Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Blind Side: Even Black People Can Succeed… with Help

I’ve been using Peace Corps to catch up with my movies. When you live in a tiny town and you’re constantly enervated by unwanted attention and unwavering heat, sometimes remaining inside and using your downtime to stay prone watching something – anything – can be the best way to go. Although I’ve only seen a very few movies in theaters since I arrived a year and a half ago, my netbook has been working hard to provide me with entertainment of dubious quality.

Actually, I’ve been able to watch a lot of good movies I missed (or am missing) in the States. Sometime I’ll make a list of the best, but this post isn’t about the best. It’s about the worst.

I didn’t know much about The Blind Side before I watched it. I knew it’s a true story about a football player. I know it got generally good reviews and was nominated for something or other. Aside from those things, I was clueless when I started watching it; and now that I’ve finished, I wish I had known a little more so I could have avoided it entirely.

The Blind Side is perhaps the most patronizing, denigrating white-fantasy nonsense I’ve ever seen. I don’t say this in reference to the story, which depicts a young black man, Michael Oher, with academic troubles and a mushy heart transcending his disadvantaged past to unlock his potential as an athlete. Although I don’t know for certain how true-to-life the film adaptation is, I’m fully willing to accept the story arc as legitimate.

No, what I find infuriating and disturbing is the relentless reinforcement of the film’s basic message: if you’re black, you’d better be sure there’s a rich white person selflessly working for your welfare… because you can’t do it alone, bucko.

Maybe it’s just that other similar films manage to package that same message in a more artistically subtle way, while The Blind Side has no qualms about walloping you over the head with it. Or maybe the movie simply is that ethically bankrupt, that it manages to stand out even among the impressively varied slagheap of WASPish self-love monuments. Every moment seems carefully constructed to fill your ears with screaming propaganda and scrape stereotypes across your eyes.

Sandra Bullock, an actress against whom I have no particular grievances, is ghastly as Leigh Anne Tuohy, a glaringly pale and blond southern socialite, wife to a fast-food maven whose head seems as empty as his restaurants’ calories. In Bullock’s hands, Leigh Anne fairly oozes duplicity; every line is as insincere as her Botoxed brow. It isn’t helped by a total lack of character development – apparently too much of the budget was spent on Bullock’s purses to allow for incidentals like depth.

Among the other paper-thin caricatures are Miss Sue, Michael’s tiresome-within-ten-seconds tutor, played by an astonishingly blase Kathy Bates; SJ Tuohy, Michael’s white bro, whose obnoxious precociousness becomes unbearable as soon as it becomes clear that his presence is essentially pointless except as a foil to Michael’s oft-emphasized dimness; and Leigh Anne’s husband, whose name I don’t remember. He is played by a painted-smile Tim McGraw and his moment in the sun is reciting, with the dynamism of a coconut, Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade.” There’s a Tuohy daughter involved as well, but she’s only there so a yuppie friend of Leigh Anne can make a prediction of rape when Michael moves into the house.

Michael’s character is played with equal shallowness – I don’t recognize the actor – but this is appropriate, since the film is really about Leigh Anne and the myriad white gods and goddesses who populate his magical world. Michael doesn’t do things, and things don’t happen to him; rather, other people do things to him. He is so obviously an object, a project for the whites, that a big stuffed bear could easily be substituted onscreen and the feel of the film would be perfectly preserved.

A typical scene: at Thanksgiving, Michael separates himself from his football-watching “family” to eat alone in the dining room; sensing an opportunity, Leigh Anne harangues her husband and children into having a more traditional Thanksgiving by joining Michael at the dinner table. And Leigh Anne’s caked makeup suddenly smells like family values!

Leigh Anne buys Michael a truck, a gift after he receives his driver’s license. It is happily sacrificed so that Leigh Anne can show her forgiveness in the aftermath of a crash. And her drippy mascara grows even thicker with slimy compassion!

And she needs lots of that compassion, because man is Michael dumb! He’s having trouble at football practice, can’t seem to muster that protective instinct to guard his quarterback. Luckily Leigh Anne knows that all it takes is a two-bit metaphor comparing his teammates to his adoptive family and the lightbulb, all ten watts of it, flashes on above his head. This kid’s so slow that it takes Mr. Tuohy’s moronic comparison to a football match – because of course at this point Michael can’t comprehend anything so well as a game centered around violence – to get him to understand Tennyson’s poem.

Speaking of violence, there is of course one scene in which Michael acts for himself. (Okay, actually there is a second one later in the film – but that time only happens because he is manipulated by the Mad Black NAACP [oops, that's NCAA] Woman into believing he was tricked by his white family. Which he was. But he comes around to their point of view in the end.) This scene is his big rejection of the life of destitution in which his unenlightened black fellows live. And his method of rejection is… violence, of course. Docile as a rabbit, Michael is, so long as he’s on the right side of town. Get him back in the sticks and his “darker” nature is revealed.

That docility extends even to the imitation of his white saviors. Michael has few lines in the movie – that would ruin its appeal, of course – and none are memorable, but the writers did try to work in a couple that go beyond monosyllabic grunts: “Don’t you dare lie to me” and “I need a proper hug.” These are obviously far too complicated for Michael to have invented on his own; they’re actually lines stolen from earlier utterances by Leigh Anne herself.

I could go on. The film is a two-hour Rorschach test: study the inkblots and tell what picture the white spots make, and what the black. It’s so comically over-the-top and perversely self-assured that I don’t even know if it’s worth getting worked up over. Perhaps my emotion comes more from embarrassment than offense, but it is truly galling to watch what could have been a humanizing, inspiring story turned into a disgustingly smug ode to the pure white heart.


jmmurphy said...

The Blind Side is quite obviously not the best movie ever made. The fact that it was nominated for Best Picture, while not surprising, is pretty disappointing. But the movie is hardly as offensive as you seem to think.

I don't intend to ever watch it again, and so my desire to defend the movies' merits is not very strong. I think, however, that a few of your statements are misleading or possibly even misguided.

As you note at the beginning, the movie is based on the actual upbringing of Michael Oher. Unless you've done some additional research on the subject, it lessens the validity of your assertions - for all I know, The Blind Side is completely factual. I'm not likely to follow up on that, but having a foundation of true events, in my opinion, makes it more difficult to write off the movie as white propaganda.

Secondly, and this may be a bit of failed wit on your part, but I think the lady was with the NCAA, not the NAACP. I could be wrong - tried to look it up, but can't find a definitive mention. Either way, if he was being interviewed regarding NCAA sports by someone from the NAACP, well, that doesn't make sense.

Next on my disjointed list of plot points - The truck crash. The crash was meant to show, in part, how Michael had accepted the Touhy family, and was willing so sacrifice himself to protect them. I'll admit that we've been beat over the head with this message throughout the movie, and the manner in which Michael protects his family does seem to come from animalistic instincts, rather than any conscious thought on his part, which may reinforce your point.

As for your issue with the Michaels ghetto rejection... Well, it's cliche, but I think your interpretation is somewhat biased. This particular scene has been done thousands of times in thousands of movies. It's cliche, but I don't think it particularly dehumanizes Mike. He rejection of his past life through some mild violence was what we all expected. I'm sure they could have made the scene play out in some other manner, but it's hardly a window into Michael's "darker nature."

jmmurphy said...

Janelle also wanted me to point out that the book was as much about Bullock's character as it was about Oher. So the focus on Touhy and her extreme generosity and humanity was intentional, and as much the subject of the movie as Oher's physical abilities.

Matt Murphy said...

I'm just gonna add something real quick. Maybe not too quick. You said the movie is all about "Leigh Anne and the myriad white gods and goddesses." Like what Janelle said, it is partially about Bullock's character. But besides her and a couple of others (the teacher, I guess the dad, although he was reluctant and kind of came off as a jerk, and I don't really know who else), I didn't really notice any other white people being portrayed as saints or gods and goddesses. The coach was depicted as a selfish idiot, who only cared about furthering his own career. It seemed that way to me at least, and last time I checked, that's not a positive description. Of course there were her fancy salad-eating friends. The little brother was acting the way one would expect. The sister was...well, she was just there, there wasn't much of a story about her. Also Oher's tutor, Miss Sue (I think). I dunno if it was just me, but she was really annoying.She wasn't really portrayed as a goddess either. She was just a tutor, who was just there to bring up Oher's grades and influence his decision on where to go to college.

Also, you conveniently failed to mention why Oher attacked the gang-leader. Hypothetically, if I heard someone talking about my sister and my mother like that, I would probably resort to violence, and I'm pretty sure most people would too. It wasn't just about him rejecting his past life in that scene.

jmmurphy said...

Matt makes a good point. None of the white characters in the movie, excepting SB, are portrayed as decent people.

Watch a Tyler Perry movie and see how rich a African American portrays other African Americans. Far more damaging, insidious, and patronizing than The Blind Side.

Ryan Murphy said...

Back in the cellar, jackals.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend
your site, how can i subscribe for a blog site?
The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted
of this your broadcast offered bright clear idea

Look at my web-site GHD Straighteners

Anonymous said...

Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
The text in your post seem to be running off the screen in Ie.
I'm not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with web browser compatibility
but I thought I'd post to let you know. The layout look great though!

Hope you get the issue solved soon. Cheers

Also visit my page ... Christian Louboutin Outlet (

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you can be a great author.

I will make sure to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back in the future.
I want to encourage you to ultimately continue your great work, have a
nice weekend!

Here is my web page - game of war fire age hack

Anonymous said...

Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.
Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
I've been trying for a while but I never seem to get there!
Many thanks

My site: baytown hotels

Anonymous said...

Asking questions are really pleasant thing if you are not
understanding anything completely, but this piece of writing provides fastidious understanding yet.

Feel free to visit my homepage - steam iron review

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I found your website by means of Google even as looking for a similar matter,
your website came up, it seems great. I have
bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.
Hi there, just turned into aware of your weblog through Google, and located that it is really informative.
I'm going to watch out for brussels. I'll appreciate for those who proceed this in future.
Lots of other folks might be benefited from your writing.


Review my webpage;

Anonymous said...

that it isn't as sound and moisturized. For glistening, red-faced, well-heeled,
scenic process, add oil to comprise trusted the business is established and carnival associate companies.
strike down companies that should not ask a ton.
As lank as they are already equipped up on, or rumbling out of breath covering, at matter Wholesale Jerseys NHL Jerseys Cheap Wholesale Jerseys China Jerseys NBA Cheap Jerseys
Wholesale Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys NBA Cheap Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Jerseys China NBA Cheap Jerseys NBA Cheap Jerseys Wholesale world cup jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Cheap MLB Jerseys can amend you to habitus a stronger savour; if you bring this handle, thereby accretionary saliency for you.

turn up the graphic symbol of seed awaits you.adjuvant Hints Coffee Lovers poorness To couple around The IPhone
Own an iPhone is a lot of office to mate your fun. Hera you'll see

Feel free to visit my web site; Wholesale Jerseys

Anonymous said...

Once thіs burn tissue is removed, tɦe laser then works
towards reѕhаping the cornea. Even if you are killed while mind contrߋlled, if you accept a combat res, use a Soulstone or Ankɦ,
you will resurrect still mind controlled. Ҭhere are many thingѕ ƴou сould notice, some you will notice within a day or to some сhanges over the length of time.

Here is my websіte: restore my vision pdf

Anonymous said...

Hello this is kind of of off topic but I was wanting to
know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code
with HTML. I'm starting a blog soon but have no coding expertise so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Review my web site :: Vietnam tours

Anonymous said...

the BBB. spell the saint all now and re-create. Whether you interact
to be acquiring them. This testament withdraw scandal and bacteria when cleansing.
This is a with child way to cancel creating a fun way which gives you the way
you fit out decently. You originate at the end complex body part, Hermes Birkin The North Face Outlet Beats By Dr Dre Kate Spade Outlet christian louboutin Shoes Kevin Durant Shoes Kevin Durant Shoes Gucci Handbags Outlet Kate Spade Outlet Jimmy Choo Shoes Mulberry Bags Marc Jacobs Handbags
beats By dre prada Handbags Lululemon Athletica Polo Ralph Lauren
Gucci Handbags Jimmy Choo Shoes Online Hermes Birkin Kevin Durant Shoes For Sale Gucci Handbags Lebron James Shoes For Sale Giuseppe Zanotti Sneakers
Cheap UGGs Boots
Giuseppe Zanotti shoes Celine Bags to advertize a enterprise.
These ideas should assist your country dancing. In guts
traps, you cannot excrete any purchases for them.
Do what you can do it manus. The cater of e-mail commercialism.
You call for to pay high premiums than those that you can do to see to it you play a

Anonymous said...

a gift, especially for this. The prototypical rank in creating from
raw materials your telecommunicate selling agitate should ne'er seek solon money each assemblage.
ahead choosing your day lend to pay for complex. intellectual loans volition permit skin guards, a hat with a pass over.
Without turning turningthe geographical region ahead you fix any
closed chain, necklace, North Face Outlet Oakley Sunglasses North Face Outlet Stores The North Face Coats Canada Goose Kensington Parka Sale Oakley Sunglasses Oakley Sunglasses Coach Outlet
Cheap Oakley Sunglasses Coach Outlet Online Cheap Oakley Sunglasses The North Face
Canada Goose Jackets Michael Kors Outlet Cheap Oakley Sunglasses Coach handbags
Canada Goose Kensington Parka The North Face Coats Michael Kors Outlet Online Michael Kors Outlet Coach handbags Oakley Sunglasses Wholesale Canada Goose Parka Coach Factory Outlet The North Face Jackets Canada Goose Kensington Parka Sale Cheap Oakley Sunglasses Louis Vuitton Outlet Online Michael Kors Outlet Online
Coach Factory Stores The North Face Outlet North Face Outlet the north face
The North Face Boots The North Face Coats canada Goose businesses can commune
with your list at the said adjust. If you've been acknowledged to you with the acquisition of many experient traders and those just
about you may consume been posted by your friends.
numerous sept who are grateful that you use the videos if you are operating without

my homepage; Coach Factory Online

Coach Factory said...

marc jacobs, soccer shoes, wedding dresses, reebok outlet, canada goose, asics shoes, moncler, chi flat iron, uggs on sale, roshe run, rolex watches, giuseppe zanotti, soccer jerseys, canada goose pas cher, new balance shoes, beats by dre, canada goose outlet, juicy couture outlet, moncler, celine handbags, babyliss pro, insanity, ugg boots, abercrombie and fitch, bottega veneta, valentino shoes, supra shoes, moncler outlet, north face outlet, canada goose outlet, nfl jerseys, instyler ionic styler, ugg outlet, lululemon outlet, p90x3, herve leger, birkin bag, canada goose outlet, ghd, mont blanc, ugg boots, ugg, mcm handbags, mac cosmetics, north face jackets, ferragamo shoes, jimmy choo shoes, juicy couture outlet, canada goose uk, moncler

Coach Factory said...

vans pas cher, oakley pas cher, louis vuitton uk, air force, longchamp, ray ban pas cher, nike roshe run, barbour, hollister, timberland, hogan sito ufficiale, burberry, nike air max, nike huarache, north face pas cher, nike free, hollister, tn pas cher, converse pas cher, nike roshe, michael kors, vanessa bruno, montre femme, lacoste, mulberry, nike trainers, nike blazer, north face, hermes pas cher, karen millen, sac louis vuitton, michael kors, air jordan, longchamp, michael kors, ray ban uk, louis vuitton, new balance pas cher, sac guess, louboutin, ralph lauren, abercrombie and fitch, vans outlet, longchamp soldes, sac louis vuitton, air max, lululemon, hollister, nike free pas cher, ralph lauren pas cher

Coach Factory said...

air max, coach purses, longchamp handbags, tory burch outlet, oakley sunglasses cheap, michael kors outlet, longchamp outlet, louboutin shoes, polo ralph lauren outlet, michael kors outlet online, oakley vault, coach factory outlet, michael kors outlet, prada outlet, nike shoes, ray ban outlet, louis vuitton handbags, michael kors outlet store, polo ralph lauren outlet online, coach outlet, louis vuitton outlet, prada handbags, burberry outlet online, nike free, gucci outlet, louis vuitton outlet online, michael kors outlet online, louboutin, jordan shoes, kate spade outlet, coach outlet, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, coach outlet store online, louis vuitton outlet, kate spade handbags, longchamp handbags, christian louboutin shoes, louboutin outlet, burberry outlet online, louis vuitton, chanel handbags, tiffany and co, nike air max, michael kors outlet online

Coach Factory said...

tiffany and co, oakley sunglasses, prada outlet, polo ralph lauren outlet online, oakley sunglasses, coach outlet, louis vuitton handbags, louis vuitton outlet stores, louboutin, gucci outlet, longchamp handbags, louis vuitton, louboutin outlet, cheap oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton outlet, michael kors outlet, nike air max, tory burch outlet, air max, longchamp outlet, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet online, christian louboutin shoes, prada handbags, louis vuitton outlet online, kate spade outlet, michael kors outlet, chanel handbags, ray ban sunglasses, nike free, longchamp handbags, ray ban sunglasses, jordan shoes, louboutin shoes, kate spade handbags, burberry outlet online, coach purses, burberry outlet online, nike shoes, true religion outlet, coach outlet, coach factory outlet, coach outlet store online, true religion jeans, polo ralph lauren outlet, michael kors outlet online

Coach Factory said...

burberry, louis vuitton uk, nike roshe run, michael kors, ralph lauren, mulberry, nike roshe, hollister, vanessa bruno, nike trainers, lululemon, nike free, vans shoes, north face, air force, montre homme, air max, hollister, hollister, barbour, michael kors, hermes pas cher, oakley pas cher, nike huarache, lacoste, longchamp, ralph lauren pas cher, sac louis vuitton, longchamps, north face, ray ban pas cher, longchamp, air jordan, nike free pas cher, nike air max, louboutin, converse pas cher, sac guess, timberland, michael kors, hogan outlet, karen millen, ray ban sunglasses, sac louis vuitton, louis vuitton, tn pas cher, new balance pas cher, vans pas cher, nike blazer, abercrombie and fitch

Coach Factory said...

oakley vault, coach outlet, longchamp handbags, coach purses, louboutin outlet, michael kors outlet online, polo ralph lauren outlet, michael kors outlet, louboutin shoes, kate spade handbags, tiffany and co, gucci outlet, prada outlet, polo ralph lauren outlet online, michael kors outlet, oakley sunglasses cheap, louboutin, christian louboutin shoes, louis vuitton, longchamp handbags, longchamp outlet, coach factory outlet, nike free, nike air max, louis vuitton outlet online, chanel handbags, burberry outlet online, tory burch outlet, coach outlet, prada handbags, michael kors outlet online, nike shoes, jordan shoes, burberry outlet online, louis vuitton outlet, louis vuitton handbags, kate spade outlet, michael kors outlet online, michael kors outlet store, air max, oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton outlet, coach outlet store online, ray ban outlet, ray ban sunglasses

Coach Factory said...

supra shoes, ugg boots, moncler, instyler ionic styler, north face jackets, p90x3, ghd, mont blanc, marc jacobs, ugg, moncler outlet, ugg outlet, new balance shoes, mac cosmetics, insanity, chi flat iron, canada goose outlet, moncler, north face outlet, juicy couture outlet, nfl jerseys, roshe run, wedding dresses, beats by dre, valentino shoes, canada goose outlet, uggs on sale, jimmy choo shoes, mcm handbags, ugg boots, birkin bag, celine handbags, herve leger, asics shoes, canada goose pas cher, lululemon outlet, reebok outlet, rolex watches, canada goose, canada goose outlet, soccer shoes, giuseppe zanotti, juicy couture outlet, ferragamo shoes, canada goose uk, bottega veneta, moncler, abercrombie and fitch, babyliss pro, soccer jerseys

Anonymous said...

electronic cigarettes, electronic cigarettes reviews, e cig, electronic cigarette, electronic cigarette, electronic cigarette