“Battle of the Sexes” is a timely reminder the struggle for greater equality between men and women is not over, though times have surely changed for the better since the tennis match between Bobby Riggs against Billie Jean King. It was more public-relations spectacle than test of athletic skill. The Super Bowl-like publicity surrounding the event lives up to Riggs’s boast to “put the show back in chauvinism”.
At the time, the match was one of the biggest televised sporting events in history, with more than 90 million people watching on ABC.
The US talent is undoubtedly at the height of her career, having walked away from this year’s Oscars with the Best Actress title thanks to her starring turn in box office hit La La Land. In a few minutes, we’ll hear an interview I recorded with Billie Jean King in 2013 commemorating the 40th anniversary of that match.
Much of what is depicted in “Battle of the Sexes” might seem cringeworthy to contemporary audiences, with the male-dominated professional sports world of the ’70s being particularly cruel to female athletes and unwanted suggestive comments all but de rigueur. In fact, she didn’t do it until Riggs had badly beaten Margaret Court, who was one of the greatest players in women’s tennis at the time.
Riggs (Steve Carell) had been a world champion in the 1940s but, in 1973, at age 55, he’s a bored executive with a desk job and all-around goof-off who will wager on just about anything. Here, King and Riggs drum up excitement with a jaunty press conference.
It was a $100,000 winner-take-all match, but television and other rights were expected to boost the winner’s share to about $200,000 and give the loser about $100,000.
Women’s college athletes went from about 32,000 in 1972 to 191,131 in 2011. She started the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative in an off-the-court effort to get the CEOs of companies to commit to equal pay. She was too quick in the exchanges.
“She’s really very generous toward Jack’s memory”, Mr. Pullman said. When a boy struck out, it was dismissed as an off day; when I swung and missed, it was eye-rolling proof that I didn’t belong there.
FARIS: Oh, it was – I felt like I didn’t relax for 2 1/2 years. “Feeling nauseous. At a certain point, I couldn’t go to friends’ houses anymore – I could barely get out the door to school”. Mrs. King made her entrance on a carriage, borne by six muscular males like a reigning Egyptian queen.
Though younger listeners may scarcely believe it, if King had lost, it would’ve damaged the woman’s cause for years.
Riggs got a brown baby pig from Mrs. King. Not only did King ask the filmmakers to please honor the Original 9 in the film, but also six of the women were present for the movie’s premiere in Los Angeles this past weekend.
Steve Carell brings the right amount of comedy to the role of Bobby Riggs. As viewers learn, the game wasn’t the only thing at stake for King.
King ended up besting Riggs in all three sets (6-4, 6-3, 6-3).
In “Battle of the Sexes”, there’s also the unfortunate “elephant on the court” of unfinished business. That is where I perform, ‘ ” Stone says. “She did tell me that the last time she saw him was at Wimbledon, and she hugged him”. An iconic photo that Faris and Dayton re-create in the film features the pioneering tennis stars holding up $1 bills – symbols of the $1 contracts they signed. The rowdy crowd cheered throughout the match and never showed signs of letting up.
Inkoo Kang at the Wrap agrees Carell shines, but she attributes this to “the meekness of the characterization of King”.
“The fact that she let herself explore that and not deny herself that because of her place, because of her public image and all the pressure that was on her – I think that’s what was so courageous in those times”, said Faris.
Also in attendance was the real Billie Jean King, who is played by Stone in the film.