The endless competition between men and women was brought to new heights during the rise of the sexual revolution. Taking a step back in 1973, today’s new film “Battle of the Sexes” focuses on the gender conflict between two professional tennis players.
Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, who was also a screenwriter for Slumdog Millionaire, illustrates the true story of the famous tennis challenge between women’s world champion Billie Jean King and ex-men’s champion Bobby Riggs. This competition was titled the “Battle of the Sexes,” and became one of the most watched televised sports events, setting off a global conversation of gender equality. The cast includes Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs.
King was a strong feminist voice for gender equality, and Riggs challenged her to a tennis match that would settle the gender competition. Along with King were other top professional female players, including Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Peaches Bartkowicz and others, who created the Virginia Slims women’s pro circuit. In an effort to promote gender equality, these women held press conferences and continued to win tennis matches to gain public support.
King embarks on her journey to win equal pay for women in the Virginia Slims circuit and battles to protect her career, all while questioning her own sexuality. As the face of her movement, King has to keep the truth a secret, or else risk her career and marriage. Stone plays King as a shy, girly and vulnerable character, who later develops into a highly determined individual. The scene of King’s postgame breakdown in the locker room will trigger viewers’ emotions.
Carell adds his own comedic qualities, as he plays the role of a sexist and arrogant serial hustler. In his fight to defeat King, Riggs tussles with his own gambling obsession, similarly risking the loss of his wife and family.
The filmmakers incorporate sexist attitudes in this old-school setting to emphasize the perception that society had of women in the past. The continuous struggle for acknowledgement and respect influenced outspoken women like Billie Jean King to spark the rise of the women’s movement.