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Battle of the Sexes
Have we really come a long way, baby?
Watching this sweet, easily digestible look back at what led to one of the most iconic sporting events of all time, the battle between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, one can’t help but wonder.
I love how the film is described, genre wise, on Rotten Tomatoes as falling into the genres “Comedy, Sports & Fitness”. Safe enough. Which, to me, is what keeps this movie, a story about greatness, from being really great. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’s script should have had the balls its heroine did. And does. We watch as Emma Stone’s Billie Jean King, a woman awakening to her real sexuality, takes amazingly bold steps, especially in light of the times. She stands up to the tennis hierarchy and helps form a league just for women, fighting for equal pay and respect. It is a natural conclusion when she eventually takes on former tennis champion (a fabulous Steve Carell) Bobby Riggs’ challenge: they’ll serve it up, live on national TV. It’s more than a question of money or strength, physical and mental: King was taking court on behalf of women all over the world, people who felt they, too, should be treated as equals.
This all took place in 1973. Most know what happened that night and what has happened since then. Is it some cosmic joke that this movie debuts just as the fight for women’s rights has taken a precarious leap back, possibly catapulting us to a time when some thought things were “great”? Maybe not. But King’s story, even as gently as it is told here, rings loud and clear. We have come a long way, we still have a long way to go. And women like Billie Jean King will fearlessly lead the way.