Nashville’s own Daily Wire has returned from an 18-month slumber between major film releases with the surprise reveal and release this past week of a new movie. The company is continuing its two-year experiment to expand the culture war in a new direction by making original films like Terror On The Prairie, Shut In, and What Is A Woman, appealing to “non-woke” audiences, and giving cancel culture victims like Gina Carano a second career chance.
Their newest film, Lady Ballers, plopped onto social media this past week as a complete surprise, offering one of the most topically controversial premises for a film in recent history—a sports comedy about transgender women who dominate women’s sports.
It is a movie selling itself on how offensive it is and how transgressive it is toward one of the most controversial political issues of our time. And yet, my biggest question after seeing the film now is a broader one—who is this movie being made for?
Daily Wire CEO Jeremy Boreing—in his capacity as the film’s writer, director, and lead actor—has improved tremendously as a filmmaker since he shot The Arroyo a decade ago, and manages here to pull together a film that is goofy and purposely transgressive. But it still bears the scars of a movie conceived in March and rushed to completion by July.
The film follows Rob Gibson (Jeremy Boreing); a washed-up high school men’s basketball coach from Nashville who has hit rock bottom after his wife divorced him and left him for a new-age hippie activist who enjoys eating bugs, meditating, and taking mRNA vaccines (Matt Walsh). When he realizes that he can become successful by having his former students compete in women’s sports, he gathers them together to compete in a national basketball competition that earns him media praise and large cash prizes, as they bend over backward to declare how brave these athletes are for coming out as transgender.
It explores how cynical people take advantage of cynical systems for personal benefit while making the obvious point that female athletes are the ones who suffer under this arrangement. The movie is largely comprised of conservative shibboleths, but it occasionally uses them cleverly; like letting a progressive 10-year-old girl give a lecture on sexual identity because she’s already thoroughly familiar with the concepts thanks to her elementary school teacher.
Unfortunately, these shibboleths cut both ways. Many of the film’s characters are rather one-note and shallow; particularly Bille Rae Brandt as a journalist who is motivated to intentionally lie and create fake stories for her benefit and happily proclaims her fakeness to everyone she meets. There are no transgender characters in the movie so their perspective on these events is not addressed.
People who would otherwise be stereotypically disliked by conservatives are portrayed in the movie as uncomplicated villains while it simultaneously gives glowing celebrity cameos to conservative social media influencers and politicians like Ben Shapiro, Matt Walsh, Riley Gaines, Seth Dillon, and Ted Cruz.
The edginess and sexual content of some of the humor does leave the film in a strange position. The movie is too gross for young conservative Christians, too edgy for boomers who just want to watch Turner Classic Movies, too inflammatory for progressive audiences, and too political for casual audiences wanting to watch thrillers and comedies.
Additionally, all of their films are solely available through DailyWire+ subscriptions, with no available physical or theatrical releases—meaning you have to pay for an explicitly political streaming service to even watch it turning into merely a fanservice movie. This fact and the limited nature of its release cuts against the stated mission of making films that appeal more broadly to the culture.
Boreing has been fairly honest that Lady Ballers was conceived from the outset as a movie that “only the Daily Wire can make,” and chose to rely on stunt-casting activists after early attempts to cast larger actors through United Talent Agency failed. He has also mentioned that distributors aggressively ruled out theatrical distribution as a possibility given how controversial the movie was.
But considering they’re currently betting the farm on large upcoming adaptations of Pendragon, Atlas Shrugged, and Snow White next year, Daily Wire is going to need wider audiences. Unfortunately, their next project, the Adam Carolla-backed animated series Mr. Birchum, has already crammed its voice cast with controversial figures like Megyn Kelly, Roseanne Barr, and Candace Owens.
If the Daily Wire wants to make cheap/amusing comedies that they can sell specifically to people who are pissed off about Disney and wokeness, that is certainly their prerogative and I don’t blame them for embracing that grind. But doing so is not the same as making a dent in the culture war and won’t create the next Barbenheimer phenomenon.
Daily Wire’s films likely won’t have a similar cultural impact until their films emerge from the safety of their subscription service and reliance on cameos from right-wing activists. Their films need room to breathe, to circulate more widely, for Twitter to discuss them, and to be vaguely defensible when they’re brought up at Thanksgiving as “the cool new movie I saw this year.” They’ll only succeed when average filmgoers recognize their movies while scrolling through Redbox and rent them as casually as the newest Liam Neeson movie.