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Advocates Outraged At Eastwood's Pro-Euthanasia Film
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 26, 2005

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS & BETHESDA, MARYLAND--The new movie "Million Dollar Baby" is being praised by critics as one of the best movies of the year. Well-known Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert called it a "masterpiece". And on Tuesday it was nominated in seven Academy Award categories, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, along with Best Actor and Best Director for Clint Eastwood.

Disability rights advocates from such groups as Not Dead Yet and the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, however, are condemning both Eastwood and the movie, calling it a "snuff film" and Eastwood's "vendetta" against people with disabilities.

The outrage centers around the plot line in which one of the characters sustains a spinal cord injury and ends up in a nursing home. Another "pulls the plug" on that character's ventilator, apparently deciding that it is better to not live at all than to live with such a disability.

Some immediately made the connection between this on-screen act of euthanasia and Eastwood's opposition to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. The actor/director captured headlines four years ago when he unsuccessfully fought a lawsuit filed against him for not making his Carmel, California resort accessible to wheelchair users. He further angered groups when he passionately argued in the U.S. Congress for weakening the ADA by requiring people to give businesses a 90-day notice before suing over access problems.

"Eastwood is remembered by many for his attack on the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2000," said Marcie Roth, CEO of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, in a press statement. "I'm saddened but not surprised that he uses the power of fame and film to perpetuate his view that the lives of people with disabilities are not worth living."

"Many people with SCI and other disabilities survive, thrive, and contribute to our society," stated Roth. "Dirty Harry could win the day and show us all a better use of his legendary talent by portraying disabled lives well-lived rather than sending the damaging message 'better dead than disabled.'"

Last week, activists with Not Dead Yet protested outside Chicago's Union League Club where they carried signs and handed out leaflets to the public and movie critics -- including Ebert -- who were gathering for a film awards presentation (unrelated to Eastwood's film).

"People who actually know something about Eastwood and about disability see this movie for what it is," the leaflets stated. "It's Eastwood's revenge and we will not sit by silently while ignorant reviewers further Eastwood's career on our collective backs."

Diane Coleman, founder of Not Dead Yet, said: "The biggest problem with 'Million Dollar Baby' is that some of the audience will be newly disabled people, their family members and friends, swept along in the critically acclaimed emotion that the kindest response to someone struggling with the life changes brought on by a severe injury is, after all, to kill them."

In a review for the Ragged Edge Magazine, Not Dead Yet research analyst Steve Drake wrote: "The cynic in me says that maybe the most accurate label we can put on this movie is 'Clint Eastwood's Revenge.' Hey, if we kill 'em, we don't have to make our resorts accessible!"

"This movie is a corny, melodramatic assault on people with disabilities," Drake continued. "It plays out killing as a romantic fantasy and gives emotional life to the 'better dead than disabled' mindset lurking in the heart of the typical (read: nondisabled) audience member."

In a separate article about the movie industry's portrayal of people with certain disabilities as "lives not worth living", the Ragged Edge's Mary Johnson wrote: "Movies like these will continue to be made until people are given a way to understand that it is alright to live as a disabled person. Not heroic, not tragic -- simply alright."

Advocates are being encouraged to print off copies of the Not Dead Yet flyer, which is available from their web site, to hand out to movie-goers and their local media.

Related:
"Million Dollar Bigots" (Not Dead Yet)
"'Piss on Pity': Clint Eastwood's 'Million Dollar' Snuff Film" (Press Action)
"Eastwood Continues Disability Vendetta with 'Million Dollar Baby'" (National Spinal Cord Injury Association)
"Dangerous Times" by Steve Drake (Ragged Edge Magazine)
"We need to talk!" by Mary Johnson (Ragged Edge Magazine)
"ADA Notification & Clint Eastwood" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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