I know that many (probably most) people are going to disagree with what I’m about to say. After all, some of my closest friends have “oohed and aahed” over The Blind Side for a couple of weeks now.
I’ll admit that I loved the preview trailer. Even knowing that I was being manipulated with every frame (after all, isn’t that what ads are supposed to do?), I felt a tear come to my eye each time I saw the trailer. There is no ice water in my veins. Still, in the final analysis, The Blind Side leaves me cold.
Remember what I said about racial representation in The Princess and the Frog and, earlier, about Precious? I wish I could say there was the same sort of sophistication and nuance in The Blind Side that I found in the former or the same sort of searing realism that I found in the latter.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, The Blind Side is based on the true story of NFL player Michael Oher. He was taken in by a wealthy, white family in Memphis then went on to play for the University of Mississippi before being drafted by the Ravens.
I’m sure it is very satisfying in a “feel good” way to a lot of viewers who like the great, white savior model we’ve seen time and time again in other “true” stories like the teacher movie Dangerous Minds. That model is extremely problematic for me in the way it privileges white experience, but on a simpler level, films like this are just far too formulaic.
Furthermore, I really think all of the people grumbling about racial stereotyping in Precious should step out to see this film. In fact, seeing the two as a double feature would be most instructive.
Yes, as noted in a previous post, Precious’s parents are monstrous, but there is a much broader range of representation in that film so I think it is wrong to castigate the movie for stereotyping. Precious eventually falls into a social safety net – system in which a teacher, a nurse, and a social worker all try to help her.
These are middle class folks who work in her neighborhood and who represent diverse ethnic backgrounds. At times, they are presented with somewhat ambiguous backgrounds that get at the racial indeterminism I discussed in the previous post on The Princess and the Frog.
On the other hand, The Blind Side takes such a superficial, individualistic look at complex social problems that something just didn’t add up for me until after the movie when my mother told me about an article she had read.
She said the real-life Michael Oher was not happy that the film presented it as if he did not play football until after he moved in with a wealthy, white family when, in fact, he had played sports all along.
That’s when I had my “eureka moment,” and the movie made sense. Why this young man? Why did this fabulously wealthy white family take in this particular young man at this particular time in his life? The movie is built on a deceit. Football came first.
I’m not saying this family didn’t do a good thing for him. Clearly, the family members helped him. But Michael Oher was an athlete. He got into a private school because of that in the first place.
He was helped out all along the way because he could play ball. The family that took him in didn’t give Michael Oher that gift of athleticism, he brought it to them, and that is why extraordinary measures were taken. Otherwise, their paths would never have crossed.
Did they come to love him? I bet they did. But what if he hadn’t been able to play ball? What if he were like the character Precious? That’s a very different story. It’s also a better film.