When the topic of American tennis comes up, the names Venus and Serena Williams are often at the forefront of the discussion. They became well known during their teenage years, but who helped guide them through their journey to success? The film King Richard (2021) focuses on Richard Williams’s plan to make two of his daughters, Venus and Serena, professional tennis players. Richard put this plan together before they were even born, and did everything in his power to follow through with it. The film takes place in Compton, California, where Serena and Venus grew up and were trained by their former tennis-playing parents. The film shows that despite a lack of resources and access to safe practice areas, Venus and Serena Williams still managed to have professional success.
However, their glory didn’t come easily. Richard made them constantly train, even through harsh weather conditions such as pouring rain. In one scene, the conditions were so extreme that one neighbor even tried to get child protective services involved, which later led to Richard explaining his parenting as a means of protection. He said that if he wasn’t there to push his kids, no one else would be — that his kids were destined for more than falling victim to the harsh streets of Compton.
These themes of greatness and respect for life recurred throughout the entire film. Richard always made sure that Venus and Serena felt like they were deserving of respect. When they received odd looks from the other families when entering the tennis courts, Richard told his family that “They’re just not used to seeing good lookin’ peoples like us.” His approach to parenting is quite relevant within society today because he emphasizes the importance of having a strong upbringing and support system.
There are many other valuable messages shown within the film, such as the benefits of hard work, as well as the pressures that come with maintaining a high standard of work.
Before Venus was getting ready to play a high-stakes match against the athlete Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Richard told her, “You’re going to be representing every little Black girl on Earth.” This brings into discussion the lack of representation regarding Black youth in sports, and especially Black girls and women. It’s clear that African American girls are still not represented enough in the sports industry, so a win for Venus and Serena was a win for the entire Black community, especially for younger women. They opened new paths and interests for Black girls to strive for. The film itself is a beautiful representation of the importance of having a strong support system, representation, and of putting in hard work. These values and many others were consistently displayed throughout the whole film. This film could be considered both timely and timeless.