I grew up watching tennis with my grandfather. It was his favorite sport, to play and to follow, and he would happily spend an entire weekend glued to a tournament on TV.
As a result of sitting next to him on the couch all those years, I am super familiar with women's tennis legend Billie Jean King. When I heard actress Emma Stone would star as her in a movie, I couldn't wait to see it.
I didn't make it to Battle of the Sexes while it was in the theater, but I discovered it was available on Amazon during one of my weekend scrolling sessions. Side note: just as we have a term for watching many episodes in a row (binge watching) we should also come up with a term for the hour (or more) it can take to find the next thing you'll watch.
Battle of the Sexes tells the true story of a famous match between Billie Jean King and men's tennis player Bobby Riggs. The story begins when Billie Jean rallies the other members of the women's tennis league to leave the annual tournament circuit because they are being offered a fraction of the prize money the league is offering the men.
Billie Jean's agent, Gladys Heldman, is played by Sarah Silverman, who quickly puts together a new tour - ladies only. As the women travel across the country and draw sizable crowds, former Wimbeldon champion Bobby Riggs (55 years old at the time) challenges Billie Jean to a match, goading her by saying he's positive he can beat any female tennis player. Riggs is played by Steve Carell of The Office.
In advance of the televised match, Riggs proudly promotes chauvinism and encourages other men to do the same. It was incredibly hard to watch.
On the day of the match, September 20, 1973, over 30,000 fans packed the seats of the Houston Astrodome to watch this epic head-to-head. Another 90 million people tuned in on television.
Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in three straight sets: 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. When that final match point was served and King won, I wanted to stand up, scream and clap!
Much like when I saw The Post, as I watched this movie I couldn't help but think, "Wow, we still have so far to go." The battle for equal pay is raging on, 35 years later.
In addition to the storyline about the match, there is a sub plot that was pretty powerful. The same year Billie Jean made the courageous choice to spark this revolution in women's tennis, she also discovered something about herself - she likes women.
Though Billie Jean was married at the time (to a man), she falls in love with a woman named Marilyn, played by Andrea Riseborough. When Billie Jean and Marilyn are together, it's as if no one else exists. There's a scene where they're in a super loud club and the way it's shot, you can see and hear that Billie Jean is laser focused on Marilyn and Marilyn alone.
Battles of the Sexes is a movie about both equality and acceptance. If I had a daughter, I'd watch this movie with her.
Tell me, did you see it? Did you feel inspired?