“The Bachelor”, “Bunheads” and “Bones”. Within a week, all three shows featured roller derby. They aren’t the first shows to use our sport to boost ratings.
“CSI: Miami” and “Psych” both featured felonious derby girls. Reality shows like “Anthony
Bourdain: No Reservations” and “Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy” saw both hosts attempting to skate. Larry gets bonus points for actually talking with a flat track team: Sin City Roller Girls. Bourdain tried with the LA Derby Dolls, the team also used in “Bunheads”, “Bones” and “The Bachelor.” (Seriously, do casting agents not realize other derby teams exist?)
It seems Hollywood is cashing in on the derby “trend”. I put trend in quotes because that’s certainly how they seem to treat it. They aren’t treating it like a sport. If they treated it like a sport, the writers would read the rule book, or actually attend a bout. Producers would say, “Hey, flat track is the more prevalent version of roller derby being played around the world. Let’s use that instead of banked.” But none of this is happening, and it’s up to us, the players, to correct all the misconceptions these shows raise.
- Most teams aren’t banked track.
- We don’t throw elbows or punch each other in the face.
- It isn’t staged.
- I don’t know where the writers for “Psych” got the idea to use tape like that. No team I’ve ever heard of uses tape to mark a player for a hit.
- Yes, we get hurt sometimes, but we wear safety gear and have rules to prevent a lot of injuries. The contestant on “The Bachelor” should have been wearing a mouth guard. I have no clue how that one chick on “Bones” ended up with a scalp laceration. Was she not wearing a helmet?
- No, we don’t run around burglarizing stores and killing people (“Psych”). We work, go to school, raise families, and go to practice. Who has time to commit felonies?
- Yes, I’ve heard of players stealing money from the team (“Bones”), but none of those cases ended with a player being stabbed in the eye. They’re just kicked off the team and sometimes prosecuted.
It’s easy to get upset when people ask if roller derby is like this show or that movie, even I get annoyed. But you have to view it as a conversation starter. Don’t shut down the conversation with a bunch of snarky comments. Maybe the person asking you is actually interested in derby, but wants to make sure she/he isn’t committing to something as crazy as what they’ve seen on TV. Take a moment to explain the realities of derby and encourage them to come to a bout to see for themselves.
Also, I’m not mad at the LA Derby Dolls. Whatever they’re doing seems to be working for them. Those women pack the house for bouts and attract some great sponsors. They are a team located in LA and are obviously known in the television community. The team is only taking advantage of an opportunity that most of us would jump at as well.
Honorable mentions go to “My Little Pony”, and “Monster High” for portraying derby in a more favorable light. Since junior derby is growing, I think it’s great that young skaters have their own conversation starters with these shows. I know that “Weeds” and “Bunheads”also featured junior derby (banked track), which is great for some of the older juniors.
I would like to mention one show that promotes derby in the quietest of ways. Every once in a while you can catch Abby on “NCIS” sporting a Psych Ward Sirens shirt. I’m a Siren, and this makes me insanely happy. The show doesn’t use us as a trope. We aren’t a punch line. We’re just there.
There are some shows I haven’t mentioned that used roller derby. “Futurama” and “King of the Hill” come to mind. Feel free to add any shows you know of in the comments. Also, what’s your take on derby being used on TV? Does it help or hurt us?
Oh, and one little thing I forgot to mention before. I actually started playing roller derby because of a short-live reality show called “Rollergirls”. It only had one season and aired on A&E. Because of that show, two of my friends decided to start Panama City Roller Derby. Sometimes good things come out of TV shows.