Taking Representation Seriously: Rethinking Bioethics Through Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby [Book Review]

Journal of Medical Humanities 32 (2):77-87 (2011)
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Abstract

In this article, I propose a new model for understanding the function of representation in bioethics. Bioethicists have traditionally judged representations according to a mimetic paradigm, in which representations of bioethical dilemmas are assessed based on their correspondence to the “reality” of bioethics itself. In this article, I argue that this mimetic paradigm obscures the interaction between representation and reality and diverts bioethicists from analyzing the tensions in the representational object itself. I propose an anti-mimetic model of representation that is attuned to how representations can both maintain and potentially subvert dominant conceptions of bioethics. I illustrate this model through a case study of Clint Eastwood’s film Million Dollar Baby. By focusing attention on the film’s lack of adherence bioethical procedures and medical science, critics missed how an analysis of its representational logic provides a means of reimagining both bioethics and medical practice. In my conclusion, I build off this case study to assess how an incorporation of representational studies can deepen—and be deepened by—recent calls for interdisciplinarity in bioethics

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