“Lady Ballers” is too stupid to even be anti-trans propaganda

Jeremy Boreing and the cast of Lady Ballers
Jeremy Boreing (center) and the cast of "Lady Ballers" Photo: Screenshot

About a week ago, an LGBTQ Nation editor asked me to watch Lady Ballers and write…something about it. I should have said no.

I should have said that this vile “movie” – written, directed, and starring Daily Wire founder and CEO Jeremy Boreing and featuring appearances by a cohort of the anti-trans trolls who populate his media fiefdom like slugs crawling around under a rock – should be ignored, should be consigned to the compost heap of history to rot. It should be cordoned off like a Superfund site.

I should have asked how anyone could possibly benefit from any sort of consideration of the film. What could anyone possibly need to know about it that they couldn’t glean from forcing themselves to sit through its trailer? The trailer already shows that it’s about a sad-sack former high school basketball coach (Boreing) who convinces a group of his former cisgender male student-athletes to pose as trans women in order to qualify for the women’s events in an Olympics-like tournament; that it is an ugly, disingenuous, profoundly transphobic piece of work.

What else do you need to know? That it is also thoroughly racist? That its writers seem to believe that snide cruelty is the same thing as humor? That in the ugly, disingenuous world of the film, trans men don’t seem to exist? That it takes shots not just at trans acceptance, but at feminism, sensitivity training, women’s basketball, journalists, Bud Light, Dylan Mulvaney, and even Dolly frickin’ Parton? That it features cameos by Riley Gaines, Candace Owens, Andrew Klavan, Jordan Peterson, and Ted frickin’ Cruz? That for a movie supposedly built around the concept of “saving women’s sports,” it is stunningly misogynistic?

I should have asked how we’re even supposed to approach any consideration of Lady Ballers. It is, after all, transparently impossible to judge the film on its artistic merits because it has none. It is not a work of art, commercial or otherwise. MSNBC columnist Katelyn Burns described it as “anti-trans propaganda,” but I’m hesitant to even give it that distinction.

“Propaganda” implies that there are ideas involved, and the film has none. It’s oddly devoid of any explicitly religious or partisan rhetoric and pays the barest of lip service to science. Its worldview is that of the know-nothing bully. It simply repeats the anti-trans talking points that have become depressingly common in right-wing media without unpacking, interrogating, defending, or even explaining them. It repurposes slogans and the simplistic “truths” its audience will recognize as profoundly juvenile “jokes.” It’s the cinematic — and I’m using that word extremely loosely here — equivalent of a spitball launched from the back of the classroom; of a wedgie in the hallway between second and third period. It is the work of bullies who feel threatened by what they don’t understand and have no interest in understanding; of small minds that cannot cope with anything outside of their own narrow worldview, that are unwilling to engage with complicated, challenging concepts.

As the cliché goes, reasonable people can reasonably disagree — for instance in the debate around how trans women should be integrated into elite women’s sports. But the people who made Lady Ballers are not reasonable. They’re trolls, bullies, and profiteers attempting to take advantage of understandable discomfort with and misunderstanding of an admittedly significant paradigm shift in the way people think of themselves and others to enrich themselves.

I should have said that this vile movie isn’t worth the mental energy it would take to untangle and refute the twisted, sneering, hateful “logic” it’s built around, and that to even try would be to fall into the trap that people like Boreing and Matt Walsh and Michael Knowles and Ben Shapiro want us to. It is a willfully, gleefully ignorant film, and its ignorance, like that of its creators, is calculated to make anyone who tries to dispel it look like a fool. To try to explain everything it insists on misunderstanding and misrepresenting about sex, sexuality, gender, biology, identity, social interaction, privilege, etc., etc., ad infinitum… is just a losing game.

And who would I be speaking to anyway? The folks who made Lady Ballers and, I would hazard to guess, those who seek it out and enjoy it, simply do not want to engage in honest debates on these issues. They want to own the libs; that is the fundamental point of this movie, not advancing a debate. To take it seriously enough to critique would give it more credit than it deserves.

At the same time, to treat it like a joke would be to downplay its cruelty and ignorance — its transphobia, misogyny, racism; its profound and corrosive cynicism; the uninteresting nastiness of the minds that created it.

I probably could have (and probably should have) written all of this without actually watching Lady Ballers; without giving an hour and 50 minutes of the one and only life I will ever have to this loathsome film. But morbid curiosity got the better of me. I watched it. What else is there to say, other than I should have thought long and hard about that, about the morbid curiosity, the addiction to outrage that might lead any right-thinking, empathetic person to subject themself to nearly two hours of this toxic, cynical bile. It’s certainly not the same impulse that leads us to rubberneck at a car crash, because at least in a car crash we feel concern, pity, sympathy for those involved who may have been hurt. I don’t feel any of that for the people involved in this film — except maybe for the child actors cast as Boreing’s daughter and her friends.

What emotions should Lady Ballers provoke in people who care about trans folks? Dismay that a right-wing media ecosystem exists wherein something like this can get made and distributed; that there are people in the world as boringly cruel as those who made it? Mild amusement at the dearth of creativity, talent, and intellect that Boreing and co. have so clearly displayed in the finished product? Rage at the hatred they continue to stoke with this and everything else they do?

Any of these reactions would be reasonable. But dismay is useless, and your rage would be better channeled into something else. That leaves amusement, or more accurately derision. But even that requires more of your time and attention than Lady Ballers deserves. Know your enemy, they say. But we already know everything we need to about what the stupid, empty men behind Lady Ballers think. We don’t need to watch their pathetic film learn more.

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