Editor's Note: Movie-goers who have not yet seen "Million Dollar Baby" are advised the following story discusses how the movie ends.
A group of students at the University of Toledo plans to land some serious blows this week on Million Dollar Baby, a movie about a female boxer that won four Academy Awards recently.
Students with the newly formed UT Association for Disability Studies say they're outraged about the movie's portrayal of the boxer, who ultimately becomes paralyzed and is aided in suicide by her coach. Hilary Swank, who played the boxer, won an Academy Award for best actress. Clint Eastwood, who played her coach, won an Academy Award as the film's director.
"We want to create the awareness that there is life after a disability," said Renee Wood, 45, a UT senior and president of the UT association. "Clint Eastwood's film emphasizes the notion better dead than disabled and we are saying no. Disabled lives are worthy of living."
In what will be their first effort as a new group, the local advocates will hold a protest from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and tomorrow near the UT Student Union bookstore. They'll pass out literature explaining their opposition to the movie.
The protest is part of a nationwide public awareness effort led by Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights organization that is opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia. The same group held its own protest on Feb. 27, just prior to the start of the annual Academy Awards.
Stephen Drake, a research analyst for Not Dead Yet, said the group focused its efforts against the movie's ending before and during the Academy Awards last month. But he said the UT students' protest still should raise awareness about the issues.
"I think it's useful. The idea is to get a discussion going about the portrayal of people with disabilities in the movies and who the experts on disabilities should be," Mr. Drake said. "We're the experts on our own lives."
Ms. Wood said yesterday she doesn't know what reaction her group will get on campus, but they'll be sure to stress that their effort is an issue of ensuring people with disabilities are properly depicted in movies and not about censorship.
"I know it's going to be really difficult because I know they're going to say censorship. `You can't tell people what to write or not write,'●" Ms. Wood said. "I agree with that. [But] it's not really about that. It's about the man who made the movie. I believe he has more responsibility to create an accurate portrait of disability."
Some unrealistic things about the movie, she said, included that the paralyzed boxer was in a nursing home and not given the option to live at home. In addition, she wasn't provided counseling, even after she tried to commit suicide on her own.
The movie was produced through Warner Bros. Pictures. An area representative was contacted yesterday, but no immediate response to the planned protest was available.
In addition to complaints about the movie, Ms. Wood said her group is hoping to bring attention to disability issues in general at UT.
She said some students are specifically hoping for the creation of a disabilities major at UT like those at some other colleges.
Elmira College in New York, for example, has a speech and language disabilities major.
"I really believe the more issues we get out on campus, the more the general student population will be educated about people with disabilities," she said.
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