The Battle of the Sexes ★★

On the eve of Wimbledon, BBC4 aired The Battle of the Sexes, a documentary that explores the events leading up to the 1973 tennis match between former men’s champion, Bobby Riggs, and women’s Wimbledon champ, Billie Jean King. It’s a simple, slight and disappointingly repetitive documentary that uses the highly publicised showdown as a framing device to explore the battle for women’s equality.

Directors James Erskine and Zara Hayes employ extensive archive footage, both featuring tennis matches and the condescending depiction of women in the media at the time, as well as talking head interviews with female tennis players of the period. Whilst it captures the times and the fight of the feminist movement it ultimately feels rather superficial and fails to scratch beyond the surface of its subject.

Even if the broader issue of equality is handled rather poorly the film does a much better job of capturing the media circus surrounding the battle of the sexes match. Retired Riggs is a chauvinistic blowhard who works the media to line his own pockets. The way he plays up to the role makes it hard to believe that all his braggadocio behaviour is genuine. However true his posturing was he made for a fantastic villain to Billie Jean King’s feminist hero.

Although sporadically engaging this was a flawed documentary that felt like a wasted opportunity to really explore an interesting subject matter and period in history.