‘The Contender’ Lit Me on Fireplace. Now It’s a Cringe Manufacturing facility.


I’ve been working in journalism since I left school. I do know that work doesn’t age effectively — that there’s a direct one-to-one change on how related an article is when it’s revealed to how a lot you’re not going to brag that you simply wrote it years later — with traces you wrote only for humor’s sake and questions on an individual’s previous, physique or addictions that you simply hadn’t had the sense to understand have been out of bounds. Or even when they technically weren’t, that it’s best to have averted them totally nonetheless out of decency. I wrote articles the place I believed I used to be on the suitable aspect of historical past and it usually took seeing them in print, or revisiting them years later, to understand how horrific my factors of view have been.

However that’s not my predominant level right here; my predominant level is that I sat watching “The Contender” in 2000, on the age of 24, pondering that if a direct response to the sexism of the second may land in theaters, that we had reached peak progress so far as feminism was involved.

However what was I cheering? What was that film actually about? Was it about how girls are acquired on the planet? Or was it about not being allowed to ask Invoice Clinton about his intercourse life? Wait, was this a pro-Clinton film ultimately?

And but, it was progress — on the time, at the very least. To listen to Hanson say that there have been questions you couldn’t ask her, that her life was private to her, that the world didn’t have the suitable to guage her for it, that was one thing I’d by no means seen earlier than. It left me reeling with chance. However I didn’t know that in the future, I might not be capable to discern if its microaggressions have been intentional. I didn’t know that in the future I might learn my very own work and understand that tales I had set forth as examples of the way in which the world strikes ahead could be offensive in their very own proper. The purpose is that should you dwell lengthy sufficient, even probably the most progressive thought will probably be anachronistic, and also you’ll be the jerk who as soon as put it on the market. We name that every one sorts of unhealthy issues right this moment, however, in truth, that’s really what’s known as progress.

Again then, I didn’t think about there was any extra progress available. I arrived right here, in 2021, now discovering “The Contender” adorably, offensively retro and questioning if what I consider as subversively progressive now will appear old style in 20 years. I questioned what I might consider this film if I have been youthful and compelled to look at it. I’d see how there have been no nonwhite characters or sense of intersectionality; I’d watch the central character — the one on the film poster — do nothing and say virtually as a lot for an hour-and-a-half and I’d flip it off.

Progress, it seems, shouldn’t be one thing to reach at; its most strong presentation is the understanding that you simply’ll by no means attain it. No, it’s the understanding that you simply’ll by no means attain it and that you simply can not predict why from the second you’re standing in. In that manner, “The Contender” is the essence of progress. So are my dumb previous journal profiles; so is that this essay, in all probability. That’s what progress is. It’s the flexibility to take a look at what you liked 20 years in the past and regard it with disgust.

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