By the time you read this, “Million Dollar Baby” will probably have won a handful of Academy Awards — and all I can say is, it’s totally ludicrous. But this time around, it’s not just Academy voters who have been wooed by Hollywood schtick and sentimentality, but the critics, too.
I didn’t see Clint Eastwood’s racist, classist, sexist melodrama until after many of the year’s top ten lists tauted its achievements. About the time I finally caught the movie, controversy was erupting about the film’s pro-euthanasia stance. But there was so much more to offend in “Million Dollar Baby” that I couldn’t even get to the right-to-die stuff.
Why most of the nation’s critics didn’t get stuck on the depiction of yet another poor blackman (Morgan Freeman’s character) serving his white master is beyond me? And why has everyone ignored the fact that Maggie, a young woman who wants to enter a man’s world, of course, doesn’t get very far? Or how the poor come across as money-grubbing, insensitive, and stupid?
Even left-wing columnist Frank Rich praised the film and its characters with nary a word about the movie’s blatant attack on America’s welfare system. Playing straight into the prejudices of the give-to-the-rich reigning majority, the lower-classes are either stubborn and punishable by death for trying to transcend their place (Maggie), spastic and weak (Danger), or cruel, slimy and greedy (Maggie’s family). Slate’s David Edelstein was one of the only critics to rightly point out, “Her trailer-trash family is cartoonishly venal: They don’t even pretend to offer sympathy. (Couldn’t just one of her relatives have been genuinely distraught?).”
That Clint’s character escapes any of said stereotypes seems to be just another standard Hollywood ploy: white guy learns a lesson and we all leave the theater feeling the better for it. While I give kudos to the film’s abrupt, anti-Hollywood turn, and I can see why some critics adored the movie’s classic storytelling technique and moody cinematography, they might also have noted the film’s age-old biases.