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Jackie Robinson Story

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One of these guys is not like the others.

Homer: Then that makes me the Jackie Robinson of the sport, and you are the racist Philadelphia manager!
Marge: Quit comparing me to Ben Chapman!
Homer: I will when you open your mind to change!
The Simpsons, "Luca$"

For the 2013 biopic about Jackie Robinson, click here.

A minority resolves to join a profession dominated by an excluding majority.

In their attempt, the character is subjected to considerable verbal abuse, threats and attempted sabotage by the bigoted members of the profession. In response, the focus character shows considerable skill and iron determination to see the challenge through. Meanwhile, sympathetic main characters offer to help while understanding the focus character's insistence on success on their own to gain credibility.

Often there is one final challenge that the focus character must face and, in a climactic moment, the character succeeds, proving their worth in spectacular fashion and setting a valuable precedent for others.

Named after Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in major league American baseball.

Often a subtrope of Breaking the Glass Ceiling. Contrast with "Gender-Normative Parent" Plot, that's about a boy's "unmanly" hobby is disapproved of the people around him. Compare Sweet Polly Oliver. Also see the subcategory of You Go, Girl!, although that is usually more light-hearted.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Princess Nine is about a whole team of girls trying to win the Japanese national High School baseball championship.
  • In the same vein, Taishō Baseball Girls, only even more so a Jackie Robinson Story because as the name implies, the story takes place in the Taishō period (early 1920s), where Stay in the Kitchen was still a very common belief.
  • In the manga version of Eyeshield 21, Panther tries to become a player for the Nasa Aliens, but he is repeatedly rejected by Coach Apollo for being black.
  • Shurei Hong in The Story of Saiunkoku sets out to become the first woman to ever hold a position as a government official in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to feudal China, after the current Emperor changes the law that previously denied women the right to apply for government positions. Even with the support of the Emperor, she faces quite a bit of opposition, to the point that when an outbreak of plague occurs in the province she's been appointed to, a cult starts a rumor that it's divine punishment for allowing a woman to hold office.
  • In Future GPX Cyber Formula, Miki wants to be the top female car mechanic and she tries out to many racing teams, but the staff say that she is either too young for the job or they don't want a girl as their mechanic. She eventually gets her spot as the chief mechanic of the Sugo Asurada team.

    Comic Books 
  • Aiko Inaba in the Judge Dredd spinoffs Shimura and Hondo City Justice, who ended up being the first woman to qualify as a Judge-Inspector in Hondo City despite institutional pressure on her to fail. It helped that her mentor, Shimura, is much more liberal than most of his (then) colleagues.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Remember the Titans does this with an entire squad of African American students, set just after United States schools were racially integrated in 1971. The first half of the movie is about the white athletes and black athletes learning to overcome their differences, while the second half deals with the implications of that unity in a town that is still extremely racist.
  • 42 is this trope, appropriately enough, given that it's about Jackie Robinson's entry into major league baseball.
    • Prior to that, there was The Jackie Robinson Story, in which Jackie Robinson was played by himself.
  • The made-for-TV movie Quarterback Princess, about (you guessed it) a girl who wants to play (American) football.
  • A League of Their Own is Historical Fiction about an all-female baseball league formed during World War II. The Real Life league was created because most of the young men talented enough to play baseball professionally were drafted to serve during World War II. Most of the male characters with speaking parts in the film are either too old or too injured to serve.
  • In the family comedy film Little Giants, it is Becky O'Shea's getting rejected from the local Pee-Wee football team (for nothing more than being a girl) that inspires her father Danny (played by Rick Moranis) to create a team from everyone who got rejected from that team.
  • Pretty much the entire plot of G.I. Jane. In that case, the US Navy SEALs. (One might even mistake the first line of this trope entry as a synopsis for the movie.)
  • Glory Road, the story of the first all-black Texas Western college basketball team, who defeated the mostly white Kentucky (led by Coach Adolph Rupp, who wasn't the overt rabid racist the movie made him out to be) in the finals of the NCAA tournament.
    • Plus, in Real Life, the teams they were playing against mostly already had 3 or 4 starting players who were black, they were just the first to have an all black starting line-up.
  • Subverted in Ice Princess, where the protagonist is the same age, sex, and ethnicity as the other young figure skaters she wants to compete with yet is hassled for this ambition – even by her own mom – because she's a science geek.
  • The Express, about Ernie Davis, first black Heisman Trophy winner.
  • It's a secondary plot going on in Mel Gibson's The Patriot (2000).
  • Glory, about a unit of ex-slaves fighting for the Union army.
  • Men of Honor tells the story of the first Black Master Diver in the US Navy. First, he had to overcome VAST amounts of prejudice and repeated attempts from his superiors to make him fail. Then, he lost a leg and had to fight the bureaucracy to be allowed to return to the Navy. Talk about badass...
  • Blue Skies Again, an early 80s comedy about the resistance a woman faces when she tries to play on a men's minor league baseball team.
  • Red Tails is based on the first African American pilot squadron.
  • In a World…: Minor example. Carol attempts to break into a male-dominated niche (movie trailers) within a niche (advertising work) within a niche (voice-over work) within the acting profession.
  • Parodied in Backfire! (1995), in which all firefighters are women, and the brother of one tries to become the first male firefighter.
  • In Bend It Like Beckham when Jess's coach tries to talk to her dad about letting her join the football (soccer) team he refuses, citing his experience as an Indian man being denied the chance to play cricket in local clubs around London simply because he was Indian, and believed that his daughter would face the same discrimination he did. After she joins the team behind his back, the other girls don't care she's Indian because she's a good player. The only time her race comes up while playing is when a player from another team uses a racial slur during a match causing Jess to lose her temper and shove the girl. The referee, who apparently didn't hear the slur, gives her a red card and sends her off the pitch for violent conduct, a decision her teammates protest. At the end of the movie, after seeing her play and how miserable she was when she wasn't allowed, Jess' father finally gives her his blessing to follow her dreams and play. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue shows him playing cricket again with his new son-in-law and Jess' white football coach.
  • 93Queen (2018) is a documentary about Rachel "Ruchie" Freier's founding of an all-women's emergency medical service Ezras Nashim in Brooklyn's close-knit Hasidic Jewish neighborhood of Borough Park and subsequent election as judge, over unrelenting opposition from Hatzolah, Borough Park's established and strictly all-male EMS.

  • Kel, the protagonist of the Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce. She was actually the second Tortallan girl to train for knighthood (in modern times, at least), but the first was dressed as a man at the time. She's unfairly put on probation by the sexist training master, hazed ruthlessly, and shunned for almost the entire first year. Because she's The Stoic, she gets through it and by the time she's a squire, she's earned a number of good friends and has become a role model to girls who had assumed (thanks in no small part to conservative detractors) that only a goddess-touched mage woman like Alanna had a prayer of becoming a knight alongside the boys.
  • Menolly in Dragonsinger and Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey is the first woman to apprentice herself to the guild of Harpers in generations. There were in fact female Harpers before Menolly, but by the time Menolly comes along the population in general (particularly, her own family) is unaware of the precedent. Despite having the sponsorship of the Masterharper himself, several of the Harpers refuse to teach Menolly or take her seriously.
  • An interesting example is Julie Sims from the Ring of Fire novels by Eric Flint. Prior to the negative space wedgie that triggers the main plot of the books she was training to be an Olympic athlete on the cross-country ski and shoot events, but once in 1632, it turns out that all that training makes her the absolute best sniper in western Europe.
    • The Olympic biathlon pretty much is cross-country sniper training.
    • And she had a rifle which was centuries ahead of any weapon of the time, plus she was trained by someone who was trained as a Marine sniper himself.
  • Erika Berger in The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest leaves the left-wing monthly Millenium to be editor-in-chief at Sweden's largest conservative daily. She is immediately harassed and threatened. Subverted somewhat in that the main antagonist of that subplot didn't actually care that she was a woman in charge, only that she had refused to have sex with him in high school.
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • In Barrayar, Droushnakovi is very tall and strong and gifted at martial arts and unarmed combat, but lives on a planet where anything like that is largely a male preserve. She has three older brothers who smuggle her into boys' judo classes and finds a niche as an adult as bodyguard to the Princess. Cordelia (herself a soldier) thinks to herself that on any civilized planet Droushnakovi would be a decorated trooper by now, but instead is stuck babysitting high-class women all day.
    • Miles himself might also count, as a "mutie" (visibly deformed) man struggling to make it in the highly mutaphobic Barryaran military service. Despite the social protection of his father's rank, he faces bigotry and abuse from his peers for this, including (in The Vor Game) one nasty prank by fellow soldiers on his first military posting that almost gets him killed.
    • More than one character in the series explicitly takes Miles' struggle as their inspiration, repeating the mantra "if he can do it, I can do it." Specifically, Harra, an impoverished hill woman from the short story The Mountains of Mourning, figures that if Miles could get through the Barryaran Military Academy, then she can manage college despite her background.
  • In Catherine Blanton's novel Hold Fast to Dreams, Emmy Lou Jefferson must overcome racism in order to become a dancer.
  • Even Terry Pratchett has Equal Rites, about a girl who aspires to become a wizard in a world where women become witches and men become wizards.
  • In The Man Who Brought the Dodgers Back to Brooklyn, the 1988 Brooklyn Dodgers sign pitcher Ruth Smelkinson, making her the first woman to play in Major League Baseball, and it's framed as a deliberate parallel to the real-life Robinson story. It's actually downplayed a bit, as all Ruth really has to do is impress team owner Bobby Hanes with her pitching prowess (without any mention of him seeking league approval when he signs her), and public support is largely on her side.
  • In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, Westeros is very patriarchal when it comes to ruling and fighting that it's no surprise there would several female POV characters trying to break the barrier:
    • Brienne of Tarth is a skilled and dutiful warrior who experienced a lot of criticism not only for her looks but her attempts become a knight. To add more salt to the wound, she is also wrongfully accused killing Renly Baratheon and later, collaborating with the Lannisters because she happens to be holding a Valyrian sword which just happened to have a lion hilt. Lord Randyll Tarly even told her that wearing armor would likely get her raped. Only a few men such as Jaime Lannister acknowledged her fighting prowess.
    • Daenarys Stormborn of House Targaryen is the last in her family to rightfully inherit the Iron Throne and spends most of her time gathering resources such as an army to take over King's Landing. If she does it well and succeeds, she will be the first woman to sit on the Iron Throne (though she's second because the first was her ancestor Rhaenyra Targaryen who is de-listed by historians due to her reputation). However, many characters only want her because her looks and her dragons. It gets more complicated when one of her backers, Varys, wanted her to wed her long-lost "nephew", Aegon VI, who may be an imposter and there's also Jon Snow, who is possibly Rhaegar Targayen and Lyanna Stark's son.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Appears in Without a Trace. A victim of the week turns out to have been a Japanese American who enlisted and was killed by one of his own teammates because the other guy, already kind of a racist douchebag, cracked from the stress of war.
  • About half of the victims in Cold Case are this. One in particular is clearly based off of Robinson himself, though his murder turns out to be unrelated to the bigotry he was dealing with.
  • In the Century City episode "Love and Games", a bionic eyed player has to make an appeal, as bionics aren't allowed to play because bionic parts give them an unfair advantage.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Bill Burr had a stand-up bit about this, wherein he mocked the overuse of this trope in film, to the point that they were beginning to run out of sports to tell this kind of story with:
    "Now it's all the way down to swimming, and I've got to admit, I-I don't think I give a fuck."

  • Baseball comic The Dugs introduced a female pitcher attempting to break into the major leagues in a story line that begins here. The team and management are less than supportive.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted on Futurama, when Leela is allowed to become the first female professional Blernsball player only because she's so comically bad that it makes for a good crowd-draw. She eventually makes it into the hall of fame – as the worst pitcher in history.
    • It turned out that she still inspired other female players to turn pro – by making them determined to prove they didn't all suck that bad.
    • There's even a Shout-Out: "The first woman to play [major-league Blernsball] well" is a black woman named Jackie Anderson, who berates Leela at one point for being nothing but a "freakshow" who is "making it impossible for female ballplayers to be taken seriously".
  • Subverted in an episode of The Simpsons, featuring a kids' football team. Lisa shows up in full gear, announcing "That's right, a girl wants to play football!" ...only to quit in disappointment, when she finds out there are already four girls on the team.
    • She tries to excuse her quitting by saying she won't play with the skin of a helpless animal. She's then told all the balls are synthetic and the proceeds from buying them go to charity. Denied the ability to lecture everyone, she bursts into tears and runs off. One of the only times Lisa's ever been called on being a Soapbox Sadie.
    • Played straight in another episode where Lisa joins a till-then-boys-only military academy.
    • Lisa was also the first girl to join either of Springfield's peewee hockey teams, where she takes the position of goalie (against Bart who's the opposing team's point-scorer). Needless to say, the game ends on a penalty shot, allowing the Simpson kids to go one-on-one...
    • The trope gets nicely lampshaded in the page quote from the episode Luca$.
  • A one-episode version of this occurs in the penultimate episode of Book One of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Katara has travelled literally from one side of the world to the other to learn waterbending. She sees it as her right to learn, and when Master Pakku refuses to teach her because she's female and demands that she apologize for trying to learn, shenote  challenges himnote  to a fight and gives him a battle to remember. She doesn't win, but she breaks through to him and is allowed to take the classes, doing so well that he designates her as a Master in record time.
  • The Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum episode "I Am Jackie Robinson" is this, obviously.