Beyond first impressions: a review of This Is Roller Derby

One of the first derby articles I ever wrote - and the piece that committed me to telling a little bit of the story of roller derby from then on (whether anyone wanted me to or not), was a review of Derby, Baby!.

It's been a while since any other documentary about derby has blessed our screens, but tonight, I had the opportunity - and the pleasure - of seeing 'This Is Roller Derby' - a documentary concerning itself less about the economics and future of derby than the formerly-mentioned release, filmed over the course of 12 months which crosses repeatedly between leagues in the United States and here in Australia - and particularly my home state of Victoria.

Family ties (and feuds) - a review of Derby, Baby!

Photos courtesy of
Photos courtesy of

Spend even a short time in the world of derby and it won't take you long to observe that the sport is in constant movement even off the track. It's growing at such a rapid pace and is attracting the attention of so many across a range of generations. Yet, it often struggles to shake off the yoke of the 1970s version of derby that your creepy uncle remembers.

It seems that derby is a bit cursed by its origins as a theatrical entertainment, and some might see both those origins, and the still-present subculture and style of derby, as thwarting any attempts it (maybe) makes to be recognised as a valid, complex sport.

Some (limited) exposure of derby in the media compounds this issue with obsession regarding the contact nature of the sport, the derby names, the fishnets. This focus doesn't do the world of derby the justice it deserves.