Lady Ballers and the Art of the Market
The Daily Wire’s new movie, Lady Ballers, a biting satire on the current trans debate, is proving to be something of a hit with audiences if not corporate media critics.
For those unfamiliar with The Daily Wire, the online channel describes itself as one of America’s fastest-growing media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion and entertainment. Renowned for being a platform for political comment and debate, The Daily Wire has more recently moved into mainstream entertainment and production.
Lady Ballers is a new release from the channel and focuses on the recent controversies around men who identify as transgender women competing in women’s sports.
In the movie, a basketball coach looking to repeat past glories reunites with his former high school championship basketball team and challenges them to play like girls.
Controversial with critics
The movie is, in the eyes of audience feedback, seen as funny (helpful for a comedy) as well as pointed. It currently has a 91% Rotten Tomatoes audience score from more than 5,000 ratings, for example.
The movie’s critics score, in contrast, is 60% from five reviews and the response on the whole from corporate and activist media has also been less than congratulatory. “Too stupid to be even anti-trans” claims the LGBTQ Nation, “Completely unfunny” according to Out Magazine and “Anti-trans propaganda” in the view of MSBC.
You get the general idea.
The political dividing line over the movie is hardly surprising, particularly in the current cultural climate, but what the response to Lady Ballers also shows is a reality that no amount of criticism can hide, which is that the market will always decide.
The business of show
As anyone who has been involved in the new release circuit (as yours truly has), being part of movie release schedules and reviewing what is coming to a big screen or streaming service is more about PR and promotions than it is about critical opinion. Any major release has a price tag attached to it and comes with expectations that can make or break creative partnerships or the health of the business behind the release.
At the front end, this can (and does) result in collusion between the writers invited to review new releases and the public relations fronted studios that have invested in the production about to go before the public.
Which is fine and can help lessen or, in some cases, rescue a production lacking in audience appeal, but it can also struggle with a real stinker (Mortal Engines, John Carter or Cutthroat Island, for example).
As history has demonstrated over and over (think Venom, Big Daddy and Tommy Boy), this principle also cuts in the other direction, as Lady Ballers is now demonstrating, picking up streaming business and in the process becoming The Daily Wire’s biggest launch in its history.
This perhaps explains why it has come under such vitriol from critics on the pro-trans side of the aisle and ultimately why, particularly in the democratising era of social media, it will not matter in terms of reaching its target audience.
The free market works, as much in the exchange of ideas as in products and services.
Which is also why for many leftists it is just as much a problem as what it puts into the marketplace.