Battle of the Sexes Parent Guide
The script of this movie is more interested in the private love life of Billy Jean, rather than her tennis playing or the match she had against Bobby Riggs.
Parent Movie Review
Have you ever noticed how society links together some political and philosophical ideologies? For instance, if you have a conservative viewpoint, then you must champion the right to bear arms as well. If you lean liberal, you obviously support abortion rights. And, as is assumed in this movie, if you believe in feminism, you also endorse LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) rights.
With such convictions in mind, Battle of the Sexes frames its telling of the famous 1973 tennis face-off between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.
Emma Stone plays Billie Jean, one of the world’s most accomplished professional tennis players. Despite her success, the American still has issues with the compensation discrepancies between male and female athletes. Her fight to get women equal pay for equal work falls on deaf ears and soon the game is more about gender vying than comparative skills.
Steve Carell takes on the role of Bobby Riggs, a former tennis pro and active gambler who still wants a chance to shine on the courts. Baiting members of the Women’s Tennis Association with sexist remarks, he puts the “show in chauvinism” hoping to get one of them to agree to compete against him in an exhibition match. He not only wants to prove men are better than women – he wants to make some quick cash too.
While this would be ample material from which to make a movie, it’s not the story the screenwriters set out to tell. Instead the script focuses on the private life of Billy Jean. After a chance encounter with a hairdresser named Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), the married athlete finds herself being attracted to the pretty stylist. A few sensual-but-awkward glances at one another eventually lead Billie Jean to invite Marilyn to stay overnight in her hotel room. That escalates into passionate kissing, undressing and implied sexual relations. Likewise, the tension explored by the plot is not that brought about by the highly-publicized match against Riggs, but the guilt and concern felt over the risks of having their very-secret lesbian affair discovered.
Other aspects of the sports industry are briefly glanced at as well. These include the sponsorship of tobacco companies who encourage the women to smoke, the differences between male and female attire while playing the game, and taking supplements to enhance performance. Frequent smoking and drinking are depicted, along with a few babes in bikinis. Riggs is seen downing a large quantity of pills, with some cryptic comments about vitamin power. Slanderous remarks, sexual innuendo and a smattering of profanities are heard too.
In the closing moments of the film, a character credits Billie Jean with changing the way the world looks at women and suggests that in the future she may yet change the way the world looks at same-gender relationships. What remains to be seen is if the filmmakers are correct in believing anyone who wants to learn about the career of Billie Jean King will also desire to examine her private love life. And if applauding her accomplishments in the sport also means viewing changing societal attitudes as a sign of progress.Directed by Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris. Starring Emma Stone, Elisabeth Shue, Steve Carell . Running time: 121 minutes. Theatrical release September 22, 2017. Updated October 2, 2017
Battle of the Sexes
Rating & Content Info
Why is Battle of the Sexes rated PG-13? Battle of the Sexes is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some sexual content and partial nudity.
Violence: Marital problems are depicted. Couples talk about separation and divorce. A man engages in compulsive gambling. Characters lie to and/or keep secrets from others. Characters engage in verbal threats involving removal of employment and opportunities – some of which are carried out.
Sexual Content: A married woman flirts with another woman. Later the pair kiss passionately and begin undressing one another. They are shown in bed together (bare shoulders and naked backs are seen). Lesbian sexual relations are discussed and implied. Other female-to-female kissing and embracing is shown. Characters make some crass remarks and sexual innuendo is heard. It is implied two men are in a gay relationship. Nudity in a non-sexual context. Women are seen in bikinis and underwear. Panties, bras and men’s briefs are shown. A man poses for a nude photograph where no private body parts are seen.
Profanity: Frequent use of mild and moderate profanity, as well as terms of deity as expletives. Infrequent use of scatological slang and crude words for anatomy. Name-calling, chauvinist comments and gender slurs are heard.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A tobacco company sponsors the Women’s Tennis Association and the female athletes are encouraged to take up smoking. Other characters are seen smoking throughout the film. Characters frequently drink alcohol at home, in bars an in social settings. A character remarks about drinking too much.
Page last updated October 2, 2017
More parents' guide for Battle of the Sexes after the break...
Battle of the Sexes Parents' Guide
In real life, Billie Jean Moffit King has been recognized for both her athletic accomplishments and her activism in gender equality. What are your sentiments concerning equality? Do they include feminism? LGBTQ rights? How do you feel about the changing societal attitudes towards these issues?
What kind of reactions does Billie Jean receive from people who suspect her relationship with Marilyn is more than just friendship? How realistic do you think these portrayals are, especially given the time period of 1973?
How much development is given to the character of Billie Jean? Does Marilyn get the same sort of fleshing out, or is she portrayed merely as a sexual attraction? How might this discrepancy mirror the Hollywood stereotypes of giving more emphasis to male characters than their female love interests? In reality, their relationship was far more complex than depicted in the movie. Learn more about the publicity that ensued when Billie Jean and Marilyn broke up.
News About "Battle of the Sexes"
In 1973, Billie Jean King took a challenge thrown down by Bobby Riggs. At the time, King was the leading champion in Women's tennis. Riggs was a former tennis pro, with a big ego. Looking to reignite his fading career, the older Riggs claimed he could beat the young King easily, because he was a man and she was a woman. You can learn more about the real 1973 Battle of the Sexes between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King.