The Oscar-winning “Million Dollar Baby” received so much attention for its apparent endorsement of euthanasia that we forgot to look at another brutal aspect of this movie: its glamorization of women’s boxing.
In “Million Dollar Baby,” Hillary Swank, the darling of movie goers who refuse to make value judgments about “non-traditional lifestyles” (Swank was Brandon Teena, a transgender teenager in “Boys Don’t Cry”), plays Maggie Fitzgerald, a female boxer who pulls herself up by her bootstraps through the sport.
Clint Eastwood is Frankie Dunn, a washed-up boxing coach who at first resists the notion of working with a female boxer–but he comes around and we see that crusty old Frankie is a good guy, not as prejudiced as he appeared when he was trying to chase Maggie out of the gym.
But he should have chased Maggie out of the gym–boxing, like serving close to the front lines in wartime, is brutal and it’s not something society should condone as just another job for a woman.
The liberal Washington Monthly magazine has a piece on the violence of women’s boxing. “The worst male fighters know how to play defense, but these girls looked like they’d never been trained,” the article notes.
“They didn’t even try to protect themselves. There was no effort to dodge, no shifting of weight, no clever, calculated movement of feet. Both girls just kept charging, swinging both fists at the same time. It was like watching six-year-olds fight before they’re old enough to realize that they might be hurt: All you want to do is make it stop. The action in the middle of the ring was an inchoate tangle of limbs and fists. Thirty seconds into the whirling, Angie fell down, striking the mat violently, as if she was attacking it. Jessica waved her arms above her head chaotically–a caricatured Rocky gesture–a huge grin on her face. I thought to myself that these two must be the worst girl fighters in the world. But it turned out that six months earlier, Jessica had placed second in her weight class at the National Golden Gloves–this was as good as it got.
“They never should have let Angie back in the fight, but they did. She wobbled out to the center of the ring, too hurt to lift her hands above her waist. Jessica whacked her right in the nose; Angie went down, a series of limbs hitting the canvas in a successive heap. The nervous white girl from Lancaster started dancing around, and it was ’Sweet Ass Jessie’ this time, her reward whistles and hooting. Angie was out for 15 minutes, white-cloaked medical personnel bending ominously over her. They revived her, and the same crowd that had cheered the sophistication of the earlier male boxers gave a perfunctory clap for Angie’s health, and then immediately started chanting for the evening’s male headliner, a fighter with the nickname ’Black Gold.’”
The movie has Maggie making enough money to buy her ungrateful mother a house and generally prospering from her brutal calling. According to the Washington Monthly, this simply isn’t true:
“Boxing has long existed in a cultural ghetto, revelling in its corruption and violence. Women’s boxing operates in a further ghetto still. No one other than the fighters really takes it seriously–not the audience, not the referees, not the trainers. I’ve been to more than a dozen women’s fights since that first one, and nearly all were just like it, 45-second bloodfests. It’s hard to figure what appeals to the girls who fight: You get thrown in the ring with some cretin who is trying to rip your head off, you have no idea how to defend yourself, and all the while a thousand sweaty men are shouting at you, trying to be clever about your rear end. No matter how long you fight or how good you become, you’ll never be the headliner, some man will. Nobody cares enough to teach you the craft. The fights are brutal, sexualized, and uncontrollable. What’s more, there is not much money in the sport–probably the only female boxers you’ve ever heard of are the daughters of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier–because no significant television audience would ever pay to see this crap. And yet the girls keep signing up, keep coming.”
It’s unfortunate that “Million Dollar Baby” depicted women’s boxing as both rewarding and lucrative. Women don’t belong in the boxing ring any more than they belong near the front lines during a war.
Why is it that the left refuses to speak up against these two forms of violence against women?