I confess that I’ve never really been the kind of fan who shipped characters or felt inspired to create fan art for a show, but A League of Their Own (Amazon Studios) is honestly like nothing else I’ve seen on tv and I suddenly found myself, in my late 40s, making the modern equivalent of a mix tape love letter to a fictional queer romance. By that I mean a playlist that uses songs as narrative building blocks to tell the story of the relationship between Greta and Carson as it unfolds during the first season of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1943. You can check out my full article about the show, Queer Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose, at The Cultural Gutter and read more about the playlist below. If you’re looking for a soundtrack to play while you re-live their romance in your head, give this a try (also here on Amazon Music):
About the playlist
I started out just putting a few songs that reminded me of them into a playlist for a road trip, but then I started to remember how much I used to love making mix tapes and got it into my head that I should try to capture their whole story chronologically in song. I also had a few restrictions in mind that made it more of a challenge. First off, one of the things I love so much about the show is that all of the queerness is right there on the surface with no need to read it in, so any songs where you’d have to substitute “she” for “he” in your mind to make it work were out. All of them had to be in the first or second person, or a girl singing about a girl. Second, I wasn’t willing to pick a song that I didn’t like just because the lyrics were right. It actually became a bit like a poetry writing exercise (maybe more like fridge poetry, since I wasn’t actually writing any of the words) and I got totally sucked into the creative challenge of it.
Songs are awfully large blocks to work with and they often have their own narrative arc, which means they might start at the right place but then progress faster than the storyline of the playlist. Some of the songs represent one moment in time within the story and what the characters are feeling or believe to be true right then, whereas others might represent multiple points throughout their story in the course of a single song. I’ve placed them at the point in the timeline where they begin or seemed the most relevant to me. Some of the songs are clearly from either Carson or Greta’s perspective, but others are more of a mix – a mash up of both together or an optical illusion where you could see it as either one of them depending on how you look at it.
Additional song notes (aka what the heck I was thinking)
A lot of the playlist is pretty self-explanatory, but there are some that might take a bit more effort to decode or have a story outside the song lyrics that influenced why I chose them:
Runnin’ (Colbie Caillat) – when I set out looking for a song to kick off this playlist, what I wanted was basically “Suds in the Bucket” by Sara Evans, but without the dude. I figured I’d have my pick of alt-country songs about women ditching their husbands or lives to chase their dreams, but what I discovered is that almost all of them seem to involve:
- a) running away from an awful dude
- b) running away with a (hopefully) not awful dude
- c) leaving to find an awesome dude
- d) being so sad to leave but you gotta go (often with a tearful goodbye letter to Mom)
It was weirdly hard to find what I was looking for and I do think this song works fairly well to fill that gap, but if anyone has suggestions please let me know!
You Drive Me Wild (The Runaways) – I didn’t intend to use anything from the actual soundtrack, but they really did pick the best one
Secret Love Song, Pt. II (Little Mix) – the Part 1 version of this song features Jason Derulo and uses he/him pronouns, but they released Part 2 without gender pronouns and have dedicated their performances of it to the LGBTQ+ community with a pride flag in the background
Standing in the Way of Control (The Gossip) – Beth Ditto wrote this song in response to the George W. Bush administration’s push for a constitutional ban on gay marriage in the mid 2000s. It got played a lot in dance clubs and Ditto was fine with that: “It’s also nice to know that people are mindlessly dancing to a song like that… especially straight jocks. I love that idea.”
I Know a Place (MUNA) – MUNA have said that they started writing this song after the US Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015 as a queer anthem that was also “a message of safety and nonviolence” for people in the queer community who still don’t feel safe. It also took on new meaning after the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016 and I felt like that made it just right for the bar raid scene. Tragically the part where they say “even if it’s only in my imagination” has been reinforced again this year with the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs.
I also added a few songs after the logical end of the playlist because I wanted to leave y’all on a more optimistic note while still remaining true to the way the first season ends. I love that A League of Their Own includes happy older queer couples like Bert and Gracie or Vi and Edie, who have carved out spaces for themselves to live in the world together as they are in spite of the risks and sacrifices that come with that choice, but I can’t help hoping that Greta and Carson will get to be one of those couples too…