I’ve always thought Bobby Riggs was a jackass and a completely uninteresting figure. But I like Billie Jean King, and as regular blog readers know, I’m sometimes mistaken for her. That incidental connection with her life, plus encouragement from some people whose movie judgment I trust, took me to see Battle of the Sexes. I loved the film. Emma Stone really nails King, and somehow the match with Riggs is thrilling, even though we know the outcome.
The match took place in 1973, and it was a reminder — despite every effort of the Trump administration to take us back to the 1950’s — of how far women, female athletes, and LGBTQ Americans have come. All of women’s sports, not just tennis, owes a great debt to Billie Jean King, who led the drive for equal prize money, created the WTA, and stood up to the promoters who regularly disparaged women’s talent.
There is also a tender personal story, as King becomes aware of her lesbian identity and begins a passionate relationship with her hairdresser — right in the midst of the highly publicized battle viewed worldwide by an estimated 90 million people. Alan Cummings, who plays the dresser for the WTA athletes, whispers to King that “someday we’ll be able to love who we love.”
Despite the best efforts of Jeff Sessions and Roy Moore and the Republican Party, that day is here.