The Theme of Social Class in Million Dollar Baby

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Clint Eastwood directed the film of Million Dollar Baby, and in 2004 it was released; Paul Haggis wrote the original script. The film is a dramatic cum biography whose main actors are Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, and Clint Eastwood. The movie revolves at the story of an old boxing trainer Frankie and a determined woman chasing her boxing dreams Maggie Fitzergald. The film aims at addressing the themes of social class, gender, disability, respect, perseverance and determination, strength and skill, and the role of the family. The film is relevant, and the development of the protagonist character Maggie Fitzergald make it clear to the audience that determination and perseverance can lead to great achievements and prejudice based on gender orientation has no place in the modern society since it is evident that a woman is equally capable of achieving what a man can.


The movie is about the life of two main characters Frankie Dunn a reputable professional boxing trainer who owns Hit pit gym in Los Angeles that is under the management of his former trainee and an Ex-fighter Eddie Scrap Iron. Maggie Fitzgerald joins Hit Pit gym at 31 and approaches Frankie to be her trainer, but he refuses claiming he does not train women and also believes that Maggie is too old to join boxing.  Maggie, on the other hand, is a waitress who has been doing this job since she was 13 years and feels boxing is the only thing that she can do to save her from her current situation of waitressing and set her free from poverty as well. Although Frankie refuses to train Maggie because she is a woman and partly due to her age, she does not give up, and when Frankie is unable to send her away from the gym because she has already subscribed for six month, he tries to discourage that at 31 she will not make it. Maggie replied saying fighting is the only thing she ever feels good doing and this response poked Frankie.

Frankie is an excellent trainer however he is skeptical of training his fighters to bout fights that will help them get to the top and earn titles as well as money. Because of this conservative approach that Frankie continues to hold on to, his upcoming boxers leave him for managers that are more aggressive and who can take them to top-level fights. This attitude of Frankie is influenced by what happened to Scrap his ex-fighter who ended up losing one eye prematurely ending his career in his 109th fight. The incidence occurred while Frankie was there as a cutman and he has lived with guilt for not being able to save Scrap from the incidence. Frankie is also a troubled man facing family issues, he is not in good terms with his daughter who sends back his letters without opening them, and he feels guilty about his broken relationship with his daughter.

Maggie continued being persistent and focused on her training with assistance from Scrap with an objective of disapproving her family and Frankie one day.  At the age of 32 years, Maggie's determination and persistence gets the attention of Frankie after his fighter Willie left him for another manager making him agree to be her trainer. After training for a year and a half, Maggie is a promising fighter and wins all her pro-bout fights, and this makes her feel that she is ready to go for world title championship although at first, Frankie is not willing to allow her to go because of the fear of Maggie being hurt.  After Maggie proving herself worthy to take part in big fights, Frankie finally accepted and took her to Europe to fight where the crowd became fond of her.

Just like Frankie Maggie suffers from family problems, her family is ungrateful and does not acknowledge what she is doing but instead laughs at her and keep complaining about the house she has bought them claiming that they would have instead remained staying in the trailer and be given the cash instead. After Frankie learning of the troubles that Maggie encounters from her family and that her father died a long time ago their bonding became strong becoming a father figure in her life.

In Las Vegas, Maggie ends up getting a fatal spinal injury while contending for WBA welterweight title in a fight with the Bear a very notorious dirty fighter. Her family is not concerned with her well being but instead take advantage of her health situation to claim her assets.  Even in her state Frankie never leaves her side, and even after losing her leg Frankie refused to accept her request of helping her end her life. However, when the situation became worse, Frankie went to the rehab where Maggie was and removes her respirator helping her terminate her life. Frankie, on the other hand, is troubled with the death of Maggie who had become a family to him and he disappears never to be seen again (Eastwood et al., 2005).

Analysis of Culture Themes in the Film of Million Dollar Baby

The first theme that comes up in the film of Million Dollar Baby is the prejudice about persons with disability.  Upon becoming paralyzed Maggie is depressed and feels that her life with a disability is worthless and instead prefers to end her life to escape from the suffering.  The film portrays disability as a terrible condition that makes an individual useless and not worth living.  The film helps in perpetuating the discrimination of people living with the disability, and the message it sends to its audience depicts the ignorance that most people in the society have which eventually leads to the stereotype about individuals living with the disability (Ellexis, 2006).

Gender discrimination is another popular culture theme that is depicted in a Million Dollar Baby movie. At the beginning of the film Maggie a 31-year-old woman with a dream of becoming a boxer approaches Frankie begging him to be her trainer but he is adamant saying he does not train girls, and when she insisted that she is tough he responds, "tough and ‘girlie tough' aren't the same thing" (Eastwood et al., 2005). The film further reveals how white men use white women and black men for their fulfillment, satisfaction and obtain pleasure in their submissions and performances. Maggie is heard saying I am "doing it for daddy" referring to his trainer (Eastwood et al., 2005). After Maggie’s persistence, Frankie finally accepted to train her upon the intervention of Scrap, but he does it reluctantly and tells her, "if I take you on, you don't question me, and I'm going to try and forget that you're a girl!" (Eastwood et al., 2005). The audience wonders why he finds it difficult keeping in mind "that Maggie is a girl or a woman" (Eastwood et al.,2005). The film, therefore, uses gender discrimination to portray how the society perceives a woman as an individual whose role is to be submissive and to act in a manner that pleases a man as well as supporting the dynamic of patriarchal power where she is not supposed to worry about anything.

In the film, femininity is under-represented as compared to masculinity and even in the cases where it is represented it is in the negative light as in the case when Maggie visits her mother and sisters who instead of giving her moral support they despise her career. In most parts of the movie, Frankie refers to Maggie as "the girl" and rarely by her name. The audience can notice that this is an act of taking away her importance and relevant and at the same time reducing Maggie to nothing more than her sex. Maggie exhibits femininity in her courageousness, goal oriented as well as determination. Similarly, she fights with courage, agility, a lot of physical and mental strength as well as with speed, attributes traditionally associated with men. The film effectively uses the attributes of Maggie to challenge the status quo and change the perception of the viewers on femininity and masculinity and start thinking beyond the gender box.

The role of family is also another essential theme that comes out in the film. The family is a very vital social unit in a society, and its functionality represents the wellbeing of a community in general. All the families portrayed in the film are dysfunctional. Frankie has an estranged daughter whom he writes to daily, but the later comes back unopened a situation that indicated a broken relationship between father and daughter. The film shows how vital a family is in one's life, and the viewers realize how difficult life becomes upon losing the support and love of the family. Frankie and Maggie are troubled and what they go through in their life is closely associated with their family problems, Maggie has grown up without a father figure, and her mother seem not concerned with her wellbeing but instead despises her career path and only focuses on ripping her off for her gain despite Maggie's dilapidating health. The three main characters come together and form a strong non-traditional family based in the Hit Pit gym and lives together loving one another and living as a parent and a child protecting and taking care of each other. At one point we see Maggie telling Frankie I've got nobody but you, Frankie (Eastwood et al., 2005). This theme of the role of the family comes out clearly in the film, and the audience can realize from the father figure role that Frankie plays in the life of Maggie that parental support is essential in individual life as well as understand how family impacts the success of an individual.

Comparison between Million Dollar Baby and Boys don't Cry Films

In both movies, the theme of gender discrimination comes out strongly where characteristics like toughness, dominance, determination, and courage are linked with masculinity. In the film of Boys Don't Cry the main character a transgendered person is physically assaulted raped and murdered because of his sexual orientation. In a Million Dollar Baby, on the other hand, Maggie a would-be boxer is denied a chance to be trained by a professional trainer because she is a girl.  In both films, the male characters portray hierarchies of power through their actions while the women and the other minority groups such as the LGBTQ are required to be submissive to them. The two films reveal how the society has normalized the notions surrounding masculinity and femininity hence forcing individuals to conform to it to fit in the community.

Both films end with a tragedy where the leading actor ends up dying under circumstances that result from unfair practices. Maggie dies from a spinal injury she sustained in the ring fighting with Bear a dirty boxer who continued hitting her even after the bell had rung something that is against the rules of the game and goes ahead to be declared a winner despite having broken the rules. On the other hand, Brandon in the film of Boys Don't Cry even after being raped by Tom and John and reporting to the police the lead sheriff turns against him and blames him for the rape. In the end, he is murdered by the same people who assaulted him after they are tipped off by sheriff about the charges they are facing (Grozelle,  2014). The actions by sheriffs show how the society is corrupted by the prejudice that has been normalized regarding the minority groups.


The film of million dollar baby has effectively conveyed its message to the audience due to its ability to bring out popular culture themes such as gender discrimination, the role of the family, social class and prejudice surrounding people with disability. Through Maggie’s determination, strength and focus the audience can see masculinity and femininity from a different perspective. From the success Maggie achieves throughout the movie, the viewer can realize that gender orientation of an individual is not a hindrance to the realization of one's goals and the notion in the society that portrays femininity as a weakness should be changed.


Eastwood, C., Swank, H., Freeman, M., Ruddy, A. S., Rosenberg, T., Haggis, P., Toole, Warner Home Video (Firm). (2005). Million Dollar Baby. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video

Ellexis, B (2006). Representing the Female Pugilist: Narratives of Race, Gender, and Disability in Million Dollar Baby. Sociology of Sports Journal, 99-116.

Grozelle R. 2014. Hegemonic Masculinity in Boys Don't Cry (1999). Film and media: Inquiries Journal.

September 25, 2023




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