Recently we watched Maiden, a documentary about the first all-female crew to participate in the Whitbread around-the-world sailboat race.
Unlike many of the films in my queue, I remember exactly why this one is there: I read a brief profile of the Maiden‘s skipper, Tracy Edwards, in The New Yorker, marking the 30th anniversary of the Maiden‘s run in the race. Although I am no particular fan of sailing or sailboats (and certainly don’t ever want to be on one out in the ocean ever again), the story sounded interesting, so I added the documentary to my list. And then, because I had been subjecting my wife to any number of movies that, shall we say, did not exactly hold her interest, I bumped it up to the second position in the queue, just behind Avengers: Endgame*, figuring this one might. For once, I was correct, although there was a little bit of confusion at first as to what the movie was about.
Wife: “Maiden? What is this?”
Me: “This is a documentary.”
Wife: “What’s with all the boats?”
Me: “It’s a documentary about a sailboat race.”
Wife: “Oh. I thought it was about the band.”
And that is pretty much the only time you’re ever going to hear my wife make an Iron Maiden reference.
Anyway, unlike me, my wife actually enjoys being out on the ocean in boats small and large, and was immediately hooked by the story.
Wife: “When did this race take place?”
Me (checks movie description): “1989.”
Wife (after a moment): “Huh, so a couple years after we graduated high school.”
I’m pretty sure that little pause right there was my wife thinking something along the lines of, “I could have taken a year off to race a sailboat around the world.” Yeah, have fun with that.
One of the main themes of Maiden is of course that nobody thought an all-female crew had any chance of even finishing a round-the-world sailboat race, let alone of winning one. At the start of the race, the ship was referred to as “a tinful of tarts”, and an unofficial pool among reporters covering the race came to the consensus that they would turn around before getting to the Canary Islands. Even after they got through the Southern Ocean, observers insisted they were just “lucky”. Watching the scenes of their voyage through the Southern Ocean (one of their crew filmed a good deal of the race), it’s pretty obvious that luck didn’t have a lot to do with it.
That’s not the Maiden‘s footage of the Southern Ocean, but it gives you the idea what they were up against down there when they were getting “lucky”.
Me: “This movie is fascinating, but it’s also horrifying.”
Wife: “You mean the way they were treated?”
Me: “Well I meant the idea of being on a sailboat out in the ocean like that. But yes, also the way they were treated.”
Thirty years later, it doesn’t seem like much has changed for women in male-dominated sports. Like I said, I’m not a particular fan of sailing, but I am a fan of BattleBots, and a couple of my favorite robots (Witch Doctor and Valkyrie) are designed and captained by women, and I routinely see their victories being dismissed as “lucky” or attributed to weak opponents or mistakes made by the other driver. This despite the fact that Witch Doctor was undefeated this last season, losing only in the final match against the also-undefeated champion, Bite Force. I mean, does this look like luck?
These sorts of threads over on Reddit eventually led to some amusing comments, like this one from a Witch Doctor fan who was fed up with the baseless trashing:
But I digress. Because people shouldn’t trash talk my Witch Doctor.
Anyway, Maiden not only kept my wife awake for its entire 97 minute running time, but she also hung around afterwards to watch part of a Q&A special feature with Tracy Edwards and the documentary filmmaker. And if you can manage to make my wife pay attention to a couple of talking heads, well, you’ve definitely done your job well.
* The astute reader may notice the absence of a “not a review” of Avengers: Endgame. This is because my wife didn’t stay awake long enough to really make any comments about it; she just watched Tony Stark’s long-awaited reunion with Pepper Potts, then fell asleep. So later on, I filled her in on what she missed. Spoilers follow!
Me: “Well it’s a good thing you didn’t see the ending of Endgame.”
Wife: “Why? Did they do something to Tony Stark?”
Me: “Yeah you might say that.” (explains what happened)
Wife: “But they’ll bring him back, right?”
Me: “Ummm I don’t think so.”
But hey, in comic book land, you never know.
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