Loading...

The Blind Side's Blind Spot 

What would black people do without bighearted white people?

Wednesday, Nov 18 2009
Comments

Another poor, massive, uneducated African-American teenager lumbers onto screens this month, two weeks after Precious and obviously timed as a pre–Thanksgiving dinner lesson in the Golden Rule. But unlike the howling rage of Claireece Precious Jones, The Blind Side’s Michael “Big Mike” Oher (Quinton Aaron) is mute, docile and ever-grateful to the white folks who took him in. Directed by John Lee Hancock and based on a true story recounted in Michael Lewis’ 2006 book of the same name, The Blind Side peddles the most insidious kind of racism, one in which whiteys are virtuous saviors, coming to the rescue of African-Americans who become superfluous in narratives that are supposed to be about them.

The steel Magnolia who takes pity on homeless Big Mike after she sees him walking in the freezing rain in just a polo shirt and XXX-large denim shorts is Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), a frosted interior decorator, wife of Taco Bell franchise owner Sean (Tim McGraw), and mother of teenage cheerleader Collins (Lily Collins) and hyper half-pint S.J. (Jae Head, giving the year’s most excruciatingly muggy performance by a child actor), who attend the same Christian academy that recently accepted the mountainous youth. An officious caretaker, Leigh Anne clears out the guest bedroom for Michael, earning the nervous praise of the Tennessee doyennes with whom she regularly lunches. Though they applaud their friend’s altruism, they’re convinced Leigh Anne’s new charge will either rob her Memphis McMansion or violate her daughter: “You’re changing that boy’s life,” one applauds. Her response, of course: “No. He’s changing mine.”

In a way, Oher’s story does change Bullock’s life, giving her an awards-bait role filled with preachiness and thickly accented speech — “seriousness,” after this year’s romcom humiliations The Proposal and All About Steve. But for all the supposed uplift, Bullock’s facile Good Christian Materialist Southern Woman is part of The Blind Side’s desperate cynicism, succinctly expressed in Sean’s comment to his wife: “Michael’s gift is his ability to forget.”

click to enlarge Semi-precious
  • Semi-precious

Related Stories

Viewers, however, are constantly reminded of the pathologies the black gentle giant has escaped: the crack-addicted mother (“I can’t even remember who the boy’s father is,” she weeps to Leigh Anne), the thugs of the country-ghetto housing project who offer him a 40-ouncer. Life with benevolent white people gives Michael the golden opportunity to partake in one of the most patronizing, we-are-the-world scenes imaginable: dueting with S.J. on “Bust a Move.” S.J. becomes an unbearable martinet, bossing Michael around during drills for football practice, where the large lad shines as a left tackle at the Christian academy, eventually drafted to Ole Miss (and, as real-life footage of the actual Oher shows during the closing credits, later to the Baltimore Ravens). But Michael is unable to figure out what he actually needs to do on the field — until his white momma explains it to him: “This team is your family. You protect them.”

In every scene, Oher is instructed, lectured, comforted, or petted like a big puppy; he is merely a cipher (Aaron has, at most, two pages of dialogue), the vehicle through which the kindhearted but imperfect whites surrounding him are made saintlier. “Am I a good person?” Leigh Anne asks Sean nonrhetorically — as if every second in this film weren’t devoted to canonizing her.

Michael is aggressively courted by SEC football coaches (many playing themselves, an unintentionally grotesque parade of bad orthodonture and worse-fitting suits), and, after an unpleasant run-in with an NCAA official toward the film’s end, Leigh Anne soothes Michael by assuring him that “the past is gone, the world’s a good place, and it’s all gonna be okay.” The filmmakers would like to lull you to sleep with this milk of amnesia, hiding behind the fact that this bewilderingly condescending movie is based on an actual person — one whom you end up knowing almost nothing about.

THE BLIND SIDE | Directed by JOHN LEE HANCOCK | Written by HANCOCK, based on the book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by MICHAEL LEWIS | Produced by GIL NETTER, ANDREW A. KOSOVE and BRODERICK JOHNSON | Warner Bros. | Citywide

Reach the writer at melissaelaineanderson@gmail.com

Related Content

Now Showing

  1. Thu 21
  2. Fri 22
  3. Sat 23
  4. Sun 24
  5. Mon 25
  6. Tue 26
  7. Wed 27

    Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

    Sponsored by Fandor

Box Office Report

Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, concert and dining info & more!

Slideshows

  • Iconic Movie and TV Houses of L.A.
    Whether it’s a central location in a feature film or just an establishing shot on a sitcom, Los Angeles has some of the most iconic movie and TV houses in the world.

    Houses such as Nancy’s from A Nightmare on Elm Street in Hollywood or the Cunningham’s house from Happy Days in Hancock Park are instantly recognizable. While directors, location managers and production designers are looking for homes that will best serve the story, inevitably many of these dwellings become celebrated. Perhaps a time machine made out of a DeLorean raced into the driveway. Maybe an extraterrestrial who phoned home was hidden there.

    From the Valley to Venice, from Beverly Hills to Baldwin Hills, the sprawling landscape and vastly different neighborhoods of L.A. make up a “backlot” like no other.

    Special thanks to the Location Managers Guild of America for its assistance.

    See our full story: Recognize This House? Here Are Some Iconic L.A. Houses From Your Favorite Movies and TV Shows

    All photos by Jared Cowan.
  • 20 Neo-Noir Films You Have to See
    The Voice's J. Hoberman was more mixed than most on Sin City when he reviewed it in 2005, but his description of the film as "hyper-noir" helps explain why this week's release of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For has us thinking back on the neo-noir genre. Broadly speaking, neo-noir encompasses those films made outside of film noir's classic period -- the 1940s and '50s -- that nevertheless engage with the standard trappings of the genre. As with most generic labels, there isn't some universal yardstick that measures what constitutes a neo-noir film: Where the genre might begin in the '60s with films like Le Samourai and Point Blank for one person, another might argue that the genre didn't find its roots until 1974's Chinatown. Our list falls closer to the latter stance, mainly featuring works from the '80s, '90s, and 2000s. Though a number of the films mentioned here will no doubt be familiar to readers, it's our hope that we've also highlighted several titles that have been under-represented on lists of this nature. --Danny King

    See also:
    35 Music Documentaries Worth Seeing

    15 Documentaries That Help You Understand the World Right Now
  • Emmy-Nominated Costumes on Display
    On Saturday, the Television Academy and FIDM Museum and Galleries kicked off the Eighth Annual exhibition of "The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design" with an exclusive preview and reception party. 100 costumes are featured from over 20 shows representing the nominees of the 66th Emmy Awards. The free to the public exhibition is located downtown at FIDM and runs from today through Saturday, September 20th. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.

Movie Trailers

View all movie trailers >>

Now Trending