We all know Geena Davis has serious acting chops, but some might not know she is also a highly talented archer. She picked it up at age 41 and continued practicing the craft.
In fact, at one point Davis was the 13th best archer in the United States and finished 24th of 300 women trying out for the 2000 Olympics, according to the Huffington Post. As if that’s not inspiring enough, in the hit movie “A League of Their Own” – which celebrates its 25th anniversary July 2017 – Davis empowered women to pursue sports and showed everyone that women are just as athletic as men. In the movie, Davis showed women how to dominate a baseball diamond. But in real life, she’s also showed them a thing or two about dominating on the archery range.
A New York Times article in 1999 said Davis was attracted to archery while watching the 1996 Atlanta Olympics on television. She was impressed by Justin Huish, the 21-year-old Californian who won two gold medals.
“I was fascinated by how he shot arrows across the street at home and through his garage,” Davis told the Times. “It was kind of cool. He made it sound like fun, and that inspired me eventually to look into it. I met Justin at the beginning of 1997. He hooked me up with his coach that spring, and I started taking lessons.”
Working with an Olympic coach as a newbie? We can only dream!
Davis said archery taught her much about herself. “You’re spending a lot of time alone with yourself practicing,” she told the New York Times. “You get to know yourself, how calm you can be, how long you can focus. You have to be very self-motivated. You have to have faith in yourself and believe in your abilities. It was an area I had never delved into.”
Archery’s meditative qualities are undeniable, of course. And it’s apparent from the Huffington Post article that Davis is highly in-tune with herself and her impact on women, both on the archery range and the big screen. In the article, she reminisced about the impact of her work in iconic, female-driven classics like “Thelma and Louise” and “A League of Their Own.”
“Wow, I am really going to make choices thinking about what women in the audience are going to think about my character,” she told the HP. “Not to play role models, but to show women in charge of their own fate. That I would rather play baseball than be the girlfriend of the man playing baseball, and that’s the operating principle that’s pushed me ever since.”
And pushed her on, it has. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media released a study in August 2016 that showed archery’s representation in movies has had positive impacts on girls. The study found:
“When asked about archery role models, respondents were just as likely to mention fictional archers as real-life archers. The top five real-life role models mentioned were Brady Ellison (29.4 percent), Khatuna Lorig (22.9 percent), Fred Bear (19.1 percent), Howard Hill (15.2 percent) and Reo Wilde (14.1 percent). The most admired fictional archers mentioned were Robin Hood (23.2 percent), Katniss Everdeen (19.7 percent), Green Arrow (15.1 percent), Princess Merida (10.4 percent), and Legolas (9.6 percent). (Nearly one in 10 archers (8.3 percent) mentioned Geena Davis as an archery role model.)”
As an Oscar-winning actress, advocate and archery role model, Davis is the ultimate triple threat.
Davis gave her own input on the study, noting that “The Hunger Games” and “Brave” were released in 2012. In response, Davis said: “Participation in archery rose 86 percent from 2013 to 2014, with women’s participation increasing 105 percent during that period of time! It’s not surprising to me that Hollywood’s depiction of inspiring female archers has contributed to the sport’s phenomenal growth. It’s another demonstration of the powerful impact fictional characters can have on girls’ aspirations. As I always say, if she can see it, she can be it.”
Don Rabska, vice president of Easton Foundations at the time of the study, agrees. “We’ve seen unprecedented growth in archery in the last few years, especially among young women in the 14 to 16 age group,” Rabska told the Geena Davis Institute. “I believe we can attribute much of this archery growth to movies like ‘Brave’ and ‘The Hunger Games,’ where Hollywood has made the intelligent choice of creating films with girls as the heroes. This positive shift has been an enormous success, not only at the box office, but in energizing young women to go out and do physical activities that they would not likely have done previously.”
That, my friends, is a wonderful thing.
This “Funny or Die” video above shows off Davis’ archery prowess in an unconventional way (insert “don’t try this at home” disclaimer here). We’ve featured this in a previous Archery 360 article, but the video is so entertaining it gets another shot. Besides, the video gives nods to “Brave,” “The Hunger Games” and her passion for gender equality in film, so it’s relevant again.
As an actress, activist and all-around archery admirer, Geena Davis took her passion for archery and nurtured it until it blossomed into something beautiful. She shows girls and women that they can be whoever they want to be.