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10 Minute Solution: High Intensity Interval Training12 and Holding3-In-1 Total Body Fitness with Desi Bartlett30 Minute Ab & Butt Blaster4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days49 Up5 Day Fit Yoga5 Mega Miles with Toning Band56 UpA Beautiful MindA Dangerous MethodA Mother's Courage: Talking Back to AutismA Short Stay in SwitzerlandA.M. 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Murderball is a documentary
about the sport sometimes known as "quadriplegic rugby." It focuses on
the rivalry between the USA and Canada teams, making USA player Mark Zupan and
Canadian coach Joe Soares, and this makes for great drama since they are both
strong characters. Soares used to play for the USA team, but when he could no
longer play for his own country, he switched allegiance to Canada. We see him with his family and with his players, and he often seems controlling,
angry and obsessional. The filmmakers, in their commentary, say they became
quite close to him during the filming, and he must have trusted them to let
them into his home. Yet, at certain points in the film he seems to forget his
family because he is so immersed in the game. On the other hand, Zupan seems
like a nice guy, and it is no surprise when we learn that he became the
spokesman for Team USA. We also get to know some of the other members of the
team, their girlfriends, the stories of how they became disabled, how their
friends and families reacted, and how they adjusted to their new lives.
The revelation of Murderball
is that disabled young can be dynamic, aggressive, and sexual. We see them
crashing their specially-designed chairs into each other, making each other
topple over. The game scenes are filled with shouting and death metal music.
It is startling at first, especially because you wonder how people who have
suffered major injuries would risk further broken limbs now. But it soon makes
sense, because it is all about reclaiming masculinity. Many of the players
were active in sports, and some of the young men in the documentary even became
disabled through their dangerous competitive activities. We see one young man,
Keith, going through rehab and then return home to face a life vastly different
from what he was previously used to, and we can see the dread on his face.
With quad rugby the players are heroes and supermen. They are grateful for the
chance that they got to play the sport.
Shapiro and Rubin's film is
remarkably emotional, without ever allowing viewers to feel sorry for the
people with disabilities. It shows the humanity of the players, and shows how
people with disabilities can fit into the world fully, commanding respect and
love. The editing is production is really strong, and the use of music is
inspired. The extras on the DVD are plentiful but not very illuminating. The
two commentaries by the USA players and the filmmakers don't reveal much; the
players just sound like a bunch of guys sitting around watching the movie, and
they spend a lot of time talking about how drunk they get as often as they
can. The special episode of MTV's Jackass with Johnny Knoxville
basically shows that young men with disabilities can be just as stupid as young
men without disabilities. The deleted scenes are quite interesting, but don't
show anything surprising. People who really liked the Murderball may
find these extras worth watching, but others will probably want to skip them.
The documentary is part of an
apparently growing trend for documentaries about disability to emphasize the
normality of people who are different. This last year, in the cable show Little People, Big
World, the Roloff family is shown going through everyday life coping
well with the challenges they face. This must be a good thing, and should be
welcomed. But there may be some reasons for reservations too. Most obviously,
with the message that disabled people can lead normal lives, there's a concern
that only those who can find ways to fully participate will get media
attention. Those whose physical or mental differences are so radical that they
cannot find a way to make their own way independently in the world may become
overlooked in this trend. With Murderball, the message that disabled
males can be real men too is an important one, but the film does no questioning
of this masculinity that the players aim to demonstrate, and the inclusion of
the Jackass show on the DVD, as well as the players' commentary,
highlights the lack of critical stance towards what gets counted as normal.
Obviously, there are commercial reasons for this; if the filmmakers had tried
to deconstruct masculinity and worry about the role of age, race, sexuality and
class, they would have lost a great deal of dramatic effect. Nevertheless, if
a teacher wanted to use Murderball in a class on disability studies,
those wider questions would need to be raised.
© 2006 Christian Perring. All
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division
and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is
also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main research is
on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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