‘Battle of the Sexes’ is an Important and Socially Relevant Film

Josue Dajes, Managing Editor

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“Battle of the Sexes” dives into the metaphor of gender inequality in sports that represents the bigger issue of the respect women deserve in society whether it be inside or outside of sports. The film lays out “sexes” as a term to define men, women, but also so much more. The movie touches on sexual orientation and the internal battle between people of all genders that can’t externally express how they feel out of fear of being judged by the public. This was the case of Billie Jean King.

In 1973, Billie Jean King was known as one of the best female tennis players in the world. During that time, a majority of men believed that they were superior at sports. At the time, men simply believed that they were better than women in most aspects of life, especially the hobbies and jobs that men created and were used to doing. Women did not get the respect they deserved and that’s what King was fighting for.

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Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) pose for a picture at the Battle of the Sexes tennis match press conference.
Photo courtesy of Melinda Sue Gordon via © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

King was played by 2017 Academy Award Best Actress winner Emma Stone. It was a great performance by Stone, who for the first time in her career played an actual person in a movie based on true events. She exemplified the type of person King is.

After winning the U.S. Open women’s singles championship, she became the top ranked female tennis player in the world. Despite her talents, she along with other female tennis players were getting paid eight times less than the male tennis players. Jack Kramer, played by Bill Pullman King, was the head of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association and believed men were better tennis players than females. Kramer felt that men drew more spectators, therefore they should get paid more. He refused to grant King the same amount of prize money for the women’s single championship compared to the men’s single championship, even though they actually drew the same amount of spectators. King would not stand for this. She along with eight other female tennis players made up their own female league, signing $1 contracts. They became sponsored by Virginia Slims and the movement for equality began. The league became really popular, and the players had the opportunity to earn fair amount of prize money. The league evolved to what is now known as the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

Bobby Riggs, played by Steve Carell, was a retired tennis great with a gambling problem, though he didn’t consider it much of a problem because he always won. He decided to challenge the top women’s player in the world to a match for $100,000 to prove that men were superior to women. Carell played the funny character in the film and gave it that comedic aspect that made the movie seem less like a documentary.

He first faced off against Margaret Court, one of King’s fiercest rivals, after King had declined Riggs’s original offer. After Court lost to Riggs, King could not accept the humiliation and low self-esteem placed on women. She decided to take Riggs up on his offer, and the rest is history. She defeated Riggs on one of the grandest stages of the time, the Houston Astro Dome. There was a record crowd of 30,492, and about 50 million people watching on TV. The match is known as the Battle of the Sexes.

King proved Riggs, Kramer and all men who doubted the capabilities of women, wrong. It inspired so many young girls to not be afraid to follow their dreams in a world that was mostly ruled by men.

The movie also drew upon King’s internal struggle with lesbianism and her infidelity to her husband. There’s a scene towards the end where King’s dress designer who is gay, tells her that one day, she will be able to be happy being who she is and loving who she loves. King did not want her sexual orientation to be out in the public and become a distraction from her one true love of the sport of tennis.

“Battle of the Sexes” isn’t your typical sports movie, or a “42” type movie. You can’t go in there expecting it to be an action packed, suspenseful sports movie about social issues. Carell gives it that humor that you don’t see in other socially impactful sports movies. Whether you like sports or not and are a woman or not, it’s a great story and an important part of history.

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