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'Battle of the Sexes' has important messages about prejudice, sexuality

As someone who is indifferent to sports, I can assure anyone who does not expect to enjoy a two-hour film about tennis that Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ "Battle of the Sexes" is far more than your classic sports movie.

Written by Simon Beaufoy and starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell, "Battle of the Sexes" tells the empowering true story of tennis player Billie Jean King’s acceptance of self-proclaimed chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs’ tennis challenge in 1973. This invitation was triggered by Riggs’ desire to prove that women do not belong on the tennis court – let alone do they deserve equal pay – and that their role is reserved for the kitchen and the bedroom.

As a 16-year-old girl, I have heard men repeatedly remark that women seeking equality are attacking them and promoting an anti-man agenda.

It is appalling that this behavior traces back so far, received less criticism and limited women’s roles in society even more than it does now.

This is what prevents this movie from automatically getting categorized into the sports genre.

The purpose of "Battle of the Sexes" is to inform young people about this significant moment from 44 years ago, and about the strides we have made as women since then. It demonstrates where issues of sexism from past and present overlap.

And it achieves that goal perfectly, making it a completely worthwhile watch.

The moment when King, portrayed by Stone, brutally defeats Riggs, played by Carell, is bittersweet, since we know that men still doubt women’s achievements despite King’s proof that women can be just as athletic as men. And, as beautifully portrayed by Academy Award-winner Stone, King’s victory also stings because she must conceal a major part of her life: her sexuality.

King has an affair with her hairdresser, and she discovers that she is not attracted to her husband anymore – something he, too, recognizes – but she also realizes that she and Marilyn, played by Andrea Riseborough, will never be able to publicly share a relationship.

Once again bittersweet, the truth behind this – King actually had an affair with Marilyn, her secretary, around this time, concealed it entirely, and maintained her marriage – makes it more painful to watch, but it again reveals how far our society has come with acceptance since the 1970s.

The directors magically transport viewers to the ’70s through every aspect of the film.

Also, Stone and Carell become their characters flawlessly, both visibly and behaviorally, making the real photos shown before the credits indiscernible from the actors.

Unfortunately, the movie is a box office flop, earning merely $8.4 million over two weeks against a $25 million budget, which is disappointing, considering how good the movie is.

Overall, "Battle of the Sexes" stunned me with some of the best acting I’ve seen recently, enchanted me in its totality, and perfectly tackled the tricky concepts of sexism and homophobia in a way that easily prevents a staunch, temperamental person from exiting the theater declaring the film an attack on their culture.

That is, the story wonderfully captures the reality behind the biased tendencies of powerful executives, newscasters, athletes, spectators and ultimately American society during King’s arduous climb to the top of the tennis world, the list of female role models, and, of course, the history books.

Let’s hope that the incredible "Battle of the Sexes" event will soon become even more laughable as we permanently seal prejudice in the past and move on to a time when every individual receives equal opportunity, without question.

Maura Ende is a junior at Nardin Academy.


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