The Battle of the Sexes Rages On

The hardest thing about writing anything is the first sentence. For this review that challenge has been even tougher than usual. Why? Because, the Battle of the Sexes was more than just a biopic for me. Like everything I write about, I can only speak for myself, but to me this film felt important.

Set in the early 1970’s the film revolves around the highly publicized tennis match between self-proclaimed male chauvinist Bobby Riggs and tennis legend Billy Jean King. Most of the narrative focuses on Billy Jean King’s personal journey during this time, including her love affair with stylist, Marilyn Barnet. However, time is also devoted to Bobby Riggs and his motivation for instigating the famed 1973 Battle of the Sexes.

I mentioned at the start that this film felt important and the reason for that is because it still feels very familiar. This tennis match took place 14 years before I was born and yet I see women even today still struggling against the same sexism and misogyny that Billy Jean King and her fellow female tennis players faced over forty years ago.

From what I’ve read about the Battle of the Sexes, it seems that the film does a pretty solid job of portraying the events accurately. And, it is the accuracy that I find most troubling. We see Bobby Riggs prance around like the jokester he was oozing sexism and rallying a legion of misogynists. We see this, and then we see everyone laugh. He’s entertaining. It doesn’t matter that what he is saying is taking down half the population. On the opposite end of the court we see Billy Jean King, serious and dedicated with the weight of an entire gender on her shoulders. We also see her struggle to accept her own sexuality in a time where being opening gay was career-ending.

The night and day approach to the match between the opponents speaks miles about the everyday Battle of the Sexes that was brewing in 1973. Women had to fight at every turn just to be taken seriously. I left the movie feeling rather angry. I wasn’t angry because of the movie. No, I was angry because the movie seemed to accurately portray the spectacle that was the Battle of the Sexes. I was angry because women fighting to be taken seriously and gain equity is still, even in 2017, treated as a spectacle and often times a joke. I was also angry because in 2017 I still see people I love, members of the lgbtq+ community, fight everyday for the right to openly love.

Lately, I’ve sat down to write movie reviews and I find myself writing about other topics. This is a prime example of that. But, there are seemingly infinite number of movies reviews out their for every film I see. My dissecting the lighting and directing feels like shouting into a raucous crowd. I can barely bring myself to approach talking about any movie this way and I definitely couldn’t do it with Battle of the Sexes. It’s not the case, but if the acting was subpar and the production low-quality it wouldn’t change the fact that this film is important because of the story and message it offers.

So, no, I couldn’t sit down and just write a standard movie review about this film. With everything that is going on in the world today, reducing a film like Battle of the Sexes to a mere technical analysis seems frivolous. But, I can give you one thing that is standard for a film review: a recommendation. My recommendation is that you see this film and while you’re watching it, think about the women and lgbtq+ people you know. Watch this film and ask yourself how or if things have changed, and once you have that answer, ask why.

 

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