Williams sisters’ biopic takes Hollywood on a conservative turn
Conservatives kvetch about Hollywood’s liberal messaging, and they often have a point.
Movies and TV shows promote unfettered immigration (Netflix’s “Living Undocumented”), President Trump’s alleged sins (Showtime’s “The Comey Rule”), and climate change horror stories (every third post-apocalyptic yarn, like Tom Hanks’ Apple TV+ original, “Finch”). The last season of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” a previously benign cop comedy, became a BLM treatise following George Floyd’s death.
Yet “King Richard” offers something starkly conservative.
The November release captures the meteoric rise of Venus Williams, the Compton girl who bullied past societal expectations to change the sport she adored. Her younger sister, Serena, did the same just a short while later.
The title character, Richard Williams, is given life by Oscar-nominee Will Smith. The erstwhile Fresh Prince establishes the patriarch’s flaws and his unshakable faith in his daughters’ talent.
The buzz behind “King Richard” reminds us of America’s racist past and, more importantly, how Venus and Serena Williams shattered boundaries by dominating women’s tennis for more than a decade.
None of that is wrong, and both elements are featured proudly in the film.
What’s equally clear, but will get far less attention, is that “King Richard” could be the most profoundly conservative movie of the year. The story of a man with a plan for his golden-girl daughters plays out as if Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro had pounded out the script after reading “Atlas Shrugged.”
Venus and Serena Williams are never victims. Their daddy won’t allow it. They’re strong, proud and laser-focused on greatness. It’s the American dream times two, and “King Richard” captures it with flag-waving joy.
The sisters stand at the heart of the film, but it’s how Richard molded their success that demands our attention. He took his daughters to a hardscrabble tennis court near their home, day in and day out, to practice until they absorbed every lesson he had to offer.
They played in the rain, in the blazing sun, and they never ducked homework to do it. He pushed them — hard — but he did so with love and compassion. He made sure their mental strength rivalled their on-court skills.
That combination made them invincible, which tennis fans watched with awe once they officially entered the sport.
The Williams family had every opportunity to cry “racism” and demand preferential treatment in the lily-white tennis world. Instead, Richard Williams made sure his girls could fend off insults and quiet indignities en route to tennis glory.
The elder Williams grew up in a racist South, and the punishments he absorbed early in life never left his memory. He still embraced several white tennis collaborators, ignoring the color of their skin. His only qualifier: Who could help his daughters reach the top.
His daughters similarly embraced his color-blind view without ignoring the remnants of racism they still saw around them.
Papa Williams stood as an empowering figure and role model. He weaponized his growing clout in tennis to protect and prepare his girls for life under the microscope.
Father knows best? Not always, but the Williams girls respected their father even when he made the wrong calls.
Smith’s character also dressed his daughters down when they started spouting off about their tennis skills, something any pre-teen talent might do. He wouldn’t stand for children who weren’t humble, who left God and good manners out of their success equation.
“King Richard” doesn’t ignore racism. At times, bigotry gets a long, lingering closeup. Richard Williams recoils at TV images of Rodney King getting beaten by L.A. police officers. He also stares down a pair of tennis executives guilty of nothing more than condescending kindness.
He doesn’t let any of that flavor his parental choices. Venus Williams will be a champion on her terms, and no amount of racism, be it microaggressions or something uglier, will prevent that from happening.
Family always came first in the Williams household. Even when Venus Williams stands at the cusp of stardom, Richard pulls back his beloved daughter. Being a kid is just as important as an early career start, he argued, and the results eventually proved him right.
The essential traits Richard Williams passed down to his daughters wouldn’t be considered odd, or refreshing, 20 years ago. Maybe even 10. But today? Victimhood is the ultimate goal, something even a literal princess like Meghan Markle embraces amidst her startling privilege. Hard work is considered white privilege. Separating people by the color of their skin is now part of the hard-left agenda.
Richard Williams is out of the limelight today. He’s nearly 80, and his magnificent work preparing his daughters for stardom is complete. He must be proud of “King Richard,” co-produced by his now-adult daughters. Here’s betting he hopes his conservative spirit isn’t lost on modern moviegoers. Who couldn’t benefit from a few royal lessons today?
“King Richard” is now playing in theaters and on HBO Max.
Christian Toto is the editor of the conservative entertainment site “HollywoodInToto.com, the Right Take on Entertainment,” and host of the weekly “Right On Hollywood” podcast. He is the author of the forthcoming “Virtue Bombs: How Hollywood Got Woke and Lost Its Soul.”
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