There’s going to be a sequel to Space Jam starring LeBron James, The Hollywood Reporter announced on Monday. The film will be directed by Justin Lin, who’s known for his work on the Fast & Furious films. My initial reaction to the news of another Space Jam was excitement because I loved the film as a kid, but then I thought about the bigger picture; the void of a positive female sports star.
As a child, I grew up hearing names of big time sports stars such as Michael Jordan, Dan Marino, Dale Earnhardt, and Tiger Woods. The lesser heard names were of women in sports like Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Venus & Serena Williams, and Annika Sörenstam. These women paved the way for countless other women in sports and encouraged young girls to dream big and work hard. My role model was Ms. Joyner-Kersee because I ran track & field in high school. Nowadays, it’s easy to find a kid who will tell you that they want to be famous basketball players, just like LeBron James.
I remember when LeBron James came on the scene. He was just a high school basketball player from Ohio, but he was really good. After high school, he went straight to the NBA at just 19
and was signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is considered among the greatest basketball players in the nation.
The first Space Jam
film came out in 1996 and was centered around NBA legend Michael Jordan
, who played for the Chicago Bulls (from 1984 – 1998), and his teammates were the lovable cartoon characters from the Looney Tunes: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, and newcomer, Lola Bunny. The film made approximately $90.4 million
in the US, and $230 million worldwide.
Having a female cartoon character as a supporting role was a big deal, but she was a cartoon! She wasn’t an actual human, female athlete that embodied the idea of a girl who “kicks ass” in sports. Out of all the women who play professional sports, none were featured in this film.
The world of sports has vastly changed for women since 1996. More women are interested in basketball and play for the NCAA (college) and go to WNBA. There was a 105-percent increase in women competing in archery
after the first Hunger Games film–to be fair, they were inspired by a fictional female character, not real-life female athlete, but still, it was a female in an active, strong, position. In the past five years, the LPGA has gained more media exposure, heralding players like Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko
I don’t mean to disrespect Mr. James, but why couldn’t the film be about a female athlete who uses her skills and intelligence to overcome alien villains? I could deal with the concession of using her beauty to try to seduce the evil being at some point in the movie. Or possibly faking that she’s hurt during the game to garner pity and make a great move against him. (Most A-List Hollywood movies show the lead female as a fragile or extremely beautiful woman but not intelligent. She’s rarely seen as strong and/or determined.) Recently, I have found myself saying that one of my favorite female athletes is Ibtihaj Muhammad
, a New Jersey-born fencing player for the US. Ms. Muhammad overcame external obstacles, she earned numerous international medals and will compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics. She would be an awesome leading character if I were to have my own version of Space Jam 2. Knowing the way Hollywood works, a young, good-looking actress would be chosen for any chance of becoming at least a B-List movie.
Having a woman star in a potentially huge box office hit seems unrealistic and I must contend with a male lead for this sports film. If I could, I would choose embattled professional golfer Tiger Woods. I would enjoy watching Tiger Woods star in Space Jams 2, only to be told by a trusted advisor that he can’t play in the PGA anymore and can only compete against the aliens while on the LPGA. (In real life, he needs to be humbled and brought back to the physical state that brought him to fame.) Then the world would realize the girls can play as good as, or even better than, the men.