“ Murderball” Review: Masculinity in Men with Disabilities
In the movie “ Murderball,” directed by Rubin and Shapiro, the paraplegics who play for the USA rugby team are practicing to compete in the Athens 2004 Paralympics. However, the most interesting part of the movie is the individual story of each character that is not always directly connected to rugby or their daily activities. Rather than focusing on their sport and the violence required to excel at it, it is more interesting to listen to their accidents, choices in life, and their paths to rehabilitation and leading a normal life. The behavioral aspect of the movie “ Murderball” is the most memorable because it presents the positive state of consciousness of those men and their willingness to regain control over their lives despite their circumstances. Because health is often defined only on the biological level, people often fail to realize that social, political, and cultural influences shape health behavior , and the characters in “ Murderball”
The characters in the movie “ Murderball” are all masculine, and it is possible to observe their behavior as hypermasculinity, but that would be an incomplete observation of their characteristics and behavioral patterns. From the physiological perspective, men are stereotyped as more violent than women, and scientific research indicates that testosterone is directly connected to aggression levels . By altering existing aggression pathways in the brain, testosterone is not the cause of aggression, but it amplifies the pathways responsible for aggressive behavior . However, it is also possible to notice that those men are aggressive only when they play their sport because the game requires aggression. In daily life, it is possible to notice that they offer compassion and support to others who are getting accustomed to their permanent disabilities, so it is incorrect to place a prejudice on their behavior because it does not over-emphasize stereotypical male behavior.
Although the characters were required to make some modifications to their lifestyle and roles, it is possible to notice that they mainly display hegemonic masculinity because they all strive for independence, self-reliance, physical strength, and mental strength. Furthermore, they are all ambitious men who follow their desires. For example, Mark Zapan was a rugby player before he was paralyzed in an accident, but the accident did not change his attitude toward life or his career choice. Although all men, including Zapan, note that it is difficult to recover from feeling powerless like an infant to regaining independence, they all display persistence, patience, and optimism to regain self-reliance. In the end, it is possible to notice that some roles and attitudes change in those men, so they do not strive to follow hegemonic masculinity strictly.
For allocation purposes, “ female” and “ male” are the main categories used to establish roles, define traits, and acceptable behavioral patterns . However, recent feminist perspectives indicate that there are more similarities between the two genders than people originally assumed . For example, Zapan is a masculine type, but he showed a lot of compassion and support to those who are learning to live with their disabilities when he was making a presentation about rugby in a hospital. Compassion and caring would have been traditionally considered feminine, so it is possible to notice that Zapan is mainly masculine, but he acknowledge his condition and makes role adjustments in compliance with it. Zapan is a type of person that could be considered a super crip, but all other men can also be considered super crips because they have all overcome circumstances in which most people would give up. “ Your mind becomes a bigger disability than physical stuff” (Murderball, 2005). They all notice that there is no going back to the old ways, and they learn to live with their new circumstances, and that is already an admirable progress in addition to their athletic achievements after becoming disabled.
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