Blind Sided

27 Feb

The Blind Side is a movie based on the real story of Michael Oher, a young African-American who is adopted into a wealthy Memphis family. Through their support, he blossoms into a great football player who goes on to success in college and the National Football League. It is a movie about the goodness of people and about what can happen when someone gets a little help along the way. It is a movie that makes the audience feel good about the world. It is a movie that everyone in my family likes.blind-side

Except me.

That situation has led to arguments. It has led people to think that I am cold-hearted. It has led to statements like “How can you not like The Blind Side?”

Well, let me explain how.

I was initially turned off by the main character played by Sandra Bullock, who hates the University of Tennessee. Why would I want to watch a movie where they talk smack about the team that I like? That makes no sense to me.

For a long time, that was my reason for not liking The Blind Side. However, people did not accept that, and my argument had to be strengthened. That is when I started looking into the story a little more carefully.

Before I get into that, there is something else that I need to explain. I am not a fan of any movie that takes real people and turns their story into a simple fairy tale. There are a ton of these movies out there, and they all make the same mistakes. Humans are complicated, and they have complicated stories. Turning those complicated stories into simple “feel good” narratives is not fair to the people being portrayed, and it is not fair to the audience. I am all for “feel good” movies. However, they are better told in the fictional world.

This does not even take into account the criticism this movie faced for being part of the “white savior” narrative. Those are the movies where white characters find out something about themselves by helping people of color who, according to the narrative, cannot help themselves. Some other movies that fit this are Cool Runnings, Dances With Wolves, Glory Road, Lawrence of Arabia and McFarland USA,

Now, here is the complicated tale of Michael Oher and the Tuohys, his adopted family.

The movie portrays Michael as a big poor kid who did not know how to do anything. Then, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy took him off the streets. That is when his football talent emerged.

In reality, he was an all-state football player and one of the top linemen in the nation who lived with several foster families. The Tuohys were one of those families, and they adopted him.

This is where my cynicism shows through, but first I will say this. I am sure that the Tuohys cared for Michael. After all, they are real people with real feelings. However, it did not hurt that he was a great football player. Why did that not hurt? Because the Tuohys were huge boosters of the University of Mississippi. Mr. Tuohy played basketball for Ole Miss and worked as an announcer on basketball radio broadcasts. Mrs. Tuohy was a cheerleader at the school.

This is where the arguments ensue. Others say that his football ability had nothing to do with the adoption. I say that I have seen a lot of crazy stuff in Southeastern Conference football recruiting. Adopting a great football player is a good way to pass benefits to the player in a legal way, and some people will go to any length to do that. Heck, Memphis is one of the most notorious cities when it comes to questionable recruiting tactics.

Anyway, huge Ole Miss boosters adopt one of the nation’s top high school football players, and he ends up going to Ole Miss. It caught the attention of the NCAA.

Members of my family read this blog, and this post may lead to more heated discussions about The Blind Side. So, why am I bringing it up? Here is why.

This week, the NCAA announced that Ole Miss lacked institutional control when it came to football recruiting. There are violations after violations. People are wondering what punishment they will receive. People are also wondering what will happen to Hugh Freeze, the head football coach who oversaw some of this activity.

Do you know where Hugh Freeze used to be the football coach?

Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis.

Do you know who was one of his best players?

Michael Oher.

Do you know how he got into college coaching?

He was hired at Ole Miss 20 days after Michael Oher signed the papers to play at the school.

I am sure that The Blind Side is a good movie about good people. Heck, Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award for her portrayal. I am also sure that Michael Oher would not be where he is today without the influence of the Tuohys. However, there is more to the story than this simplified version, and I wish that was the movie that had been made.

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10 Responses to “Blind Sided”

  1. Lea February 27, 2017 at 02:35 #

    As a resident of Middle TN, I am not a fan of UT Knoxville’s football program, but your explanation gives more rational to my complaints that many college football programs, both public and private, around the U.S. get too much unbalanced financial support. Just my opinion.

    • Rick February 27, 2017 at 02:59 #

      College football is essentially the minor league for professional football. I wonder if football programs will one day separate themselves from universities and become completely independent.

      Thanks for reading and for commenting.

  2. Marilyn Armstrong February 27, 2017 at 03:51 #

    I agree with you. I’m not a fan of the fairy tale white people doing the right thing to brown people. It is more than merely annoying. It actually pisses me off. Garry doesn’t like them either, so don’t feel you are alone. For us, it has NOTHING to do with college football since we aren’t big fans of college football (probably because we both went to a college that didn’t have sports). These kinds of movies — SO many of them — they’ll never stop making them. They are part of movie culture.

    We do not have to go see them. And we don’t.

    • Rick February 27, 2017 at 04:00 #

      They have been making them for years. A lot of times, it’s a teacher in an urban school. Blackboard Jungle may have started it all.

  3. sittingpugs February 28, 2017 at 14:06 #

    I liked The Blind Side a lot and I like your criticisms of the film itself and the implications of its sports inspirational motifs.

    I am not a fan of any movie that takes real people and turns their story into a simple fairy tale. There are a ton of these movies out there, and they all make the same mistakes. Humans are complicated, and they have complicated stories. Turning those complicated stories into simple “feel good” narratives is not fair to the people being portrayed, and it is not fair to the audience. I am all for “feel good” movies. However, they are better told in the fictional world.

    Ironically, many fairytales and folktales have been sanitized of violence in order to meet the family friendly standards of an animated feature. I can’t imagine Disney depicting the evil stepmother in Snow White rolling down a barrel with hot coals inside or one of Cinderella’s ugly step-sister cutting off part of her foot to fit it inside the slipper.

    Do you also find it odd that real stories with an overall “feel good” vibe have to be adapted into narrative cinema as if a documentary wouldn’t suffice? Or maybe it’s not so strange…the only way to monetize exponentially such a story is to make a Hollywood adaptation.

    What about “feel bad” stories? Are those more or less or equally suited to fiction and non-fiction media?

    Is the “white savior” trope really such a problematic element when the non-whites are purposefully capitalizing on an opportunity? Ends-justify-the-means for both parties?

    • Rick February 28, 2017 at 19:40 #

      I like your comment about fairy tales. People should hear the real stories behind those just like they should hear the real stories behind the lives of real people.

  4. jcalberta March 3, 2017 at 07:30 #

    Haven’t seen this movie. A lot of movies these days have a blurb at the start saying something like “Based on True Events”. We know that this means they are usually interpreted, changed, edited … whatever.
    For me, I guess I have to ask whether the movie ADDED something to me – or not? What was it’s intent? To get my money? Or is it ART? Inspiring?
    This is actually very funny, Because today I was listening to Frank Sinatra sing ‘Young at Heart’: “Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you … if you’re young at heart.”
    Anyway, Yeah, I get your point too.

    • Rick March 4, 2017 at 02:48 #

      The “based on true events” movies range far away from accuracy. I have my students watch such movies and write papers about their accuracy to teach them not to pay attention to movies.

      • jcalberta March 4, 2017 at 06:14 #

        You’re right of course. Many historical movies – war movies especially – are grossly inaccurate – to put it generously.

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