vol.XX For 30 – Renee

_Over a year ago, I posted a review/rambling on King’s Ransom, the 1st entry in ESPN’s 30 For 30 documentary series. I was planning on doing a little blurb about each of them as I re-watched them. I watched them…but just didn’t write anything. Didn’t feel like it. Some of them, I didn’t have much to say. Others, I had a hard time putting it into words. I never really abandoned the idea of writing on them, but it has been almost a year and a half…

_But something awesome has happened recently. Netflix has added [from what I can tell] all thirty 30 For 30 films onto their instant streaming service, along with most of the ESPN Films Presents docs. Not to replace my original intention of writing on the features from the original 30 for 30 series, but as these will be fresh viewings, I feel a bit more motivated to write about them as I watch them. As I actually caught Catching Hell when it aired, I won’t be re-watching it right now [Quick thoughts: It was alright, but it really feels, from the length of the feature along with the repetition of certain themes, that Gibney was allotting time for interview clips with the reclusive man himself, but it never panned out. It was an interesting take on the events, but felt unfinished due to no comments from Bartman himself.]

_A real quick refresher/synopsis on the 30 For 30 series: 30 sports documentaries on subjects that were lost to time, were regionally exclusive or…whatever. Some of them were cultural touchstones of their time, but over the years have been largely forgotten by a large percentage of people or are virtually unknown to today’s generation. Example: A truly awe-inspiring story like Terry Fox’s are well known in his native Canada, but is not something many US citizens know about. Got it? Cool, let’s get to it!

_Renee is the story of Renee Richards/Richard Raskind, a male amateur tennis player who went on to become a doctor and…a woman. The film is advertised as “The story of Renee Richards’ battle to enter the 1977 US Open as the first transgender tennis player.” However, the film is more about Renee herself, rather than just her fight for the right to play in USTA tournaments.

_It’s hard to know how to broach this subject. I often consider myself lucky to be straight. The amount of blind bigotry that I have to endure is shockingly low. It’s pretty nice. I do find myself wondering what it must feel like to be on the other side of that fence. It’s something people can tell me about, but it’s not something I think I can truly know unless I was in that minority. I can sympathize, but I can’t empathize.

_Renee didn’t help me with that any more than anything else could, but it was a very interesting glance at where we once were as a society 30+ years ago. Hearing accounts of players in 70’s saying that if they let a transsexual woman play, it will open a pandora’s box of men going through sexual reassignment surgery for glory on the tennis tour…wow. WOW.

_At the end…I wasn’t sure what to think. Renee never won any titles on the tennis tour…but she didn’t play professionally until she was in her 40’s. Most players, male or female, retire around 30. She was a woman, but she did have a competitive advantage from having been born a man. Should it be viewed as a natural advantage, like a player just being naturally gifted with excellent hand-eye-coordination? Not my place to say, thankfully.


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