a damn what the rest of the world thought? To see her accepted by her baby for being her big, full, loud, vivacious ass self? To see her encouraging another Black queer person to not live on the shelf or make herself small because what the world thought? To see her actively choose joy even tho the world was scary as fuck for her and her partner ‘cos damn being fearful ain’t no way to live?
In 19 forty fuckin’ three?!
It’s WILD AS HELL TEW ME, that this show hasn’t been renewed yet? It’s as though the higher ups only accept one brand of queer and that brand of queer doesn’t include niggas living out loud. It’s INSANE how some shows have like multiple seasons on that platform when they very much should not, but there is a hold on something as historic, needed, fun, queer, and Black as this show has shown itself to be.
I know words can only do so much, but from what I know streaming numbers matter and ain’t no way in the fucking world you can’t tell me that this show didn’t do numbers — ‘COS THAT WOULD BE A LIE SO.
I just hope this keeps going. There is genuinely no reason it shouldn’t. Money and popularity are the only two things that could stop it and DUH AMAZON HAS A LOT OF FUCKING MONEY AND I ALSO KNOW THAT THE SHOW IS POPULAR SOOOO…..
I really hope to be able to share this post in the next few weeks with news that it’s been renewed for a full season, and if not then Showtime better step up and take it so it can officially be the dykiest network there is.
“It shouldn’t be a rare occurrence in 2023 for a show to exist that speaks so deeply to so many marginalized communities at the same time, but the fact is, our stories are still seen as ‘niche.’ Sorry but, we’re the mainstream babes, and we’re here to stay.”
Just last weekend I started rewatching A League of Their Own while introducing a friend to it for the first time and what struck me yet again was how much HEART there is from the jump. AND!! How BLACK it is!! And we’re not talking about Blackness through the painful lenses of slavery or the Civil Rights movement, though those stories are important! ALOTO allows us to watch a Black woman with a dream do everything in her power to achieve it. Scratch that… MULTIPLE Black women with dreams!!
Max Chapman is out here pitching the pants off every person in sight while examining her queerness, Clance is an OG blerd determined to make her mark in the comic world, Bert and Gracie are examples of what it looks like to love loudly, boldly, and proudly in a time when being any one of those things could be deemed a threat. Can you believe that on a show set in the 1940s, we get to watch Black women fall in love with themselves AND WITH EACH OTHER?! We see them at church, at the hair salon, at home stressed about impressing their in-laws, and on the baseball field. We see them get discouraged, frustrated, angry, and sad. But we also get to see their joy and their love and their successes and their swagger. Plus, WE GET TO SEE THEM KISS. This cannot be overstated y’all. BLACK LOVE MATTERS.
It shouldn’t be a rare occurrence in 2023 for a show to exist that speaks so deeply to so many marginalized communities at the same time, but the fact is, our stories are still seen as “niche.wp_postsSorry but, we’re the mainstream babes, and we’re here to stay. We’re all fuckin’ fruits and I’ll be damned if we go quietly!! We deserve a FULL SEASON 2!
“It’s not enough that Max has the best smile, a killer arm, and won’t take nobody’s shit — but you also got my girl learning about and questioning gender out here too?? Embracing ambiguity and fluidity and defining herself by her own terms.”
A.Tony Jerome, Writer
A League Of Their Own was — and is!! — just SO FUCKING GREAT OKAY. I watch A League of Their Own (the movie) with my mom whenever it comes on tv and I always thought, man this would be better and more accurate with black women, black lesbians, and more queer people and guess what? I’m right!
Listen, I’m all for Abbi and D’Arcy love them, let them have their best life but I am here forever and always for MAX MOTHAFUCKIN CHAPMAN. (I feel like someone has probably already said Max is probably related to Tracy Chapman and yes, I agree). It’s not enough that Max has the best smile, a killer arm, and won’t take nobody’s shit — but you also got my girl learning about and questioning gender out here too?? Embracing ambiguity and fluidity and defining herself by her own terms instead of the ones her loved ones and fucked up society decide to trap her within? Did they create this show specifically so I could get the fictional guardian angel when I needed her most?
To be honest, Shelli said most of my heart’s thoughts in her answer but this show is so damn important to me because Max was scared she’d lose her soulmate (Clance, duh) by being herself, that she learned that Clance’s love for her is just like hers is for Clance — unconditional and very willing to remind you when you need to chill the fuck out and when you need to step the fuck into your greatness. Bert is just… so much good and seeing him with his wife, seeing these Black queer people be fucking alive and living and living and living and living and FUCKING LIVING means so much to me. It’s a dream I have all the time and I don’t always see it reflected on TV, much less the world. I need Amazon to renew this show with a full second season, so I can dream me and my people into better lives a little while longer.
“The A League of Their Own series surpassed my wildest expectations. The balance of narratives, of tones, of histories is masterful.”
Drew Burnett Gregory, Writer
Even before I knew about my own queerness and the queerness of the All American League, I took issue with the movie version of A League of Their Own. Having met Pepper Paire Davis, having studied the history, it just felt incomplete. There was a limit to what a feature film in 1992 could do with the story — there were so many limits. When this series was announced, I was thrilled. Finally, a reboot that felt essential rather than perfunctory. There were so many stories left to tell and now at least some would be told.
The A League of Their Own series surpassed my wildest expectations. The balance of narratives, of tones, of histories is masterful. It is great TV in the purest sense. Every episode works so well as an episode, the first season works so well as a season. There’s an attention to detail, toward getting all these different stories right, that is unmatched in other shows with this level of scope. I’m often forgiving to queer ensemble shows, because it’s so hard to include everybody, so hard to tell a wide variety of stories with sharpness and specificity. A League of Their Own is proof I should raise my standards. They do it with such ease.
If A League of Their Own does get canceled, it will not be despite its positive representation — it will be because of it. A show of this caliber, with these numbers, with this name recognition, would not get canceled if it did not focus on women, if it did not center queer people, if it did not split its narrative to spend an equal amount of time with Black characters. If it gets canceled, it will be an indictment of Prime Video — a sign they are past the point of redemption.
From 2014 to 2017, Roy Price was the head of Amazon Studios and the VP of Prime Video. His tenure ended with sexual harassment allegations at the height of the Me Too Movement. Like Weinstein and many other abusive men in Hollywood, Price had used stories by and about women and queer people as a shield for his behavior — shows like Transparent, I Love Dick, and One Mississippi. When he was rightfully forced to leave, his successors did not continue these shows without the abuse. They did not respond by meeting the moment with their programming. They simply moved on, allowing one man’s abuse to leave countless creative casualties.
They’ve said their goal is to focus only on big tentpole series like Rings of Power, The Boys, Jack Ryan, and Reacher. Their one lady show is the homophobic easy feminism of Maisel.
I can’t argue with a studio that has these priorities. A League Of Their Own existing at all feels like a miracle given these circumstances. I thought they might keep one inclusive show around to make themselves look good. But I’m not sure they care about looking good to people like us. They only care about shaping the culture toward people like themselves.
The artists who made A League Of Their Own deserve better. Of course, they deserve better. But I expect nothing.
Burn it all down.
“I still remember finishing the screeners and rushing to Autostraddle slack to let my leadership team know that this show was gonna be BIG.”
Riese Bernard, CEO
I’ll start here: I still remember finishing the screeners and rushing to Autostraddle slack to let my leadership team know that this show was gonna be BIG. That it was gayer than anybody anticipated — much gayer than any trailers or promotional materials had let on. That it told more queer stories and with more respect and heart and humor than we’d ever dreamed it could. That it had found brilliant ways to make the narrative more intersectional than the original series. That it might be the best queer TV show ever made.
But that fact — that it was gayer than we’d been led to believe — is something I keep chewing on as I think about A League Of Their Own and the possibility of it ending now with a truncated four-episode final season. Like it’s tapping into some central frustration I’ve had around so many queer-inclusive shows over the last 14 years of working on both the TV journalism and advertising sides of this website.
The amount of coverage we gave to A League Of Their Own was relatively unprecedented for us to do for a show that’s not running an ad campaign with us. Not because networks who advertise here are paying us to do extra content, but because we’re simply more enthusiastic about a queer show that’s willing to invest in media targeted at queer women and trans people.
We hustled on our own to get people to watch ALOTO simply because we loved it so much, like more than we’ve ever loved anything since, IDK, the original L Word?? Plus, its cast and crew were doing so much work to get it out there in front of queer audiences. The PR team was connecting us with talent for interviews, and ALOTO’s truly fantastic social team also eventually leaned in hard to its queer audience. Gay people were so surprised by how gay it was that NBC wrote an entire article on this exact topic, noting that its queerness “was lost in Amazon Prime Video’s advertising campaign, which seemed to intentionally bury the lede.” If I had a dollar for every reader who told us they wouldn’t have known how queer it was without our coverage, we wouldn’t be fundraising right now! Queer creators on TikTok were also spreading the word with enthusiasm, for free.
We did all that together but it wasn’t enough, and that’s just really sad!
“Instead of having stories told about us, it felt like they were being told for us and by us. It’s a subtle difference but an important one, and it didn’t go unnoticed.”
Valerie Anne, Writer
A League of Their Own was truly something special. I wasn’t sure what to expect, because while I enjoyed the original movie, I didn’t have any strong feelings about it or any particular nostalgia attached to it. I played softball as a kid but only because my dad wanted me to…I wasn’t particularly good at it. I never watched Friday Night Lights, the only sports movie I ever loved was Space Jam. Given the topic and the setting, I was expecting a baseball show with a touch of queerness, I expected some corny Feel Good moments when I sat down with some friends to watch a few episodes. I honestly only even agreed to watch it because my friends were so hyped up about it and I liked the cast.
But then! It was about so much more than baseball! It was about friendship and found family and fighting against oppression. I had hopes it would be queer, but I was expecting a background gay here, a lesbian subplot there. I didn’t expect the main characters to be queer. And I sure didn’t expect more than one queer couple; when Max first kissed her lady love, I literally threw my hands up in the air and yelled TOUCHDOWN! (I know it’s the wrong sport but listen I was excited.) And because so many characters fell on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, we got to see all kinds of representation; Black, white, Latine, fat, baby gays, experienced gays, trans people, a range of gender presentation from “fuck dresses forever” to “are you even having fun if you aren’t smudging your lipstick,” and more.
A lot of shows pick a time in the past to set their show and keep all their queerness behind locked doors, as queers in that time would have to do, but they also keep the audience locked out. With A League of Their Own, we get to be in the room where it happens. We get to see queer people being happy and joyful together, while also not shying away from the hardships of many different minority communities. And my favorite thing about it (I’m almost done I promise) is that instead of having stories told ABOUT us, it felt like they were being told FOR us and BY us. It’s a subtle difference but an important one, and it didn’t go unnoticed.
What really breaks my heart is that when it was announced the Prime Video picked up Critical Role’s Mighty Nein as an animated series, it gave me hope for A League of Their Own, because Mighty Nein is gay as hell. I thought maybe Prime Video was finally understanding what we’ve been trying to tell networks for years: the LGBTQ+ community shows up for our own. Portray us well, we’re in it for life. We’re passionate and loud and just like the Peaches, you really shouldn’t underestimate us. So I hope Amazon changes its mind and gives the creators of this show whatever the hell they want.
“A League of Their Own has now entered into a pattern we keep seeing over and over again where networks and studios kill queer and trans projects too soon.”
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Managing Editor
If it seems like queer television critics are always mourning some sort of show cancellation or queer television fandoms are always creating some new hashtag to fight to save a show on the precipice of cancellation, it’s because we are. A League of Their Own has now entered into a pattern we keep seeing over and over again where networks and studios kill queer and trans projects too soon. So often, those cancellations do not seem to line up with the quality of the show nor the enthusiasm around it. And, as Riese so eloquently pointed out, if the marketing teams and people who work on the packaging and pre-hype for these shows want the shows to find their most passionate and loyal audiences, well, they’re not doing a great job of that by skipping over Autostraddle as a place to advertise.
Honestly, all of my colleagues above have already said brilliant, heartfelt things about the series itself and all that it does well — much like Carmen thinks it’s the gold standard for representation, I think it’s the gold standard for rebooting, full-stop — as well as what its cancellation means, what it signals to queer people. That our stories are not worth telling, that even when the show is REALLY REALLY GOOD TELEVISION, if it is too queer, too women-focused, too Black, too honest about homophobia, transphobia, and racism in American history (all oppressions which exist today, too, of course), then it is a risk to let it keep existing. I get riled up even when a mediocre queer show isn’t given a chance to grow in the same ways other shows are, but that doesn’t even apply here! A League of Their Own was great television from the jump — and on so many levels. Canceling it when there’s still so much story to tell wouldn’t just be a loss for queer viewers, but a loss for television and storytelling period.
“It is SO RARE for something to be both good and important. A League of Their Own is both of those things to the absolute max.”
Heather Hogan, Senior Writer and Editor
I grew up on a baseball field, spent more time in a dugout than I did in my own home, and when I wasn’t at a game or at practice, I was always asking my dad to play catch with me in the yard. He never said no, not one single time, no matter the weather, the season, the time of day, or what he had going on. Softball is where my lesbianism really blossomed, where I had the chance to just be full-on tomboy me, where I could let my body move “like a boy” without anyone mocking me. (Later, it became the basketball, where I got super extra gay, but softball is my lesbian origin story.)
My dad and I aren’t super close anymore, and he let slip a couple of years ago that one of the reasons why is because his wife has been hurting, for years, because I wore a suit to their wedding. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt the kind of incredulity that consumed me when he told me that. What was I going to do, wear a dress? Me? A dress? That’d have been like putting on someone else’s skin! It blew my mind that he didn’t know that, that she didn’t know that, that even when I said it out loud they couldn’t understand it. No one has asked me to put on a dress in two decades. It’s an absurd ask! An absolutely bonkers thing to want me to do! And so I cannot tell you what it meant to me — a 43-year-old married lesbian, surrounded every day by LGBTQ friends and colleagues — to see Jess and Lupe go through that same thing in A League of Their Own, to watch Carson and Greta come to Jess’ rescue when she’s about to get kicked out of the league for being too butch. It was a balm I didn’t know my weathered heart needed.
Viola Davis is my all-time favorite actress, an idol of mine, really, if it’s okay to crush on your idols. And How to Get Away With Murder‘s Annalise Keating is, I think, one of — if not the — most important bisexual TV characters of all-time. Because of that, she makes a lot of Autostraddle lists, so I’ve spent days of my life pulling photos of her off the internet.
Do you know how hard it is to find a photo of Annalise Keating smiling? Do you, in fact, know how hard it is to find a photo of any Black LGBTQ+ TV character smiling? Because of all the reasons my teammates have already written about what we put Black fictional characters through constantly? But when I say “Max Chapman” to you, when I say “Clance Morgan,” what do you picture? Smiles as bright as Christmas! As the sun! Which isn’t to say that they’re not facing down misogynoir all the time, or that they don’t have hardships — but it is to say that there are huge moments of triumph for them too, of laughter, of tenderness, of love. They are the best characters on the show because they are the most fully realized characters on the show, and that — again, as my friends have said — is no accident. It is a conscious and deliberate choice that got made over and over and over again, from conception to the editing room.
One of the toughest things about this job has always been the curve we use to talk about our stories. Often what’s most important isn’t the best quality, because it doesn’t have the funding, and what does have the funding is often just whatever, just a Tig Notaro cameo so PR people can tell us there’s “LGBTQ+ storytelling” in whatever movie. It is SO RARE for something to be both good and important. A League of Their Own is both of those things to the absolute max. (Ha, Max!) Not seeing it reach its full potential, especially now, when anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and sentiment and legislation is growing and growing like we’re in the 1940s? That would be absolutely heartbreaking, one of the worst things I’ve seen in my 15 years of covering queer TV as my career.