The film has already garnered praise from Oscar critics who have applauded Will Smith for his stunning portrayal of the Williams sister’s father, but some social media watchdogs have raised a few eyebrows at “King Richard” questioning why the tennis icons’ story was told through the eyes of their father and not their own? It’s important to note that both Serena and Venus executive produced the film, so they had total control over their own narrative.
The question was initially brought up on Twitter by a self-proclaimed “Rad-Fem author” from the U.K. named Dr. Jessica Taylor.
“Did they seriously make a film called ‘King Richard’ about the success of Serena and Venus Williams – but it’s about their dad, Richard?” she tweeted. Taylor’s comment didn’t go over well with a few Black Twitter users who felt as though she was trying to diminish the powerful message behind the film- a story that shows positive images of Black fatherhood and the sisters’ unwavering resilience.
“Is a white woman seriously taking issue with a film about a strong black man raising his Black daughters and being an integral part of their success? ” wrote one Twitter user. That’s not the narrative you’re used to is it? By the way, Venus and Serena were producers. Why are you so pressed?”
Another social user replied: “Disconnected white feminists should have 0 to credibly say about how two successful Black women feel about the role of their father in their lives. These same women would rush to theaters where King Richard about child abuse. Go away.”
While a third person chimed in: “Sounds like you aren’t really a fan of the Williams sisters. If you were, you’d know why they produced a movie celebrating their father & how they appreciate the sacrifices he made to give his daughter a chance in a discriminatory sport. Of course, you would not understand.”
Taylor later clarified her tweet in a follow-up post stating that she did not mean to ruffle any feathers.
“I get this has annoyed people but I genuinely didn’t expect a film about two of the most powerful, successful, and amazing black female athletes to be named after a man, or center a man,” she wrote. “I would have loved this film to be all about them and not a man. That’s it really.”
Actresses Demi Singleton and Saniyya Sidney portray the tennis all-stars, while their mother, Oracene “Brandi” Williams, is played by Aunjanue Ellis.
While Richard’s determination to propel the tennis stars’ career to success was admirable for some, others drew criticism with the film for not mentioning the challenges that Williams faced off the court including his previous marriage to Betty Johnson with whom he had five children prior to meeting Venus and Serena’s mother, Oracene Williams.
“So you are going to believe a Hollywood movie that has been slanted to make Richard look good over the first-hand account from Sabrina Williams. Go figure,” wrote a naysayer on Twitter. Venus and Serena’s half-sister, Sabrina Williams, told The Sun in 2020 that her father “was a serial cheat” and that he was selfish during his marriage with Johnson that lasted from 1965 to 1973.
“He just uses his kids to get what he needs,” she added. “He’s not a dad, he was just a sperm donor.”
During an interview with Entertainment Weekly earlier this month, Serena explained why she and Venus chose to share their story through the lens of their father.
“There are so many ways to tell this story. But I think telling it through my dad was the best way because he had the idea.He knew how to do it,” she said. “He was one of the most misunderstood people during that time. Nobody got it…He was so far ahead in terms of the balance between pushing and protecting, [and] had a savant-level comprehension of when those moments were.”
Venus echoed a similar sentiment stating that she loved seeing their childhood innocence maintained throughout the film, something that the sisters still “hang on to” today, according to the 41-year-old.
“It’s kind of difficult for me to say, ‘Oh, this film shows me.’ Because me is Serena. And there’s no me without her, and I could have never done what I’ve been able to achieve on the court without her. It’s so symbiotic,” she explained.
“King Richard” is out now in movie theaters and available to stream on HBO Max.