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Dissertation proposal sample
Updated: Wednesday 27th January 2016


Tribhuvan University




Subversion of Gender Roles in the film Million Dollar Baby





A Thesis Proposal Submitted to the Department of English for the Approval of Research committee





Sujan Rai










Central Department of English

Kirtipur, Kathmandu

July 2014


            Million Dollar Baby is a four Academy Award winner film directed by Clint Eastwood. This film moves around the protagonist Maggie Fitzgerald (Henry Swank) who refutes the traditional stereotypical masculine ideals like females are irrational, submissive, receptive, cowardice and so on. On the contrary, the central female character Maggie Fitzgerald is assertive, proactive and bold who tends to lead the family and society to a reconsideration of women's role in the family and work place resulting into equal practice that promote equal opportunity for both male and female. She goes to the almost male occupied gym hall run by Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) who initially rejects to train her since she is a female. Furthermore, she proves herself as an assertive female and tackles down the problems of sexual harassment inside and outside of house. She buys a house for her family members and later on becomes the World's best boxer on her own. She does not get married throughout her life even though there is sequel pressure to get married from her family. In order to explore this issue, this film will be analyzed from gender perspective which delineates how female protagonist Maggie Fitzgerald refutes the traditional gender role.  


Theoretical Framework

            This is an approach to the gender role study that explores the bold attempt of Maggie Fitzgerald to subvert the stereotypical gender role in the family and society. In order to catch up this issue, this research will heavenly be based on some the books and ideas of the dominant critics like Bodies That Matter, Gender Trouble and Gender and Sexuality by Judith Butler, Female Masulinity by Judith Helberstram, Sexual Politics by Kate Millett. Furthermore, other gender critics' ideas relevant to gender study and female concerns will be traced as the theoretical tools in order to interpret this film in considerable length.

Purpose of Study

            The primary objectives of this study are to research the central character Maggie's subversion of stereotypical gender role and how women are rational and equal to men in the light of gender studies which is evident in the film.

Research Questions/Problems

            The film director Clint Eastwood presents female character Maggie as a female protagonist, a bold character and representative of assertive female who is in pursuit of independent career, distinct identity, happiness and dignity. She eventually succeeds to materialize her dream. But problem emerges when she lives in the stereotypical male dominated society. This research tries to answer some questions like how does Maggie refute the traditional concept of women? Why does she choose boxing career to subvert the masculine ideals? How she represents female assertivity? What does she do to materialize her vision? Does she succeed in order to materialize her quest?


            This research tries to explore how the female protagonist of the film Million Dollar Baby Maggie refutes the traditional stereotypical masculine ideals like females are like irrational, submissive, and receptive and cowardice. On the contrary, she proves to be assertive, proactive and brings reconsideration in the concept of women's role in the family and in the work place. By creating a woman character such as Maggie, the film proposes a critique of traditional gender division between masculine and feminine.


            Although this research makes significant use of concepts developed in the gender study, it does not offer a comprehensive analysis of feminism. It presents refutation of traditional gender role and how Maggie seeks her independent. It especially reveals conceptualized theoretical gaze of Judith Butler. This project will not analyze each and every aspects of the film, since it is only based on gender studies.

Review of Literature

            The film Million Dollar Baby directed by Clint Eastwood depicts the refutation of masculine ideals by female protagonist Maggie. Since the release of this film, it has been very fascinating among the viewers in all around the world. Various critics have criticized this film positively as well as negatively by raising different perspective issues. Since this film has huge impact upon the critics as well as the spectators who watch this sort of action cum boxing film, one of the critics Thomas Jackson argues regarding this film as, "Eastwood scores a knockout as an actor and director with Million Dollar Baby, a spare, exquisitely realized masterpiece about faith, redemption and boxing that beautifully illustrates his longtime philosophy that 'less is more" (4). For Simon Bolivare Clint Eastwood's project of this film is to present the play of destiny that governs the life and affairs of the female protagonist Maggie and others. He continues, "Eastwood wants nothing to do with female boxers, but fate" (13). For him, the project of Clint Eastwood in the film is to present the inevitable role of fate. He argues that Eastwood does not want to present what Maggie does and how she succeeds in boxing career rather Eastwood's interest is to show how Maggie is destined to pass away pathetically. Likewise, another critic Charles McGrath argues that this film displays the determination of an inexperienced masculine female to be a professional boxer. He remarks:

      Based on "Rope Burns," a collection of short stories by F. X. Toole, Million Dollar Baby is about Maggie Fitzgerald (Ms. Swank), an inexperienced but determined female fighter who persuades Frankie Dunn (Mr. Eastwood), a hard-bitten trainer with a history of failure, to take her soon and groom her for the big time who finally achieves her goal own her own. (1-2)

McGrath clarifies that this film moves around the female protagonist Maggie who like male goes to a trainer Frankie Dunn to take her from groom. She can persuade him to achieve her goal. He points out that the film moves around Maggie who is a determined female fighter. She persuades Frankie Dunn to train her to succeed in boxing.

             Ann Hornaday is interested and amazed to see the intimate relationship of the characters in the film. He claims that the essence of the film lies in the core relationship among three characters of the film Frankie, Maggie and Scrap. He further argues that their relationship is so pure, so genuine and authentic too which is the caliber of the film to be popular among audiences and in this cynical world. In this regard, he claims:

Still, the heart of Million Dollar Baby lies in the core relationships   among Frankie, Maggie and Scrap, friendships so pure, so genuine, so authentic that it takes actors of Eastwood's, Swank's and Freeman's caliber to sell them in this otherwise cynical world. And it takes a filmmaker as adroit as Eastwood in blending restraint and old-fashioned schmaltz to create movies that shamelessly, and even by design, can make a grown man cry. (1) 

For Ann Hornaday, the filmmaker Eastwood is excessively claver who merges the restraint and excessive sentimentality together to create this film which can make the matured audiences cry and weep. This is the real strength and glue of the film. It is because even though the audience knows that the film is not real one, but they are moved by the design of the film.

            Despite such critical opininations that exist to represent the different theoretical speculations as they perspectivize in order to interpret this film in considerable height, my attempt to reveal the refutation of masculine ideals and gender role epitomized by the central character Maggie is still virgin since no scholar have analyzed this film from gender studies. So the film needs to be explored under these issues that I want to explore.


            This research will be based on primary and secondary resources as well as material available in the library, journals and internet websites.  Judith Butler's notions on performativity of gender and Judith Helberstram's notions on female masculinity will constitute the major theoretical perspective. Also the intellectual and philosophical instruction and suggestion from the university teachers will warmly be welcomed as guiding sources. Since the major objectives of this research is to portray the refutation of masculine ideals represented by a female protagonist Maggie in  the film, the theory of gender study will be suitable to give the shape of the research in real sense.

Tentative Chapter Divisions

The thesis will have the following chapters;

  1. The film Million Dollar Baby: Introduction
  2. Failure of American dream in the film Million Dollar Baby
  3. Conclusion.



Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 6th Ed. Banglore: Eastern Press, 1985.

Beauvior, Simon de. The Second Sex. Ed. H.M. Parshley. London: Jonathan Cape, 1994.

Halberstam, Judith. Female Masulinity. Durham & London: Duke University Press, 1998.

Millte, Kate. Sexual Politics. Garden City: Doubleda, 1970.

Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today. New York and London: Ruthedge, 2006.

Woolf, Virginia. "A Room of One's Own." Critical Theory since Plato.Ed. Hazard Adams. New                          York: Harcourt, 1965. 817-25.


                                                            Works Cited

Bolivare, Simon, "Allure of Ring". New York Times (15 Dec. 2004): 2.

Honarday, Ann. "Million Dollar Baby. A One-Two Punch to the Emotions." Washington Post (8                          Jan. 2007):1.

Jackson, Thomas. "Million Dollar Baby is a master piece." Christianity Today (12 Sep.2008):15.

McGrath, Charles. "Million Dollar Baby is a fine art". The Weekly Standard (25 Feb.2005):13-                              14.