Imagine 22 women in tights, shoulder pads, and helmets, poised on either side of the scrimmage line, ready to smash each other as hard as they can. Never mind that women aren’t supposed to play tackle football. Forget that women’s pro leagues rarely succeed. These are committed athletes and this is their one, slim chance to realize their dreams of professional sports careers.
This remarkable documentary follows the fortunes of two women during the Women’s Professional Football League’s inaugural season of six exhibition games. One of the women is a young political consultant-turned linebacker and the other is an elite amateur basketball player and single mother taking a shot at wide receiver. Both traveled from afar, trading security and leaving jobs and loved ones for this long-shot at stardom.
They won’t be paid unless the league turns a profit. And in order to be successful, the players themselves must become involved in marketing their games and are forced to confront powerful stereotypes about women athletes and sexuality. But the league is relying on conventional images of women — and a Hooter’s model — to build an audience. Can the athletes overcome their growing unease and can the league fulfill its promises?
As the women struggle through their first season, balancing self-sacrifice with moments of great satisfaction in an effort to make the league both a financial and personal success, the film explores whether women can be anything other than a novelty act in a sport like football, so identified with masculine strength, power, and athleticism. It also probes deeply into what the experience means to the women involved.
“True-Hearted Vixens” is fundamentally about cultural change, seen through the lens of sports. It illustrates with insight, compassion, and candor the challenges that women face when they venture into any male-dominated arena. It was produced by Mylene Moreno for the Independent Television Service with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “True-Hearted Vixens” is a presentation of the Independent Television Service.