Dowd, Medved, Million Dollar Baby
*SPOILER WARNING* This post will specifically discuss the ending of Million Dollar Baby after this point. If you don't know the ending, stop reading it now. And definitely don't read the linked Maureen Down column, which also discusses the ending and of course does not employ a spoiler warning, since mainstream opinion journalism hasn't adopted that convention. *SPOILER WARNING*
Maureen Dowd gets criticized a lot in blogs both left and right. I think her column yesterday was fairly good, with a bunch of filler mixed in. The column addresses the controversy over the ending of Million Dollar Baby. The controversy is because the film features the assisted suicide of a character after they become paralyzed in a boxing match. Actually, screw being coy after a spoiler warning. It features Clint Eastwood's fictional character unplugging Hillary Swank's fictional character's life support apparatus and I forgot what exactly he does, but he takes some positive step to cause her death. There's been criticism of this from Rush Limbaugh and Michael Medved.
Actually, I have no idea what Rush said about the film other than calling it the "million-dollar euthanasia movie" in which case he deserves criticism for spoiling the plot, but not for making a stupid argument about the film itself. Medved, on the other hand, says, "It is being sold as a feel good boxing movie, where it's actually a movie with a very, very strong assisted suicide theme that unequivocally portrays assisted suicide as a heroic act. There's no question that there is an agenda going on here and the agenda is consistently the opposite of what anyone would describe as a pro-life agenda." Disability rights groups are also protesting the film, in what I see as an odd alliance.
Dowd decided to devote a column to arguing against the Medved / Limbaugh position. My problem is that the actual rebuttal, while present and accurate, fills up very little of the column. It consists of this line, "The culture cops are unmoved that Clint Eastwood's crepuscular boxing manager, Frankie, is a Catholic who goes to Mass every day and agonizes about the morality of his actions." And this concluding paragraph, "[Art's purpose is] just to tell a story, move people and provoke ideas. Mr. Eastwood's critics don't even understand what art is. Politics - not art - is about finding consensus with the majority of the audience. Art is not about avoiding controversy or ensuring that everyone leaves feeling morally uplifted." All of that's exactly right, but it's really weird that she spends a lot of the article talking about how Shakespeare plays feature lots of suicide.
See, those plays are among his tragedies and the ending via suicide is tragic. The particular objection these people are making to Million Dollar Baby is that the ending portrays assisted suicide heroically, that it's tragic enough. Now this makes them idiots, because the ending is very morally ambiguous, shows Eastwood having a terribly difficult time with the choice, and the emotional consequences he suffers are clearly shown (he abandons everyone he knows and his whole life). But it doesn't mean that bringing up Shakespeare is a good point. Shakespeare is an interesting illustration of why it would be wrong if they were saying, "Movies should never feature suicide." They're making the different, but equally moronic claim, "Movies should never feature suicide in anything but an unambiguously negative light." Since many of the suicides in Shakespeare are unambiguously negative, they're irrelevant to her article.
Also, while I agree there was no W.M.D. crisis in Iraq and there certainly isn't a Social Security crisis, I am still amazed that she managed to make the last paragraph of the article about those things. Her transition by mentioning that those are better things to be complaining about is very out of the blue and had nothing to do with the earlier parts of the article. Sorry, I'm not sure if there was much of a point to this piece, I thought I had more disagreement with Dowd until I looked at the column more carefully.
*SPOILER WARNING* The above post specifically discusses the ending of Million Dollar Baby above this point. If you don't know the ending, stop reading it now. And definitely don't read the linked Maureen Down column, which also discusses the ending and of course does not employ a spoiler warning, since mainstream opinion journalism hasn't adopted that convention. *SPOILER WARNING*