The Blind Side
The one question that kept running through my head when I was watching The Blind Side was whose story is this film really telling?
The Blind Side is based on the true-life story of Michael Oher's (Quinton Aaron) journey from homeless teen to professional NFL player. Hailing from the Memphis projects, Michael spent a good portion of his time moving from foster home to foster home after the state took him away from his crack addicted mother. It is only when Michael is accepted into a Christian private high school, mainly on the basis that his size may help the school's sports teams, that his life begins to change for the better. Michael he meets Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy (Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw), a wealthy Republican couple who offers him a place to stay. Over time, the relationship between Michael and Tuohys proves mutually beneficial. Michael's grades improve and the chances of getting a college football scholarship become a reality; while the Tuohys, by embracing Michael, realize that they should not take their life for granted.
The Tuohys should be commended for their act of generosity. It is heartwarming to know that there are still people in this world who genuinely go out of their way to help those in need. Unfortunately, the way that the story is portrayed on film is just downright insulting to all parties involved.
The Blind Side should really be about Michael's rise to the top with the assistance of the Tuohy family. Instead the film is about Tuohy family opening their doors to Michael. What is the difference you ask? Well it is all in the details. Let us use another Oscar nominated movie, Precious, as an example. What is the most compelling aspect of that film? Precious' life or the teacher who helps Precious see her potential? Obviously that film would not have had the same impact it did if director Lee Daniel's had approached the story from the teachers point of view. Which is exactly why The Blind Side is so offensive.
In The Blind Side, Michael's story is only told in spurts. We get brief flashbacks to the most traumatic event in Michael's life but it is not truly explained until near the end of the picture. Come to think of if, every aspect of Michael's life prior to meeting the Tuohys is reduced to mere footnotes. Let's see... Mother? A drug addict. Siblings? Out there somewhere. Kid who got accepted at private school along with Michael? Gang member. Etc. Heck, we do not even get Michael's perspective on the Tuohy family themselves. The only thing The Blind Side director, John Lee Hancock, offers up from Michael is a few lines such as "I thought I was already part of the family." Though we hear a lot in the film about what the family thinks of Michael.
This is further evident when you think about the adjustment Michael would have had to make. We are rarely shown what Michael had to endure living in an all white community. We see brief scenes of Michael sitting by himself in study hall, and racist remarks being hurled at the football game, but at no point does Michael comment on any of it, or express how he copes on a daily basis. Instead we must watch Leigh Anne's plight as the members of her country club start to question her actions. Even when the film takes a turn at the end, and Michael's future is in jeopardy, we are still shown the Tuohy's discussing the issue rather than Michael.
Not only is Oher's life story secondary to Leigh Anne Tuohy and her family's but, to add further insult, Michael is portrayed as borderline autistic for the majority of the film. Yes Michael may not have the best reading skills but, as Ms. Boswell (Kim Dickens) points out on numerous occasions, Michael is smarter than everyone thinks he is. Not only is he a writer but he can retain a ton of information that is given to him orally. Yet, despite all of this, we are shown scenes of Michael being mesmerized by balloons in the sky, the Forrest Gump-like scenes where he only stopped running once the whistle was blown, etc. Heck, there is even a scene where Leigh Anne needs to point out the art of buying clothes...as if Michael has never been in a store before! The kid may be poor, but he is not the simple-minded Neanderthal that the film makes him out to be.
I cannot help but wonder if Michael would have been portrayed the same way if the racial lines were reversed? Would Michael's history be told in brief flashbacks had he been white and taken in by a well-to-do black family? Would the actor still portray Michael as borderline autistic? Would the film even be told from the families point of view? Or would it be an underdog rag-to-riches tale like Eminem's 8 Mile?
I know some, my fiancée included, thought that Tuohy's tale was worthy of being on film. Again, I have nothing against what Leigh Anne Tuohy and her family did. As I mentioned above, I think they did a wonderful thing. I might have been a little easier on the film had both sides of the story been told in an even manner. Yet, as it stands, I found The Blind Side, as a movie, to be both insulting and extremely offensive.