Battle of the Sexes
Last weekend I finally made it to the cinema to watch Battle of the Sexes. For the first time in a long time, my eyes were glued to the screen for the entire (two hour) duration of the movie. I tend to become very easily bored during movies these days. They always seem too long, too unrealistic, too convoluted. But Battle of the Sexes had the desired effect on me: it kept me heavily planted in my seat, laughing at the villain’s (Steve Carrell) exaggerated quips and pining for the heroine (Emma Stone) to beat the odds and overcome the adversity pitted against her.
The movie details the real life story from the 1970’s, of female tennis champion Billie Jean King and her plight as she fights for equal recognition and reimbursement for female athletes. After being told that the women’s prize money is an eighth of the men’s, King begins crusading for change. Along with her manager, she forms a separate, female-only tour which gains traction after the team becomes sponsored by Virginia Slims cigarettes. I watched in amazement as the strong women in the movie were spoken to condescendingly by misogynistic men, and cigarette companies sponsored sports stars. Was this really happening in America only forty something years ago?!
King, who is ‘happily’ married to one of the only non-chauvinistic, decent men in the movie, begins realising that her attraction to women is becoming undeniable when she meets a free-spirited hairdresser named Marilyn, who expresses an interest in her. They begin an intense affair that King is initially desperate to keep quiet due to the fear of what being a known lesbian will do to her reputation and her career. After finding evidence of their affair, her understanding husband simply warns Marilyn that King’s focus must be on her tennis career as that is her true passion.
Eventually, retired tennis champion, Bobby Riggs, challenges King to a match to prove once and for all that “women belong in the kitchen and the bedroom, not on the tennis court”. Riggs is a self-proclaimed chauvinist pig with a gambling problem, who doesn’t believe that female athletes should be entitled to the same benefits as men. The movie follows Riggs and King as they prepare for the battle of the sexes which will ultimately show America that yes, it is possible for women to beat men in the sporting arena.
The movie has been released at a time when issues like feminism and equal rights are pretty predominant in our culture, particularly as the marriage equality debate takes place in Australia. The movie does a great job of being entertaining whilst also provoking thought and highlighting the almost laughable way that women were once seen as inferior beings. I am lucky to live in a time and an environment where I am generally able to speak freely and make the choices that are best for me without fear of retribution. I hope that in time every minority group can say the same thing. I hope that in ten years time, we are shocked at how recently Australia forbade same-sex marriage. I hope that issues like the gender pay gap are completely eradicated within the foreseeable future and we can’t imagine something as unjust occurring. This movie deserves to be watched, if for no other reason than to encourage us to keep moving forward.