True-Hearted Vixens is the story of two players who make the cut for the Women’s Professional Football League’s (WPFL’s) first exhibition tour. Jane Bolin is a political consultant turned linebacker and Kertia ‘Moochie’ Lofton is a single mother and a professional women’s basketball hopeful. The film also documents the challenges the WPFL faces in developing an audience for a sport that is traditionally regarded as male terrain.
The football players discover early in the season that the obstacles to their dreams are as much off the field as on. For women who are turning conventional concepts of gender-appropriate behavior on their heads, the athletes soon find themselves in all too-familiar territory. The very names the league chooses for the two teams on the six-game tour — Vixens and Minx — indicate that the reality of gender stereotypes is not being left on the sidelines.
Sponsorship of the league by a local Hooters restaurant injects an even more disquieting note in the WPFL’s inaugural tour. As dedicated as they are to athletics, Bolin, Moochie and the others have to come to grips with the fact that athletic prowess is not enough to overcome women’s traditional role as entertainment — or to make the league a success.
Midway through True-Hearted Vixens, Bolin is confronted with another stereotype: all female athletes are gay. She admits that she is attracted to a teammate, Red. It distresses Bolin that she maybe reinforcing this stereotype, but she decides to remain true to herself.
The documentary also highlights the financial obstacles in introducing a female version of America’s favorite pastime. The fledgling, male-run WPFL banks, at least initially, on a publicity campaign highlighting the attractiveness of the players to draw the attendance required to attract financial backers.
Making peace with the league’s titillation factor only leads the women deeper into the business problems confronting the start-up sports league. Games are played with increasing intensity, but attendance is spotty. The league’s financial footing grows uncertain. League management appears shaky. The women are not always sure if they are being offered an opportunity by the league or being exploited by it.
Ultimately, Bolin and Lofton must examine their own motivations for playing and their attitudes toward athletics, success and gender roles. “This is at its core a very American story,” says filmmaker Moreno. “True-Hearted Vixens is about sacrifice and dedication — all the extraordinary things it takes to realize a dream.”