Fighting oneself: the embodied subject and films about sports
Popular culture – particularly as it relates to health, sports and fitness – often venerates the discipline of the body, using images that evoke mastery as a means through which the subject realizes an authentic identity. On the other contemporary, theorists often trouble the division between mind and body implied by the image of mastery, and developing a concept of embodiment as a source of subjectivity. Focusing on the films Million Dollar Baby and Sugar, this paper considers the contradictions of embodiment and the subject as they emerge in films about sports. The protagonist in Million Dollar Baby masters her body through discipline. In so doing, she transcends the socially constructed identity that seems to be dictated by her origins and realizes a pre-social “authentic” identity as a champion boxer. The protagonist in Sugar, on the other hand, finds that the body does not always respond to disciplinary practices as expected. As a result, he must respond to the vicissitudes of embodiment by improvising – constructing an identity from fragments of his past and present environment. Each of these characters is simultaneously freer and more constrained than the other.