Emma Stone & Steve Carell in 'Battle of the Sexes' Trailer | The Mary Sue
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Battle of the Sexes Trailer: Emma Stone & Steve Carell Take on the Famous Chauvinistic Tennis Feud

'There's not a single thing I don't hate about Bobby Riggs.'


1973’s so-called “Battle of the Sexes” remains one of history’s most spectacular sports stories. For the unfamiliar, it started with a sad man. (You know, like every story.) Bobby Riggs was one of the best tennis players of the 1940s. More than 20 years after his retirement, in an obvious grab at relevancy, he took to publicly stating women were naturally inferior tennis players and that at 55 years old, he could beat any woman in the game. He challenged three women–Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, and Martina Navratilova—to play, but it’s his match with King that’s most famously remembered.

The trailer looks to focus as much on the players’ lives as on their game, which is a good sign because the behind-the-scenes dynamic is, without a doubt, what makes this story interesting. The match was sold as a “Battle of the Sexes,” a play for gender equality. As if this sad, irrelevant man had the power to finally bestow equality on women. As if it were about anything at all but his ego and the ego of men like him, afraid of losing what they assumed was natural superiority. Even after the match, tons of critics didn’t give King the credit she deserved, pointing out that her age was her biggest advantage (as opposed to skill). Never mind that Riggs’ entire point was that he could beat a then-29-year-old champion. Men still found it hard to acknowledge King’s skill. In a “Battle of the Sexes,” would anyone really expect a woman’s win to be recognized as such?

I’m trying not to get my hopes too far up, but the tone of the trailer makes it feel like this movie might actually do justice to Billie Jean King. Even beyond her illustrious career in tennis, she’s had a fascinating life. In 1972, she was outed by her then-husband Larry King in Ms. Magazine as having had an abortion. She discovered she was gay in 1968 and entered into a relationship with her secretary in 1971, but didn’t come out (or rather, again, was outed) until 1981, and she and Larry didn’t split until 1987. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama for her work in the LGBTQ community, and was appointed to represent the U.S. at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where gay rights violations were of great concern. She is a badass.

My biggest fear for the film is that I’m going to walk away with even the tiniest bit of sympathy for Bobby Riggs. My entire life I’ve been onboard with Sarah Silverman in the trailer (who plays fellow tennis pro and founder of World Tennis magazine Gladys Heldman): “There’s not a single thing I don’t hate about Bobby Riggs.” Those over-the-top antics you see in the trailer, with him in costumes, doing elaborate bits to belittle or goad King—those are accurate.

He was an ass. But obviously, he had his own demons. And I’m not especially looking forward to this movie making me care. But with Steve Carell playing him and Emma Stone (plus the directors of Little Miss Sunshine) onboard, I suspect I’d better get ready for some unwanted empathy.


(image: YouTube)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.