When Feminism Misses the Mark
I recently saw a very well made and yet politically confusing movie Battle of the Sexes. Emma Stone plays the 1970's woman's tennis champion Billie Jean King. Steve Carell plays the former men's tennis champion Bobby Riggs. Both give at worst Golden Globe worthy performances, and at best Oscar nomination worthy performances.
The film itself is a very odd, unfocused docudrama about the famous tennis battle between the top woman player in the world verses a former men's champion who is now a hasbeen looking to get back into the limelight after feeling stuck in a deadend marriage.
The film parallels the two leads fantastically. Both feel neglected by the system. Both are trapped in unfulfilling marriages. Both understand the hustle behind promoting a sport they love. Both want to grow the sport. Both see the financial inequality because of sexism and ageism. But somehow I felt much more sympathy toward Riggs than King. He has been cast aside. She's still a beloved star.
Where Riggs causes marital problems as a gambling addict, a sin yes, but considering he always wins, not a great sin, King is cheating on her husband with her hair stylist.
While I understand Billie is "trapped" by a sport and society that can't promote or accept her true desires, her husband doesn't deserve to be cheated on. Husband Larry King (no relation) is by far the most likable character in the film, understanding his wife's needs and never judging her once. He's a good man.
Riggs is a good man too. While he might act like a chauvinist pig, it's just that -- an act. Even Billie sees Rigg's act for what it is and calls it a show. She never once seems fazed by his remarks. She laughs and even poses with him.
Riggs actually comes off as a loyal husband, great father, and fantastic showman. He's a likable version of Donald Trump. Imagine if Donald Trump just yelled out "JK" tomorrow and began a moderately progressive term working with democrats and republicans? That's how Riggs comes off.
Billie Jean King comes off as a person more driven to prove equality is deserved than being a good wife or friend. She sneaks behind her husband's back. She won't let certain broadcasters be part of the end battle. She comes off as weak and whiney.
The biggest sin is that the movie plays the Tortoise and the Hare motif, hurting Billie King more than helping.
While Billie Jean King trains hard, Riggs is seen goofing off in front of the cameras. He doesn't take it seriously. So how can the results be taken seriously? The final battle shows a fat, cocky character losing a battle his training never showed him wanting to win. That might be true, but it undercuts the whole theme.
The film is a day late and a dollar short in many ways. Had this film come out a year ago at this time, the Clinton-Trump parallel would have been too hard to ignore. But Clinton lost. Therefore, this story feels more like feminist mythology than real life reflection.
While woman's tennis has become the ratings equal to men's, other sports don't fare as well. The WNBA is not in par with the NBA. There's no pro softball league. Women still cheer on the sidelines of football games.
The major exception: UFC. But females wouldn't beat men. I'm sure Ronda Rousey could kick my ass, but could she beat a 55 year old ex-MMA star today? Eh. Probably not.
The film's final thesis is muddy at best. In a world where sexist reality TV billionaires can beat qualified politicians for the presidency, this film feels stale and outdated. While well made and acted, it has the weird backdrop of history going against it.
The cigarette companies sponsor the girls.
The network commenters say sexist things on the air.
The all men's clubs are not really a thing anymore.
Ironically, the world has changed, for the better. While sexism still exists and feminism still needs to be appreciated, the battles fought in the film don't exist or can't exist anymore. Virginia Slims is the only corporation behind women's golf? That's a twist that doesn't fit today's narrative. Cigarettes are the feminist brand?
The film needed a stronger point of view. What really motivated King and Riggs? Because according to the film...it was just about money.
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Paul Douglas Moomjean Blog's About What's on His Mind
Blogging allows for me to rant when there is no stage in the moment to talk about what's important and/or funny to me.