“There is no version of myself that makes sense to the world,” Max (Chanté Adams) says in Amazon’s Your own competitionand it’s obvious why: she’s a black woman in a country run by white men, a queer still figuring out her own identity, a baseball phenomenon barred from all-female competition because of her race, and shunned by the integrated local team because of her gender.
But she entrusts this to Carson (Abbi Jacobson, who also co-created the series with Will Graham), another queer baseball player who also never quite fits in. They get each other, even though not everyone does. Your own competition aims to construct a world where women like Max and Carson can feel like they are “understandable” — or better yet, as if they don’t need to understand for anyone but themselves. And while his efforts get off to a shaky start, they eventually extend the legacy of the 1992 film that inspired him while retaining his big, warm heart.
Your own competition
It comes down to
A hit, if not a home run.
Similar to the movie, Amazon’s series chronicles the early days of the Rockford Peaches, one of four teams launched in 1943 as part of the brand-new All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), as male athletes made their way to World War II. The main story beats also remain intact: Carson replaces Geena Davis’ Dottie as the small-town catcher who joins the Peaches while her husband (Patrick J. Adams’ Charlie) is at war, eventually emerging as the leader of the team when the male pro who has to coach them (Nick Offerman’s Dove) doesn’t take their talents and ambitions seriously. The Peaches are once again battling disrespectful fans, impractical uniforms, and even a devastating last-minute trade, and smaller nods to the source material are also spreading everywhere. Of course someone yells “There’s no crying in baseball!” on a certain moment.
But on that trusted foundation Your own competition works to build something new – often by spotlighting histories that were sidelined or ignored by its predecessor. While the film only recognized black ball players through a single throw by an unnamed extra, the series revolves around an extended storyline about Max’s struggle to get into a team, which takes place concurrently with the journey of the Peaches. While the film relegated LGBTQ themes and characters to subtext, the series goes all out on Carson’s impassioned affair with flirtatious teammate Greta (an alluring D’Arcy Carden) or Max’s hesitant exploration of a life outside the conventional heterosexual marriages she lives in. sees her. Woven through it all is a celebration of the simple joy of belonging, whether it be found in the lifelong friendship between Max and her BFF Clance (Gbemisola Ikumelo, very winning) or the bond that forms between the Peaches in the course of their season.
But it takes a while Your own competition to establish his intentions, let alone figure out how to carry them out. Initially, like the Peaches themselves in their first season, the series seems more defined by stubborn determination than actual success. A scene in the premiere (directed by Jamie Babbit) of Carson running to catch the train with her bra uncovered sets her up as a clumsy millennial heroine a la Jacobson’s own earlier work in wide city, which is oddly in a midcentury setting. Indeed, the show sometimes doesn’t seem interested in being a period piece at all: the dialogue is undeniably modern (“If we loss, let it be fucking epic!” reads a pep talk) and the soundtrack crammed with hits from much later. in the century, by Janis Joplin and Nina Simone.
The split structure, which has both Max and Carson leading storylines that only occasionally intersect, proves surprisingly effective – in their similarities or contrasts, each half of the story manages to amplify the other without overshadowing it. But it also leaves little room for supporting characters to come into their own for most of the season. A few, like Greta’s rambunctious bestie Jo (Melanie Field), fade into the background after a strong start; others, like the tough, gruff Lupe (Roberta Colindrez), only begin to open up in the last few episodes.
But if Your own competition is a slow burn to start, it’s one that largely pays off by the end. The half-hearted comedy of the first half (manifested primarily by Carson’s tendency to wander incoherently when nervous) gives way to richer, deeper emotions in the second as Carson, Max, Greta, and others allow themselves to more fully discover who they really are and what they really want. The vague relationships between the characters crystallize into true, tangible chemistry. Even some weaknesses, in certain indulgent lights, are starting to look like strengths. Its anachronisms arguably shorten the distance between the 2020s and the 1940s, and undercooked storylines like Clance’s interest in making comic books could set narrative arcs for future seasons.
At best, Your own competition succeeds cleverly on its own terms, no apologies or references to the source material needed. The purpose and perspective of the series are most evident in the gripping sixth chapter, which follows Carson and Max as they (separately) enter explicitly queer spaces for the first time in their lives. “How is this possible? How is this allowed?” Carson marvels at the bartender, Vi (Rosie O’Donnell). The answer she gets is candid, “It really isn’t.” But the fact that Vi stands there with her wife, hurling drinks at an LGBTQ clientele, is in itself a poignant reminder that such communities exist and have always existed — regardless of whether they’ve been legal, and regardless of whether history books ( or, for that matter, beloved sports dramas from the 1990s) might be worth the effort to include them.
The feeling of homecoming that the characters find in Your own competition feels like a gift, and made all the more precious by the intense realization of the rarity and fragility of the characters and the series. “I feel like I’m supposed to be here, you know? I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this way before,” Carson confesses to her roommate, Shirley (Kate Berlant), in the second episode. She talks about being able to play their first professional ball game the next day. But Your own competitionThe goal is to extend that sense of rightness to all of his characters, for any qualities that make them feel like junk or misfits. It doesn’t always come from the park. But the brisk swings are worth a cheer in their own right.