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Anti-sexist commentary on MURDERBALL

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    Anti-sexist commentary on MURDERBALL

    ...by Richard Leader. Any comments?

    When the producers of Murderball and its fawning critics agree that they do not pity the cast, it seems to be a case of protesting too much; the endless admissions are too self-conscious and congratulatory to be taken as legitimate. That is not to say that the film is exploitive in the same way that the documentary accuses other movies of being, of using the disabled as a feel-good parable of some sort, but its dishonesty about how it regards its subjects opens up other avenues for abuse.

    Behaviors that might seem questionable when acted out by able-bodied men in a nonfiction production are portrayed as healthy in disabled men, their ability to perpetrate sexism serving as decisive proof that they have successfully overcome the hand that life has dealt them. While women are certainly harmed by this, as I will argue below, the able-bodied producers of the film are also exploiting the cast in order to writ large their own misogynistic fantasies, audience sympathy for the men’s condition serving as a buffer against complaints. All of this is covered up by the constant refrain of “no pity.” This should not be surprising given the Maxim and MTV origins of Murderball.
    If Murderball communicates anything, it is that being a man is superior to being a person; becoming a quadriplegic is to suffer not just in empirical terms but also the fictive-reality of emasculation. The veiled implication of this is that no woman can ever suffer as badly as a man. Coaching at the 2002 World Championships, Joe Soares prematurely takes a position on the sideline while the American and Australian teams are shaking hands after their match: a female official approaches him and asks if he can wait until they are done before cutting across the gymnasium floor. He complains unconvincingly that someone else had done the same thing during one of Canada’s games and, as she walks away, uninterested in a debate, he says, “**** you, bitch.”

    These are the first words of Soares that the editors choose to present the viewer. While they work well enough to paint him as a hothead, framing him for the rest of the film, the exact slight he believed he had suffered is more subtle and it seems unlikely that most audience members would pick up on its specifics, at least in a single viewing. Beyond just the asserting of her own authority, the fact that a woman had the option of choosing to not deal with him without suffering any consequences for her choice was even more intolerable, necessitating the gendered insult toward her—for the nonexistent yet seemingly real one he suffered from her.

    Women exist all over the periphery of Murderball. They lug tables with trophies around, pump gas, tie shoelaces, cheer and gasp from the sidelines, and they are the target of inventive practical jokes. They are patient nurses, nagging mothers, smiling girlfriends, and panicked wives. They are not, however, players. No mention of a women’s league is ever made, though injured female veterans of the Iraq war are included in an introductory lesson led by American national team: their military affiliation having given them the barest of protections against sexism in this case. This might be excusable given the narrow focus on the exploits of a single team (with Soares and Cavill representing the past and potential future of it) if it were not for the treatment of the marginal female figures who are afforded screen time.
    No matter how dependent upon women—fulfilling their roles as caregivers, physically, emotionally, and sexually—the men of Murderball might be, and time is certainly given over to depicting imagery of care giving, that dependency is seen as something that must be overcome: not through independence from women but though the domination of women. Thus sexism is glibly inverted: in a discussion ostensibly to quell misconceptions about the sex lives of quadriplegics, Scott Hogsett, a member of the American national team, states that the more pitiful that he is, the more the women like him, reminding a questioner that “a lot of girls like being on top.” The mirthful comments by the men about women finding them non-threatening, and how this works to their own advantage sexually, have a touch of the surreal when contrasted by their ardent desire to have men find them threatening—and the great lengths to which they go in order to ensure that they do, several of them bragging of victorious fist fights. Heterosexual activity, in a way, serves the same function for them with women, given the ethic of patriarchy that surrounds all of us, regardless of our individual intentions and aspirations.
    Murderball is a fine story and is one well worth watching. It is also necessary to acknowledge that the story is only being told, to the exclusion of myriad others, because the stars are white, male, and of a certain background. (Almost all of the players became quadriplegics as adults and as the result of accidents: I have been informed that people born with disabilities are far less likely to have received insurance or legal settlements that allow them the financial freedom participate in such activities.) Still, even with a jaundiced eye, it is difficult not to be sucked into their lives. It features exciting, vibrant people—people who would prefer to be men, more than anything else. That is, after all, our cultural preference.
    Whole article:

    http://adonismirror.com/01292006_leader_murderball.htm
    "Who are all these strange ghosts rooted to the silly little adventure of earth with me?"--Jack Kerouac

    #2
    I guess the writer of this article doesn't realize that there are several women that play rugby and talk of creating a women's tourney through the USQRA. St. Louis' best player is a chick.
    Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies...

    Comment


      #3
      I guess they missed the part were Zupan was asked if females had their own league and he said the teams are co-ed. I also thought in that same scene they showed a female from a rehab throwing the bal around with the guys. I also have to disagree with what they said about leaving out people that were inured as children or born with disabilities. Didn't the guy with virtually no arms get diagnosed as a child. What about Joe getting polio as a kid? As much of a feminist I am I am not buying this agrement.
      www.cawvsports.org
      The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same. ~ Don Juan Matus
      We are Virginia Tech… We must laugh again… No one deserves a tragedy… We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid…We are better than we think and not quit what we want to be…We are the Hokies…We will prevail, we will prevail, we will prevail. We ARE Virginia Tech! ~ Nikki Giovanni

      Comment


        #4
        I think this commentary is trying too hard to be anti-sexist without a sound foundation.

        Comment


          #5
          blah, blah, blah....thats all I read but one thing I need to point out is that I think the author needs to go to some tournaments, not just watch the documentary. There are more men on the sidelines helping the players than there are women. The men are fathers and brothers. They carry water to the players, fix flat tires, pump the gas, all of the above. Pure and simple I think the guy is a big fat jerk.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by Aly
            As much of a feminist I am I am not buying this agrement.
            Which argument? He made several.
            Originally posted by roshni
            I think this commentary is trying too hard to be anti-sexist without a sound foundation.
            Could you be more specific? What "foundation" do you mean?

            Originally posted by Jesse's Mom
            blah, blah, blah....thats all I read but one thing I need to point out is that I think the author needs to go to some tournaments, not just watch the documentary. There are more men on the sidelines helping the players than there are women. The men are fathers and brothers. They carry water to the players, fix flat tires, pump the gas, all of the above. Pure and simple I think the guy is a big fat jerk.
            But he was criticizing the documentary, not the whole sport... The documentary DID leave those facts out, so isn't that an accurate criticism, in that case?

            Why do you say he's a jerk? He's actually a pretty nice guy, all in all, even if I did get into a flame war with him once.
            Last edited by MrSoul; 2 Feb 2006, 9:20 PM.
            "Who are all these strange ghosts rooted to the silly little adventure of earth with me?"--Jack Kerouac

            Comment


              #7
              I dont know, Mr.Soul. I just thought he sounded like a jerk. I read the article several times before I could totally understand it. And maybe I still dont. Maybe it is because my son plays rugby and I took offense. I understand that Murderball left out the fact that men are also on the sidelines helping, not just women. But I wonder if the producers had to think "Should put some men on the sidelines to make sure we dont come off as sexist?" I dont think so. Just seems like he picked it apart so much. When I watched it I never read into the film what he did but I suppose thats why he is the critic and I am a mother of a rugby player.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by MrSoul
                But he was criticizing the documentary, not the whole sport...
                isn't the sport the documentary? are you actually agreeing with this ass?





                Life isn't like a bowl of cherries or peaches. It's more like a jar of jalapenos--What you do today might burn your ass tomorrow.

                If you ain't laughing, you ain't living, baby. Carlos Mencia

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Jesse's Mom
                  There are more men on the sidelines helping the players than there are women. The men are fathers and brothers. They carry water to the players, fix flat tires, pump the gas, all of the above. Pure and simple I think the guy is a big fat jerk.
                  EXACTLY!
                  Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies...

                  Comment


                    #10
                    The women Joe Soares calls a bitch on the side lines wasn't an official, she was one of the coaches from the U.S. team trying to tell him to leave. I would have been pissed too. Richard Leader needs to get his facts straight.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Movie Critics I Like Review Murderball.

                      As a general rule, I have found myself to be in agreement about film reviewed by Rolling Stone's Peter Travers. He has this to say about Murderball"

                      A smashing documentary about quadriplegics in wheelchairs -- wait, it's not depressing. These are quadriplegics who play rugby for the U.S. Paralympics team -- wait, it's not sappy. Fierce action, foul language and even quad sex come under the microscope of filmmakers Henry-Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro as the film builds to the battle between the U.S. and Canadian teams. Wait -- it's not like something you've already seen. It's original, outrageous and murderous fun. PETER TRAVERS
                      Ebert liked it:

                      http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/.../50607001/1023

                      (I often disagree.)

                      As did James Berardinelli, who I more frequently am in agreement with:

                      http://movie-reviews.colossus.net/mo...urderball.html

                      For some reason, I've yet to add it to my Netflix queue.
                      Last edited by jukespin; 3 Feb 2006, 12:12 AM. Reason: Acess to Smilies.
                      "Sometimes I just sets and thinks...
                      and sometimes I just sets.
                      "

                      Otis Redding I think

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Pass the Critic.

                        Originally posted by NorthQuad
                        The women Joe Soares calls a bitch on the side lines wasn't an official, she was one of the coaches from the U.S. team trying to tell him to leave. I would have been pissed too. Richard Leader needs to get his facts straight.
                        I have found this inaccuracy thing all to often amongst critics and it pisses me off. A prominent syndicated movie reviewer, Steve Rhodes, while reviewing "The Ring" identified Rachel's ex-husband and father of her wierd little boy (Noah) as: "a boyfriend". I've found about one in four of his reviews to contain inaccuracies. Like I said above, the problem is widespread amongst critics.

                        Good debate article MrSoul!
                        Last edited by jukespin; 3 Feb 2006, 12:26 AM.
                        "Sometimes I just sets and thinks...
                        and sometimes I just sets.
                        "

                        Otis Redding I think

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I have a woman player on my rugby team and my coach is also a woman.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by 2jazzyjeff
                            isn't the sport the documentary? are you actually agreeing with this ass?
                            Umm, no... the sport is the sport, and the movie is the movie. You don't think a movie ABOUT something is the same thing as the thing ITSELF do you?

                            HOOP DREAMS is a documentary ABOUT basketball, it is not the ACTUAL NBA.

                            Of course, I agree with much of what he wrote. Can you tell me why he is mistaken?
                            "Who are all these strange ghosts rooted to the silly little adventure of earth with me?"--Jack Kerouac

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by jukespin
                              As a general rule, I have found myself to be in agreement about film reviewed by Rolling Stone's Peter Travers. He has this to say about Murderball"
                              What did you think of Rich's 'criticism of the criticism'?

                              In short, nobody seems to be taking issue with his main point... that the movie re-confirms masculine stereotypes instead of challenging them. Wouldn't everyone here agree?

                              And if you think male gender roles are positive, that's okay with you. If you think they are largely harmful to men (and I do, in fact, I think very harmful to disabled men IN PARTICULAR), then that WON'T be okay with you.

                              Is everyone agreed then?
                              Last edited by MrSoul; 3 Feb 2006, 12:45 PM.
                              "Who are all these strange ghosts rooted to the silly little adventure of earth with me?"--Jack Kerouac

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