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Eminent Domain Stuff

New London Update (2/24/06)
Coverage of the Rally at New London's City Hall (w/ pics)

Monday, January 31, 2005


Million Dollar Baby (Warning: Spoilers)

Warning: I am going to discuss the movie Million Dollar Baby below and I will give away the ending. So if you want to see it and be surprised, come on back later.

I went to see Million Dollar Baby this weekend ACA (against conservative advice). Before going I had read a little online about how the advertising has been misleading. Essentially, Clint as been accused of purposefully holding back and making it appear that the movie is about "Rocky in a sports bra" while it is about nothing of the sort. Well first off, to be fair, I think that every moviemaker is in the business of keeping plot twists quiet since it makes for a -gasp- more interesting movie. The only reason he's under fire here is because of the content of the plot.

If you are reading this and have no interest in seeing the movie, I'll put the plot in a nutshell for you. Girl (Swank) wants to be a boxer. Girl enlists the help of Trainer (Eastwood). Girl kicks serious butt and eventually gets a shot at Champ. Champ is getting her butt kicked by Girl and is not a nice person. Champ takes a cheap shot at Girl after the round ends. Girl breaks her neck by falling on her stool and ends up a quadriplegic. Girl toughs it out for a while but eventually asks Trainer to help her die. Trainer refuses because he's Catholic. Girl takes matters into her own mouth and bites her tongue, almost succeeding in killing herself. Doctors save Girl and Trainer eventually decides to help her die.

So, what's the issue here? The people who have a problem with the unexpected plot twist are out of luck. Sorry, but if every movie was held to such a standard we would only need to watch the trailer to get the whole story. I have also seen some opinions expressed that accuse the movie of devaluing human life by endorsing euthanasia and even some comparing the situation to that of Terry Schiavo. This is an unfair comparison. Terry's case is truly tragic but does not apply here since the boxer in the movie is conscious and of an apparently sound mind.

The major problem that people seem to be having with the movie involves the ethics of euthanasia. Let me just state at the outset that I am against euthanasia for the simple reason that one person should not be involved in the death of another, innocent, human being. However (and here I am going to split with the teachings of the Catholic Church), I do believe that an individual has the right to end his or her own life...so long has s/he is of sound mind. For the most part, people who want to commit suicide are sick and can be helped with counseling and/or medication. However, there are times when someone who is completely rational and sane might want to end his or her own life. Now I know what strict adherents to Christianity will say. They'll tell me that suffering is God's way of testing us and that we must accept it as such and live our lives as best we can. In all honesty, that argument holds many gallons of water with respect to MDB.

One of the most poignant scenes of the movie involves the boxer laying in bed with a machine breathing for her while she tells her trainer that she wants to die (and I paraphrase), 'before I stop hearing them (her fans) chant my name.' This statement can be seen to imply at least one of two things. Either she is so full of pride that she cannot bear to forget her fame or that her success gave her so much joy that she cannot bear to forget it. Either way, one could argue that the mishap that landed her in that bed was God's way of humbling her and that she should accept it and live out her life as best she can. In theory, that's a perfect fine argument. After all, you might say, look at Christopher Reeves. While I agree that misfortune often offers us a chance to become amazing examples of perseverance, it can also break you. In the end, I choose to respect a person's right to end his or her life because I want the same respect of my own right to do just that. Do I plan to ever exercise that right? Of course not. But one of the scariest things I can imagine is being in a situation, like the boxer, where I want to die but am unable to do it myself. For that reason I found great respect for the somewhat disturbing scene where the boxer bites her tongue in an attempt to kill herself. When no one would help her, she did the one thing she was able to do, and she would have succeeded if not for the desperate efforts of the doctors at the hospital.

So, does this movie endorse euthanizing the disabled? Not at all. The trainer is Catholic and attends Mass every day. Of course, he also needles the priest with purposefully blasphemous questions just to get under his skin. However, I do think that we are meant to understand that the character is devoutly faithful and that he is fundamentally conflicted by the choice with which he is presented. In the end he decides to kill her and he does so by unhooking the ventilator and injecting here with adrenaline. Afterwards, the trainer is not seen around the gym again and the last scene is shot through a streaked window so that you can just make him out sitting in a diner (one assumes) eating lemon meringue pie.

Far from endorsing euthanasia, I see the movie as portraying a wizened old boxing trainer who comes to love a young woman has a daughter and is then thrust into a terrible moral dilemma. In the end he decides to grant her request by ending her life...which is something she would have done herself if she could. As for the charges that the advertising was misleading, of course it was in the sense that they didn't give away the ending. However, the first part of the movie is absolutely necessary to establish the deep bond between Trainer and Boxer which then allows us to, in the end, understand the former's decision.


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