Saturday, February 19, 2005

Million Dollar Bullshit

[SPOILER ALERT -- if you live under a rock and don't know the end of this movie, for Pete's sake, don't learn it from me]

All right, I'm admitting from the beginning that I haven't seen the movie. And, usually, I have negative patience for dimwit nimrods who pontificate upon works of art they have not yet experienced. (For example, having strongly dismissive opinions of Jane Austen, based on only reading the Calvin Trillin criticism, as in
Metropolitan. Or that guy in section. I hate that guy.) But, all the hooplah about Million Dollar Baby was making me many different kinds of angry, and I had to do something.

So I went into Borders and read the short story that the movie was based on. And now I will pontificate. Consider yourselves warned.

Pontificating point 1: O pundits, how easily ye be swayed by your punditry. Folks on the right (and handicapped activists) have been freaking out about the fact that the film ends with a paralyzed person being killed because she no longer wants to live. Rush Limbaugh calls it the "Million Dollar Euthanasia Movie" and decries its "liberal propaganda." Meanwhile, folks on the left are mystified as to why this could bother people and mock the outrage. Frank Rich puts it up there with the faux-outing of SpongeBob. Now, again, haven't seen the movie and maybe there is a big chorus of cheerleaders saying "Kill, kill, kill!" but, based on the book, I doubt it. To say it's "pro-euthansia," to the point of advocating that all handicapped people be killed seems like stretch. F.X. Toole, in the story, makes a point of mentioning that the other people in the facility where Maggie lives are "happy" and want to keep living. Just not her. On the other hand, would it destroy Frank Rich to say that, yes, killing is in fact wrong? Really wrong. Like, not okay it's so wrong. Cultural relativism, schmultural relativism -- killing people = wrong. If we're still arguing over this, we can call the 2008 election now.

Pontificating point 2: Have a practical system in place to back up your outrage. If you're an anti-euthanasia, pro-life Republican, what the fuck are you doing cutting the funding for social programs that will take care of the handicapped and children? Pro-life and anti-Head Start just makes my head spin. Likewise, pro-euthansia, pro-choice Dems, have some sympathy for the fact that not everyone who's worse off than you would rather be dead or not have been born at all. There's a pamphlet in the back of the church where I went for Ash Wednesday labeled "Planned Parenthood's campaign to kill black babies." Do I think it's true? Of course not. But I think focusing only on how oppressed the oppressed people are isn't working. And it's offensive.

Pontificating point 3: Has no one noticed they're all Irish Catholics? This is a religious movie! The writer, the girl boxer, her grizzled old trainer -- all Catholic. Clint Eastwood, with that name, somehow I doubt it. But the story has pretty explicit religious themes down to the point of having the trainer visit a priest to discuss his plan to kill Maggie. He goes to confession knowing he is about to commit a mortal sin. And then he commits it. Maybe I'm just a fruitcake, but this seems to be the simplest explanation of the fight that the pundits are having. Rush is saying "But killing people is wrong!" and Frank is saying "But he just made a choice and who are we to judge?" And the story says, simply, he sinned. And, as best as we can tell, he would do it again. Whether there's a heroism to sacricing your mortal soul to follow your friend's wishes is a debate I'm really not going to get into until I see the movie, but I think it's a hell of a lot more interesting than the debate that's going on.

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