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The Fighter (2010)

David O. Russell

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#41 Rachel Anne

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 01:33 AM

I am familiar with the principle of the double effect of course, but I can't recall ever seeing it discussed with regard to violence in sports. I can't think of any reason why it shouldn't be, although obviously if it should, then it should apply to all sports and in the same way, not just to boxing. Football, for example, is rich in all sorts of violence and lasting harm, including concussions, and recent research suggests that long-term brain damage as a result is quite common. If we cannot expect, for example, a boxer to differentiate between violence that will do lasting harm vs. violence that won't, doesn't the same problem apply to a linebacker?

Although I do watch football (and at one time watched boxing) I admit I am not at all sure that the sport rests on morally permissible grounds. The fact that so many people don't object to it offers little reassurance, given the number of evil acts in human history that were for centuries regarded as acceptable. I would be interested to see a moral theologian work through this. I suspect that with anything less than a systematic attempt to work through the issues that we may just indulge in casual condemnation of sports we have no interest in while engaging in special pleading on behalf of those we do.

#42 SDG

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 05:35 AM

I am familiar with the principle of the double effect of course, but I can't recall ever seeing it discussed with regard to violence in sports.

It has certainly been done. I'm pretty sure that Grisez's The Way of the Lord Jesus addresses the risk of sports injuries from a double effect perspective.

I can't think of any reason why it shouldn't be, although obviously if it should, then it should apply to all sports and in the same way, not just to boxing. Football, for example, is rich in all sorts of violence and lasting harm, including concussions, and recent research suggests that long-term brain damage as a result is quite common. If we cannot expect, for example, a boxer to differentiate between violence that will do lasting harm vs. violence that won't, doesn't the same problem apply to a linebacker?

It's not the same problem, no, though I'm not saying there's not at least a moral difficulty about the linebacker.

What makes the pugilist's situation different -- at least, the kind of pugilism seen in The Fighter -- is that he is not just trying to knock his opponent down, push him around, prevent him from acting effectively, land more punches, etc. My objection here does not apply to pugilism that involves only goals of that sort, even if there is considerable risk of injury. My objection is to pugilism that involves directly seeking -- not as a mere effect, but as the directly intended end of one's action -- to do some kind of incapacitating damage to one's opponent. I grant that there is art, skill and discipline to it; it is not necessarily merely "two brutes trying to injure one another." Even so, it is two skilled, disciplined athletes directly trying to injure (not just beat) one another and directly rewarded by the rules of the sport for doing just that.

Directly seeking to incapacitate one's opponent seems to me at least proximate to a direct fifth commandment offense in a way that the violence of football is not. If a linebacker does try to do incapacitating damage to an opponent, that act is just as problematic, but football is not about incapacitating the opposition in the same way that boxing is. With football the double effect calculus has more to do with risk of serious injury; with boxing it has more to do with the directly intended end of one's actions.

All of that said, my moral concerns about boxing didn't prevent me from enjoying The Fighter, although I can see where they would interfere with someone else's enjoyment. (Suz, who hates boxing, certainly suffered through the boxing scenes.)

Edited by SDG, 31 December 2010 - 05:44 AM.


#43 Overstreet

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 01:19 PM

I also tend to take into account what a sport brings out of its audiences.

There will always be fans in any sport who take a sports event as an opportunity to taunt, or to should horrible things at the opposing team's fans, or to hurl obscenities at opposing players, or whatever.

But the more basically violent the sport, the more it seems to whip crowds into a dangerous frenzy.

Boxing and the circus of WWF have usually driven me to change the channel before the match even begins just for what else is drawn into the experience.

It's like watching the city... plant a casino or a strip joint in a neighborhood and watch what happens.

I'm sure there are card-players who can make arguments for the innocence of the games themselves. But the element of betting money, in combination with the dark side of human nature, creates a chemical reaction that is almost always destructive, You can't tell me that there isn't something about casinos that brings out the worst in people, that throws fuel on the fires of addictive and self-destructive behavior, and that has an effect on the neighborhood around it.

"It's not a perfect metaphor." - Dr. Horrible

In a way, that's how I feel about sports in which the goal is to, yes, incapacitate the opponent with harmful blows to the body. There is something essentially wrong in the affair that invites the worst in us to come out and play.

But then, you're talking to a guy who quit basketball in high school because the increasing focus on winning, winning, winning was draining the joy from the game, and the solitary work of writing started to seem preferable.

#44 Rachel Anne

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 03:10 PM

What makes the pugilist's situation different -- at least, the kind of pugilism seen in The Fighter -- is that he is not just trying to knock his opponent down, push him around, prevent him from acting effectively, land more punches, etc. My objection here does not apply to pugilism that involves only goals of that sort, even if there is considerable risk of injury. My objection is to pugilism that involves directly seeking -- not as a mere effect, but as the directly intended end of one's action -- to do some kind of incapacitating damage to one's opponent. I grant that there is art, skill and discipline to it; it is not necessarily merely "two brutes trying to injure one another." Even so, it is two skilled, disciplined athletes directly trying to injure (not just beat) one another and directly rewarded by the rules of the sport for doing just that.


I think the linebacker and boxer are similar in that they are both trying to temporarily incapacitate their opponent. Neither seeks to do permanent harm. However, their actions must lead to permanent harm in a way that is in practice inseparable from their efforts at temporary incapacitation. I read an essay recently by an offensive lineman who said that every football player, at least at the NFL level, receives multiple concussions PER GAME. Usually they are not knocked unconscious long enough for other people to notice, but momentary blackouts and periods of wooziness are direct evidence of brain damage being done. If the NFL really followed the guidelines that a player would have to leave a game after a concussion and take the following week off, they wouldn't be able to finish a single game; really, on or about halftime both teams would have all their players on the injured list. It is only a silent conspiracy about these non-obvious concussions that makes the sport possible. Before we knew more about the long-term effects of concussions this was not considered a huge problem; people worried more about the rare spectacular injury, such as the hit that paralyzed Darryl Stingley, or the known issues involving joint damage.

The human value of the intended effect, for both boxing and football is slight: both are nothing more than forms of entertainment. But the second effect is a great deal of damage to human beings, who are only being tempted into it by the money that we provide: we are paying them to hurt each other for nothing more than our amusement. It does not seem to be an easy thing to defend.

#45 Overstreet

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 03:24 PM

[I read an essay recently by an offensive lineman who said that every football player, at least at the NFL level, receives multiple concussions PER GAME. Usually they are not knocked unconscious long enough for other people to notice, but momentary blackouts and periods of wooziness are direct evidence of brain damage being done. If the NFL really followed the guidelines that a player would have to leave a game after a concussion and take the following week off, they wouldn't be able to finish a single game; really, on or about halftime both teams would have all their players on the injured list. It is only a silent conspiracy about these non-obvious concussions that makes the sport possible. Before we knew more about the long-term effects of concussions this was not considered a huge problem; people worried more about the rare spectacular injury, such as the hit that paralyzed Darryl Stingley, or the known issues involving joint damage.

The human value of the intended effect, for both boxing and football is slight: both are nothing more than forms of entertainment. But the second effect is a great deal of damage to human beings, who are only being tempted into it by the money that we provide: we are paying them to hurt each other for nothing more than our amusement. It does not seem to be an easy thing to defend.


Bowen, your Christianity is not masculine enough.

Just kidding.

I've been reading more and more that backs up this information, and that's why I've been having more trouble relaxing and enjoying football.

#46 SDG

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 03:30 PM

I think the linebacker and boxer are similar in that they are both trying to temporarily incapacitate their opponent. Neither seeks to do permanent harm. However, their actions must lead to permanent harm in a way that is in practice inseparable from their efforts at temporary incapacitation.

I think this analysis blurs a meaningful distinction that I think I've already illuminated about as clearly as I can do. I do not think that "temporarily incapacitate" applies to the linebacker's prescribed goal in the way that it does to the boxer's prescribed goal. Incapacitation -- unconsciousness or physical inability to stand up for a length of time -- is a direct goal which the boxer is told to achieve if he can and for which he will be rewarded with victory if he does.

Not so the linebacker. In principle, he may do his job perfectly in every play, thoroughly stymieing his opponent and leading his team to victory, without ever disrupting his opponent's nervous system function; conversely, if he chooses to knock him cold, the game will not reward him at all for that, in principle.

However, the data you provide on NFL injuries certainly racks up the "evil effect" side of the equation that a double effect analysis must outweigh in order to justify NFL football.

Edited by SDG, 31 December 2010 - 03:35 PM.


#47 Overstreet

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 03:33 PM

Just a link for reference (has this already been linked in this thread?): Malcolm Gladwell: How Different are Dogfighting and Football?

#48 Rachel Anne

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 05:25 PM

I think the linebacker and boxer are similar in that they are both trying to temporarily incapacitate their opponent. Neither seeks to do permanent harm. However, their actions must lead to permanent harm in a way that is in practice inseparable from their efforts at temporary incapacitation.

I think this analysis blurs a meaningful distinction that I think I've already illuminated about as clearly as I can do. I do not think that "temporarily incapacitate" applies to the linebacker's prescribed goal in the way that it does to the boxer's prescribed goal. Incapacitation -- unconsciousness or physical inability to stand up for a length of time -- is a direct goal which the boxer is told to achieve if he can and for which he will be rewarded with victory if he does.

Not so the linebacker. In principle, he may do his job perfectly in every play, thoroughly stymieing his opponent and leading his team to victory, without ever disrupting his opponent's nervous system function; conversely, if he chooses to knock him cold, the game will not reward him at all for that, in principle.

However, the data you provide on NFL injuries certainly racks up the "evil effect" side of the equation that a double effect analysis must outweigh in order to justify NFL football.


No boxer ever charges an opponent, piledriving into him at full speed with the full weight of his body behind it. In football, such a hit isn't borderline legal, it is considered the peak of the linebacker's art and is to the linebacker what the knockout punch is to the boxer. I doubt there is a linebacker at the NFL level who has made it through a game without disrupting the central nervous system of his opponent. You can't hit people as hard as NFL players do without causing that kind of damage. It just isn't possible.

It may be possible in theory to play football without hitting people that hard, but that isn't football at the NFL level. It is also possible to box without ever attempting to knock out an opponent. But that isn't boxing at the championship level. I don't think the distinction is as clear as you think it is.

Edited by bowen, 31 December 2010 - 05:56 PM.


#49 SDG

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 10:09 PM

No boxer ever charges an opponent, piledriving into him at full speed with the full weight of his body behind it. In football, such a hit isn't borderline legal, it is considered the peak of the linebacker's art and is to the linebacker what the knockout punch is to the boxer.

Except that the knockout punch is only a knockout punch if the other guy is, you know, actually knocked out, whereas if the other guy takes the piledriving charge in the best possible way and sustains no damage, the charge is still effective as long as it takes the other guy out of the play and prevents him from rushing the QB.

I doubt there is a linebacker at the NFL level who has made it through a game without disrupting the central nervous system of his opponent. You can't hit people as hard as NFL players do without causing that kind of damage. It just isn't possible.

That may be, but it goes to evil effects, not direct ends.

It may be possible in theory to play football without hitting people that hard, but that isn't football at the NFL level. It is also possible to box without ever attempting to knock out an opponent. But that isn't boxing at the championship level. I don't think the distinction is as clear as you think it is.

I'm not saying it's black and white. I'm saying there's a meaningful distinction. It may work out to be different shades of gray, but the moral principles at play are different.

#50 Rachel Anne

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 12:08 AM

No boxer ever charges an opponent, piledriving into him at full speed with the full weight of his body behind it. In football, such a hit isn't borderline legal, it is considered the peak of the linebacker's art and is to the linebacker what the knockout punch is to the boxer.

Except that the knockout punch is only a knockout punch if the other guy is, you know, actually knocked out, whereas if the other guy takes the piledriving charge in the best possible way and sustains no damage, the charge is still effective as long as it takes the other guy out of the play and prevents him from rushing the QB.

I doubt there is a linebacker at the NFL level who has made it through a game without disrupting the central nervous system of his opponent. You can't hit people as hard as NFL players do without causing that kind of damage. It just isn't possible.

That may be, but it goes to evil effects, not direct ends.

It may be possible in theory to play football without hitting people that hard, but that isn't football at the NFL level. It is also possible to box without ever attempting to knock out an opponent. But that isn't boxing at the championship level. I don't think the distinction is as clear as you think it is.

I'm not saying it's black and white. I'm saying there's a meaningful distinction. It may work out to be different shades of gray, but the moral principles at play are different.


Happy New Year, SDG!




#51 SDG

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 08:58 AM

Happy New Year, SDG!


:choir:::box2::

#52 Christian

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 08:45 PM

If you told me you didn’t like movies about boxing, I’d have to answer that you didn’t really like movies. A good fight picture can generate a raw emotional experience that practically defines the effect of the cinema itself at its most addictive. Every boxing movie basically tells the same story: A poor man with very little going for him but will and determination finds the strength within to risk everything in an effort to transcend his hardscrabble circumstances. The boxer is the great fantasy figure of American movies—the ordinary hero. ...

The great surprise of The Fighter, a new and entirely irresistible entry in the genre, is that it is far more like Rocky than Raging Bull. It was directed, and sensationally well, by David O. Russell, a filmmaker whose previous work (Flirting with Disaster, Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees) so drips with multifarious layers of irony that he would seem the last person on earth capable of making a head-on, populist, working-class fight picture. And yet that is exactly what The Fighter is, and why it’s so wonderful.


More here.

#53 Overstreet

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 09:24 PM

[i]If you told me you didn’t like movies about boxing, I’d have to answer that you didn’t really like movies.


Where's the emoticon for an eye-roll?

#54 SDG

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 10:01 PM

If you told me you didn’t like movies about boxing, I’d have to answer that you didn’t really like movies.

Where's the emoticon for an eye-roll?


Where's the emoticon for "What Jeff said"? I liked The Fighter but, um, duh.

Edited by SDG, 03 January 2011 - 10:01 PM.


#55 Thom Wade

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 08:21 AM

But guys...it works for anything! Look:

If you told me you didn’t like movies about murder, I’d have to answer that you didn’t really like movies.

If you told me you didn’t like movies about dancing, I’d have to answer that you didn’t really like movies.

If you told me you didn’t like movies about sex, I’d have to answer that you didn’t really like movies.

If you told me you didn’t like movies about war, I’d have to answer that you didn’t really like movies.

If you told me you didn’t like movies about religion, I’d have to answer that you didn’t really like movies.

If you told me you didn’t like movies about gangsters, I’d have to answer that you didn’t really like movies.

If you told me you didn’t like movies about zombies, I’d have to answer that you didn’t really like movies.

The possibilities are of dismissiveness are endless!

#56 douggimmick

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 10:02 AM

If you told me you didn’t like movies about zombies, I’d have to answer that you didn’t really like movies.


Am I allowed to (facetiously) suggest that the above statement is true? I mean - come on! Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later... where can you go wrong?

#57 Christian

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 11:26 AM

Tony Kornheiser raved about this movie on his show yesterday. Two one-hour podcasts of the show are available here. I heard the broadcast but can't remember if his comments -- about this movie as well as The King's Speech -- came in the first hour or second (sorry).

#58 Persona

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 03:34 PM

The morality of boxing questions aside, this is a pretty engrossing film. I'd venture to say it's not even a boxing film except for its ending, which is probably the only real let down.

Spoiler


#59 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 02:41 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEca3Ltpi5c

Christian wrote:
: Did I read somewhere that David O. Russell was brought on to this film after another director was fired?

I don't know about "fired", but apparently the film was originally going to be directed by Darren Aronofsky, who now has an "executive producer" credit.

Persiflage wrote:
: - Amy Adams - she keeps playing different characters and personalities too. Charlene has a little more fight/spunk to her than some of Adams other characters. But that's just the sort of girl Micky needs.

Absolutely. The bit where she punches one of Micky's sisters in the face was strangely satisfying, in particular. :)

And, for whatever it's worth, I actually found Adams kind of sexier in Leap Year, but the combination of sexiness and spunk here certainly works very well, and gives her more range than she's shown in her best-known roles to date.

: - It's a boxing film, but it's also a film about family.

Yeah, and it's interesting in that regard. Although... I did begin to wonder whether any of his sisters had lives of their own. (And I kind of wish I hadn't known ahead of time that one of the sisters is played by Conan O'Brien's sister. Once you know that, it's pretty obvious which one she must be.)

vjmorton wrote:
: "Belly Epokway" is my new favorite phrase. I also loved the guy walking in behind Micky and his girlfriend telling them with small-e evangelical zeal how the New York Times loved it.

Just in case anyone wants to read the actual New York Times review of that film, here it is.

Persiflage wrote:
: I understand if you believe boxing is wrong, then The Fighter is a poorer film for not reaching the same conclusion ... but ... I ... well ... that affects the actual quality of the film and acting performances because ... it's just a frustrating criticism of the film.

Agreed. It's like complaining that a war movie doesn't take a strong anti-war stance.

#60 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 21 January 2011 - 03:32 PM

EXCLUSIVE: The Legal Fight Over That Song From 'The Fighter'
How one music riff has caused trouble for CBS, Beck, the NFL, Busta Rhymes, and others
Hollywood Reporter, January 21





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