In Defense Of Zendaya’s Tashi Duncan In ‘Challengers’

To dismiss Tashi as the Big Bad of this story does a disservice to the dimension the character is given. Sure, she’s the villain in the traditional sense, an antagonist sparring with Patrick, also brash and wicked in his own way, and toying with Art, a softer lover boy who’s down bad and content with his life as Tashi’s husband and a doting father, both second to his status as a tennis star. But whether you like her or not (and I’m betting lots of people will not), Tashi Duncan is complicated and messy, yet consistent and clear-eyed. Her one true love is tennis. She’s never deceitful about that fact. She’s attracted to ambition, which is why both Patrick and Art let her down (Patrick when they’re first dating and he refuses to work to live up to his potential, and Art when they are married and finishing his career with a grand slam win means nothing to him). Tashi is a cutthroat, ruthless athlete whose injury places her on the sidelines so instead of serving for her own legacy, she’s relying on a man to cement it for her. And it’s eating her apart inside. Her “little white boys” are inconsequential when it really comes down to it — Tashi is battling her own demons and reeling from her dashed dreams — but for a Black woman trying to navigate the tennis world, the fact that these two dudes have (or could have in Patrick’s case) everything she’s ever worked for is even more devastating. Her decisions, even the questionable ones, make more sense through that lens. 

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