I don’t know if this trope has actually made it to TVTropes (I’m not sure what name to use to search for it), but if not it should be there.
My eight-year-old daughter was watching the Disney Channel at our hotel this past weekend (we don’t have cable or satellite at home, so she jumped at the opportunity). I was half-watching out of the corner of my eye until this scene caught my interest.
A spunky girl of around 13 or 14, who appeared to be ever-so-slightly nonwhite, challenged a much taller white boy (who was said to be on the basketball team) to a pickup one-on-one game of hoops.
I immediately said to my wife, “I’ll give you 100 to 1 if you want to bet on this boy winning.” She just kind of rolled her eyes and gritted her teeth, because on the one hand she knew I was absolutely right that there was no chance of that happening, but would basically prefer I not point out such things.
Hopefully I don’t need to even bother stating the result.
So how long has this been not just a trope, but essentially an ironclad rule in TV entertainment, especially that directed at kids? And what is the cultural significance of this trope? How does it affect viewers? Does it inspire girls to get cocky and try this challenge IRL, leading to crushing disappointment? (The Williams sisters thought they could beat male pros until they found one, ranked something like 247th in the world, to play them—and he beat them handily.)
I mean, I get that the trope is created by people who mean well. And I strongly support girls’ sports: I have coached both my daughters to play tennis, and my elder daughter is currently a rising star on her high school team as a sophomore (in fact, that was the main purpose of our road trip, to go see her play in the last meet of the season).
But is this really the best way to go? Will it last indefinitely, or is it just a sort of intermediary stage in the culture?