Life, Death, and Entertainment Culture

Like the old Bill Murray character on SNL, I haven’t actually seen this year’s nominee, but I’m going to write about it anyway. According to this piece from Chicago Reader, Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby apparently endorses its main character’s assisted suicide after she becomes paralyzed (and takes some implausible-sounding plotting to get to that point). A psychologist who has worked in suicide prevention describes it as ” a naive . . . factually incorrect, out-of-date and dangerous characterization of a disabled person, and … implicit advocacy . . . of mercy-killing of the disabled.”
I’ve read a number of reviews lavishly praising the film, none of which mention that it takes this point of view. Author Michael Miner attributes that to reviewers’ reluctance to give away the ending of any movie, and quotes Roger Ebert to the effect that he’s received hate mail for having done so previously. I think there’s more to it than that.
I think the Hollywood entertainment culture simply doesn’t see presenting the suicide of a disabled person as controversial. That is, the value it places on physical perfection makes it impossible for anyone immersed in that culture to imagine that anyone (especially anyone who looks like Hilary Swank) would choose life even as a quadriplegic.
Eastwood’s not getting my $10 for that, and I hope he doesn’t get yours.






One response to “Life, Death, and Entertainment Culture”

  1. Pete Gaughan Avatar

    Wow. I go to a movie in a theater about once or twice each year, and for the most recent outing I came this close to making it MDB. (Wound up at Phantom of the Opera.) I had no inkling whatever about this ending, despite seeing many commercials and ads and a few newspaper reviews.
    I’m glad I didn’t go–there are many ways to dramatize assisted suicide, and it sounds like this isn’t a good one–but even if I had done so, I wouldn’t have seen it as subsidizing a POV I disagree with. When I don’t like a movie, I tell lots of people, so I’m sure I would have turned off more than my ten bucks’ worth.
    But I’m sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. Now, about Phantom…