Defying Gravity

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Defying Gravity TV Poster Image
Docu pays homage to female gymnastics; some heavy themes.

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Positive Messages

The docuseries highlights the talent, hard work, and commitment required to become a champion gymnast. It also underscores the love and passion successful gymnasts have for the sport. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

It showcases some of the most talented women who have successfully competed in gymnastics over the past 50+ years, despite having to face multiple obstacles. Gymnasts are from different countries, races, and ethnic backgrounds. It also points to some of the coaches who have been accused and convicted of abusing gymnasts, as well as those who have been banned from the sport for inappropriate behaviors. 

Violence

Gymnasts are shown falling and getting hurt. Life threatening and career-ending injuries are discussed. One episode, which is available on YouTube Premium, discusses the history of physical and sexual abuse in gymnastics, but does not detail the acts themselves.

Sex

There are references to gymnasts’ bodies changing as they get older, but this is not offered in a sexual context. 

Language

Words like "piss" and "damn" are occasionally used. 

Consumerism

Logos for Nike, Under Amor, Janssen Fritsen, and other sport sponsors are visible on clothing and equipment. Logos for different gyms and universities are also featured. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Defying Gravity is a docuseries about women’s gymnastics from the point of view of some of the sport’s greatest champions. There’s some occasional strong words ("damn," "pissed"), and there’s lots of corporate logos on athletic wear and gear, including Nike, UnderAmor, and Janssen Fritsen. Athletes are shown falling, and life-changing injuries are discussed. It’s an overall positive series, but one episode specifically addresses the sexual abuse scandal and other violent behaviors in the sport, but offers limited details about specific acts. Most of the series' episodes are available on YouTube, but some are only available on YouTube Premium

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What's the story?

DEFYING GRAVITY: THE UNTOLD STORY OF WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS is a YouTube/Glamour streaming series that documents the thoughts and feelings about women’s gymnastics from some of the biggest champions in the sport. With the help of interviews and archival footage, former, current, and up-and-coming gymnastics champions share how they started, how they've evolved as athletes, and their past, current, and future goals. They also discuss the hard work, sacrifices, and commitments they made to make it to the top of their sport. Some of the history behind the way the women’s gymnastics has changed over the years, and the skill sets required for each apparatus, is shared. Also addressed is some of the controversial aspects of the sport, including sexual abuse, and the decision-making process associated with choosing a U.S. national team to compete at the Olympics.

Is it any good?

This series, which was filmed prior to the cancellation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, features champion gymnasts from different countries and divisions sharing their thoughts on the sport and their participation in it. International champions like former Russian gymnast Olga Korbut, former Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, and U.S. champions like Ally Raiseman and Laurie Hernandez, offer their unique perspectives about what being an elite gymnast is like, and the highs and lows associated with it. It also features collegiate champions like Katelyn Ohashi, who chose college sports over an Olympic career, and up-and-coming Olympic hopefuls like Morgan Hurd, as she prepares to compete for a spot on the Olympic team. 

One specific episode of the series addresses the systemic and pervasive verbal and sexual abuse in the sport, which has been allowed to persist for over half a century, and which has only recently finally been confronted. These details are disturbing, but it also highlights the level of courage and strength these athletes have had to compete within the backdrop of these horrors. But most of Defying Gravity focuses on the positive aspects of the sport, and underscores the intense passion these women have for it. If you’re a gymnastics fan, no doubt you will enjoy what this docuseries has to offer. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the gymnasts featured in Defying Gravity. What makes each of them a gymnastics champion? How did/do they each contribute to the sport?

  • Why is hard work not enough to reach elite level gymnastics? What other qualities do female gymnasts have to have in order to make it that far in the sport? Is this fair? Problematic? 

  • How does gymnastics differ from other high-profile internatonal sports? 

TV details

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