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Battle of the Sexes

This movie is the story behind the showdown between Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell does well portraying him as a bit of a goof) and Billie Jean King (another excellent performance by Emma Stone). Billie Jean King has just come from launching the Virginia Slims tour as a strictly women’s tour after the dominant tennis associate would only agree to pay the female winner 1/8 of what the male winner would take. This provides at least part of the inspiration for her to accept Bobby Riggs’ challenge to her.  The film does a nice job of providing the context of sports and the sexism that was rampant at the time (and arguable still today). It also provides insight into the personal lives of the two contenders- King struggling with her sexual orientation and being taken seriously in a sport dominated by men, and Riggs with a gambling addiction and a rocky marriage). I also like the fact that the directors got the period right with its 70’s soundtrack and other details (like those old rotary phones). What did not work so well were some of the side stories that seemed to have very little depth or connection to the main story; one example was Riggs’ grown son – it is never exactly clear what his relationship to his father was or why it was important to the film. The film gets a thumbs-up from me as a solid portrayal of sports and sexism that still feels as relevant today as it was then. It is a great piece of sports and women’s rights history for those in the generations who were not around to experience the Riggs-King match first-hand.

About Gary Burkholder

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