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Film / 42

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"You will remember me."

"Jackie Robinson. A black man in white baseball."
Branch Rickey

42 is a 2013 sports drama film that stars Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, and Nicole Beharie.

The movie focuses on the early years of Real Life baseball legend Jackie Robinson (Boseman), who gets recruited by Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey (Ford) to become the first African-American player of a major league team (or, at least, since Moses Fleetwood Walker played for the Toledo Bluestockings in the 1880s). After proving himself in the minor leagues, Robinson works his way onto the Brooklyn Dodgers; along the way, he must struggle not only against the rampant racism and segregation of the time, but also the notoriety of breaking baseball's color barrier and the backlash from his own teammates. Fortunately, he has the support of his wife Rachel (Beharie), but that still doesn't make it easy...

No relation to the answer to the great question of life, the universe, and everything. At least, as far as anyone knows...

42 provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – History: Despite being repeatedly described as such, even to this day, Jackie Robinson was not the first black man to play in the Major Leagues. That would be Moses Fleetwood Walker. Walker played catcher for the Toledo Blue Stockings from 1884 until 1889, when Major League Baseball officially erected its color barrier. Its more accurate to say that Robinson was the first black man to play Major League baseball in the modern age.
  • Artistic License – Sports: Averted; some moviegoers believe the movie made an error when Robinson hits a walk-off home run that beats Pittsburgh and wins the pennant, but because the scene took place in Pittsburgh, the Pirates should have gotten another at bat. In actuality, it wasn't a walk-off, as the radio announcer explicitly said that barring a miracle comeback by the Pirates, Robinson's homer would send the Dodgers to the World Series.
  • Based on a True Story: The movie is historically accurate for the most part (Robinson's widow extensively reviewed the script), though there are a few liberties taken with Real Life events, most notably Jackie's Heroic BSoD in the game against Philadelphia.
    • Similarly, while Fritz Ostermueller never threw at Robinson's head (he did hit Robinson on the wrist with a brushback pitch, most likely by accident), there were numerous other pitchers who did.
  • Black Is Bigger in Bed: This is one of the slurs Chapman throws out at Robinson.
  • Cathartic Scream: Jackie is brutally verbally harassed by the racist Ben Chapman on the opposing Phillies. You will want to punch the guy in the face, and maybe a few other places as well. After five straight minutes of this and batting badly because of him, he goes down to the dugout hallway, and screams his lungs out while slamming his bat into the walls so hard it breaks, and even after that, he keeps hitting it.
  • The Chooser of the One: Branch Rickey, who announces to his staff that somehow he's going to recruit an African-American player for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He winds up choosing Jackie for his high batting average and base stealing abilities, as well as the fact he previously played with white players at UCLA.
    "I don't know who he is or where he is, but he's coming."
  • Christianity is Catholic: Averted; the clearly religious Rickey is Methodist, and cites Robinson's Methodist faith as one (more) reason to recruit him.
  • Determinator: Nothing is going to stop Branch Rickey from getting an African-American player into Major League Baseball. If you're an employee or player who objects to having Jackie around, he'll fire you without a second thought. If you're an opposing team who refuses to play against Robinson, he'll damn your eternal soul.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Aside from the reactions to a black man playing Major League Baseball, Leo Durocher gets suspended for the year because he was seen cheating on his wife and associating with gamblers while in Havana. Additionally, the players and managers regularly use other ethnic slurs to insult their opponents.
    Ralph: (after Jackie gets beaned while batting) Ostermeuller, you Kraut! You gotta bat, too! Don’t you forget!
    Ostermeuller: I’m ready, you Wop bastard!
  • Exact Words: Burt Shotton declines the offer to become the Dodgers' manager stating that he made a promise to his wife. Rickey responds that he only promised never to wear a team uniform again, not to quit being a manager.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Wendell Smith, the African-American sportswriter hired by Rickey to accompany Robinson.
  • Guttural Growler: Branch Rickey was a famous real life one, and Ford goes to town with it.
  • Hot-Blooded: Robinson and Leo Durocher, although the latter doesn't even try to hold his temper back.
  • Heroic BSoD: Robinson gets one after Philadelphia Phillies coach Ben Chapman throws a nonstop barrage of racial epithets at him during a game.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade:
    • Dixie Walker. Reportedly, he was much more civil to Robinson and by the end of the season he was one of the players that had gained respect towards him. The ending seems to imply that he was traded because he signed the petition (which he indeed did, but did so under pressure of his teammates and later claimed was one of the biggest regrets of his life). The likely cause for his trade more likely had to do with his age; he was in his late thirties, and near the end of his career.
    • Fritz Ostermueller was also more civil and never beaned Robinson in the head. In real life, he hit him in the wrist, which he claimed was an accident as he was trying to pitch him inside. His daughter criticized the filmmakers for portraying him this way.
  • Humble Pie: Done to racist coach Ben Chapman in the movie's "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue.
    "Ben Chapman was fired in 1948 and never coached again."
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Harold says that he wishes he were drinking after telling Jackie that Ben Chapman wants a photo with him.
  • Insult Backfire: This hilarious gem.
    Ben Chapman: Hey, Stanky, what's it like bein' a nigger's nigger?
    Eddie Stanky: I dunno, Chapman, what's it like bein' a redneck piece of shit?
  • Irony:
    • Here's Harold (one of Rickey's aides) speaking to Rickey wanting to bring Robinson to the Dodgers before Chapman in 1946.
    Harold: For all due respect sir, you've [Mr. Rickey] lost your mind.
    • Now here's Harold after Chapman goes on his racist tirade against Jackie in 1947
    Harold: I'm going into that Phillies dugout. And I'm going to wring Ben Chapman's neck!!
  • It Has Only Just Begun: After learning about the players' petition against Jackie playing, Leo Durocher not only tells them that Jackie will be playing with them whether they like it or not, but that he's also just the first of the black ballplayers that will coming into the league soon. So if the players don't want to lose their spots to the fresh crop of talent, they better focus on honing their skills instead of complaining.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: After Chapman receives backlash for his racist barbs at Jackie, he defends himself by telling the press that it's a longstanding tradition to use derogatory slurs for all ethnic groups to distract opposing players. Several other scenes in the film show that he's not wrong, but he's still very much a racist jerkass.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Leo Durocher. His gambling and womanizing, not to mention his outright belligerent attitude towards just about everyone is offset by the fact that he is an early supporter of Robinson joining the team when very few were.
  • Just Train Wrong: A number of anachronisms, such as modern signals in the background when Jackie leaves for New York, and modern freight cars behind the ballfield in Florida.
  • "Just Joking" Justification: This is Chapman's defense after he receives backlash for his racist barbs at Jackie — that it's a longstanding tradition to use derogatory slurs to distract opposing players (as the Jerkass Has a Point and Deliberate Values Dissonance entries show, this is not untrue; but Chapman clearly takes it much further and more cruelly).
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Invoked by one sports announcer, who declares that African-Americans will prove to be superior at baseball because they're born with a longer heelbone that enables them to run faster than Anglo players. He gets mocked by his peers when Robinson hits a home run soon afterwards.
    "Was 'that' because of his longer heel bone?"
  • Large Ham: Branch Rickey is a Real Life example. According to baseball historians, Ford's portrayal in the film is rather subdued by comparison.
  • Magical Negro: Inverted. Robinson is portrayed rather realistically, and his race is only brought up by the racist characters. Ironically enough, the character who seems to act according to this trope is Rickey, a white man. (See White Man's Burden below.)
  • Man Hug: Rickey gives one to Robinson to help him recover from his Heroic BSoD.
  • Messianic Archetype: During Jackie's Heroic BSoD, Branch tells Jackie that he is this trope.
    "You're living the sermon. In the wilderness. Forty days. All of it."
  • Misery Poker: After receiving a threatening letter for his association with Robinson, Pee Wee Reese asks Mr. Rickey if he can be excused from the game at Cincinnati. In response, Rickey opens a filing cabinet and produces three bulging folders full of death threats sent to Jackie.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Ralph Branca gets this when he encourages Jackie Robinson to shower with the other Dodger players, instead of waiting for them to finish first.
    "Jackie, I want you to take a shower with me."
  • Mistaken for Racist: In racially-tense Florida, the Robinsons are merrily walking down the street when a gruff-looking (white) man approaches them. Jackie prepares for a fight, only for the man to sternly say that he's a supporter who thinks Jackie should be allowed to play if he has the talent.
  • Morning Sickness: Rachel Robinson discovers she's pregnant when she gets sick in the middle of a game.
  • My Greatest Failure: This is Rickey's real reason for adding Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers — his lifelong love of baseball was spoiled when, forty years prior, he was unable to recruit a talented African-American player due to segregation. His refusal to ignore the issue after World War II drives him for the entire movie.
  • Neutral No Longer: Happens with Dodgers player Eddie Stanky, who starts off quietly indifferent to Robinson's presence on the team, but angrily confronts Ben Chapman during his racist barrage at the Phillies-Dodgers game.
  • N-Word Privileges: In accurately reflecting the social mores of the time, white characters rudely toss out the N-word without hesitation. Most of the characters who do so tend to be obviously antagonistic jerkasses, though Rickey does it once to test whether Robinson can control his anger.
  • Official Couple: Jackie and Rachel Robinson. The real Rachel Robinson was heavily involved in vetting the script.
  • Only in It for the Money:
    • This is the explanation Branch Rickey gives when he's asked why he's so determined to include an African-American player in the Dodgers. He's lying.
    "Baseball does not know black or white; it only knows green — the color of money."
    • Pee Wee Reese gives this as a reason for not signing the team's anti-Robinson boycott petition stating he couldn't afford to do it as he had a family to feed.
  • Scary Black Man: Discussed by Rickey, who insists that the hot-headed Robinson must keep calm despite the inevitable racial taunts and threats that his integration is sure to attract.
    Robinson: "You want a player who doesn't have the guts to fight back?"
    Rickey: "No. I want a player who's got the guts not to fight back."
  • Shame If Something Happened: After Jackie gets beaned by Fritz Ostermueller, a furious Branca reminds the pitcher that he has to bat this game too.
  • Slouch of Villainy: Chapman manages to pull this off while standing up.
  • That Came Out Wrong: At one point, one of Jackie's teammates asks him why he waits for everyone else to leave the showers before he goes in. Not satisfied with the answer, said teammate says "Take a shower with me, Jackie." He then proceeds to dig himself deeper until an amused Jackie just tells him to stop.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Clay Hopper starts off as a racist Southern gentleman who barely tolerates having Jackie on his minor league team. After a few weeks, he's willing to take on the Sanford, Florida police on Jackie's behalf after an officer threatens to arrest Jack for playing with white players.
  • Turn the Other Cheek:
    Rickey: "Your enemy will be out in force, but you cannot meet him on his own low ground."
  • Villain Ball: As a baseball player, Robinson was known for his ability to steal bases. The standard penalty in baseball for hitting a batter with a pitch (whether deliberate or accidental) is for the batter to advance to first base automatically. So, when racist pitchers deliberately hit Robinson, they were putting one of the best base-stealers in the major leagues in a position to steal bases (his base-stealing talent is noted as one of the reasons for picking him, and was likely something Rickey looked for in order to counter racially-motivated bean-ball throwers).
  • White Man's Burden: Played with. While the movie focuses on Robinson's struggles, Rickey is never far behind, either to support Robinson or to shoot down all objections to Robinson's integration into the league.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: When Harold tells Jackie that Chapman wants to take a photograph with him, Jackie asks Harold if he's been drinking.
  • Young Future Famous People: The epilogue reveals that Ed, the kid who Jackie gave a ball to after leaving spring training, was Ed Charles, a major leaguer who won the 1969 World Series with the "Miracle Mets".