Sunday, February 06, 2005

Assisted Suicide, The News Media, Liberal Groupthink, And Some Dishonesty


From the Warner Brothers web site promoting the movie

If you're like me you have heard many radio advertisements promoting "Million Dollar Baby," the Clint Eastwood movie that is receiving critical raves and seems certain to win at least one Academy Award.

You also think the movie is about boxing.

You're also wrong. The movie's central plot feature, we now know, is assisted suicide.

But you'd never know that from the promotional materials or just about any of the major reviews of the movie. That this is a boxing movie is certainly what the radio ads and trailers suggest. Look at Warner Brothers' site for the movie, for example.

The movie seems tempting enough to see. It's rated PG-13, so people who avoid R-rated movies will at least consider seeing it. In addition to Eastwood (one of the biggest box-office draws in the world) "Million Dollar Baby" stars Morgan Freeman and Hillary Swank, two very fine actors. Swank won Best Actress several years ago (in another "message" movie, "Boys Don't Cry").

But when "Million Dollar Baby" is discussed, virtually no one talks about assisted suicide (which some call euthanasia, but that's another post altogether).

Why the dishonesty? There are surely several reasons, but I think primarily they are;

1. Movie reviewers-- especially the big-time writers-- generally share the worldview of the entertainment industry: They're primarily hard-core liberals who consider themselves enlightened cosmopolitians who disdain the views of cold-hearted red-state America.

2. Because such liberals are overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing and expanding the use of assisted suicide, they are inclined to assist the cause. (After all, isn't it clear to all enlightened, cosmopolitan people that assisted suicide is right, proper, and compassionate?)

3. Film reviewers who consider themselves enlightened and cosmopolitan certainly don't want to be identified with cold-hearted red-state America, most citizens of which either question or oppose assisted suicide; nor do they want to discourage anyone (intentionally or not) from seeing this film, which reportedly presents assisted suicide in a very favorable light. The gretaer the number of people who see the movie, the more the cause of enlightened cosmopolitan thinking is advanced.

4. If people know the movie has an assisted suicide theme, they won't go see it. The cause of enlightened cosmopolitan thinking will suffer.

5. So the enlightened and cosmopolitan reviewers will not mention the film's central theme, which might discourage people from viewing it.

Now, you may think the theory above is silly and its underlying logic flawed, because people are going to start seeing "Million Dollar Baby" anyway, and soon everyone who pays attention will learn by word of mouth about the movie's theme. But many will still see the film without knowing its theme. Many will still be proselytized.

It's essentially the same approach Amway promoters use to fool you into going to an Amway meeting: They know you'll be less likely to go if you know the meeting is about Amway. The same approach is used by some religious proselytizers to get people to listen to their story.

And it's still misleading and wrong. What makes the "Million Dollar Baby" deception so interesting and so revealing is the widespread complicity of the old media in Warner Brothers' marketing plans.

Note: I do not think this is anything close to a conspiracy; it is simply a remarkably clear example of the groupthink that goes on in that segment of the news media.

Tim Rutten of the L.A. Times deserves credit for raising the issue. Rutten's a solid liberal but he does at least see the questionable nature of what has been going on. Prior to Rutten's piece in yesterday's Times, I had heard only Michael Medved raise this issue during an interview.

If you want to see this movie, go right ahead. I might even see it myself. It's probably a superb piece of filmmaking. But we should all go into the theater knowing what we will be seeing.

UPDATE: Common Sense Runs Wild has further analysis on the movie. Warning! Plot spoilers!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liberals are for assisted suicide? Wow, I didn't get the memo. Well there is no arguing with the brilliance of your analysis so I guess it must be so. I'll certainly never see another movie by that commie pinko Eastwood. He's sharp, he once lobbied congress to get around the ADA law and probably did so expecting that people think that is a liberal law. It was Bush the first, however, who wanted that--not a liberal thing at all but really a compassionate conservative thing. No wonder Clint didn't want it being the "run the hose from the exhaust pipe to your best friend's window if he's sick" kind of left wing wacko that he obviously is.


Posted by Anonymous

Sunday, February 06, 2005 7:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous, you gutsy fellow:

Your comment raises several questions:

(1) Did you read my post carefully enough to post anything intelligent about it, or did you intend simply an angry "blurt?"

(2) If the answer to (1) is that you did read my post carefully, is the explanation for your weak post that you are incapable of critical thought? If you had read my post with the critical attention that our society expects of 9th-graders, you would have seen that I was talking about the reviews of the movie, not the makers or actors (like Clint Eastwood), who are free to say whatever they want through their film-making, as long as it's not obscene under the estabished standards. I did not criticize the movie at all. Did that fact simply escape you?

(3) Have I horribly misjudged your critical abilities? Are you simply trying to engage in satire (I suggest you look that term up before you try to respond)? If so, maybe you could post again and direct your thoughts to my point: Reviewers of the movie have been absolutely silent about its assisted suicide theme. If you have an alternative explanation for that phenomenon to mine, please share it here. Otherwise, go thumb your nose at someone else. 

Posted by The Hedgehog

Sunday, February 06, 2005 8:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1) I read it carefully enough to understand there was nothing intelligent about it.

2) See answer above.

3) My critical abilities do not include that ability to presume that all reviewers of the movie have been silent about this theme for the same reasons. In fact, I can't really guess as to any reason a reviewer may have to leave this information out of his or her review. Your critical abilities are obviously superior to mine. 

Posted by Anonymous

Sunday, February 06, 2005 9:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon.: Do a Google check and see what the reviewers say. Then stop avoiding the issue I raise, unless you are willing to concede the point (it appears that by default, you already have). 

Posted by The Hedgehog

Sunday, February 06, 2005 9:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then again, you could actually read the Rutten piece in the L.A. Times. Hey, I made an argument, and all you did was catcall. Remember, snottiness is not satire. 

Posted by The Hedgehog

Sunday, February 06, 2005 9:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After further review, there does appear to be some kind a conspiracy. I couldn't read the L.A. Times piece because I won't pay the Calendar fee. But I did do a quick review via the movie query search engine and found these quotes.

" But it's not a boxing movie. It is a movie about a boxer. What else it is, all it is, how deep it goes, what emotional power it contains, I cannot suggest in this review, because I will not spoil the experience of following this story into the deepest secrets of life and death."--Roger Ebert--Chicago Sun Times

"I apologize for this flight into abstraction. It is, for one thing, the only way to avoid giving away the devastating surprises that give ''Million Dollar Baby'' its overwhelming power. But such lofty language is also a way of suggesting the nature of that power, and the unexpected largeness of this intimate, casually told story." A.O. Scott--New York Times

"That may sound coy, but to give away the plot twist that takes the film in a completely different direction nearly two-thirds of the way through would be unfair." Jeff Vice--Deseret News

Yes, this is obviously SOME VAST LIBERAL CONSPIRACY TO ADVOCATE ASSISTED SUICIDE! Then again, it may simply be film reviewers deciding that the plot twist is worth not spoiling it for those who haven't seen it. Since you prefer to know in advance--I'll warn you now if you see that chick from "The Crying Game" you may want to go run in the opposite direction.

Posted by Anonymous

Sunday, February 06, 2005 10:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll give you this: Your determination to avoid addressing my point is remarkable. I'll quote myself:

"Note: I do not think this is anything close to a conspiracy; it is simply a remarkably clear example of the groupthink that goes on in that segment of the news media."

Clearly these words escaped you. Hello? 

Posted by The Hedgehog

Sunday, February 06, 2005 10:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may be right. That kind of groupthink is probably more a reflection that most art/film reviewers are probably homosexual. Gross generalization? Perhaps, but what other conclusion can be drawn? 

Posted by Anonymous

Sunday, February 06, 2005 11:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, thanks for spoiling the surprise. I think I'll start reading the last chapter of books first to keep from being exposed to any surprises I'm not prepared to deal with. 

Posted by Anonymous

Sunday, February 06, 2005 11:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Goodness, such a battle waged by someone who is less than willing to put their name beind their words.

As usual intelligent discussion about a different point of view is met by arguments about Lakoff's "framing" and condescension.

Apparently, "free speech" on the left only applies to one point of view 

Posted by Janette

Monday, February 07, 2005 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who(or what)ever "Anonymous" is attempting to be, he/she/it does not seem capable of exhibiting either useful abilities at reading-for-meaning or any particular facility for critical thought or commentary.

As delightful a passage exemplifying "arguing past the point" as I have seen in many a day.

Near brilliance in the category of namelessly speaking much while saying nothing at all of value.


Posted by J.S.Bridges

Friday, February 18, 2005 9:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forget that Clint Eastwood was a REPUBLICAN mayor in California in the late eighties. 

Posted by Anonymous

Saturday, March 05, 2005 8:11:00 AM  
Blogger DoctorStrangehate said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Saturday, March 05, 2005 8:12:00 AM  

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