I was never going to write this review of the movie Blind Side, because I still don’t know how to talk out loud about my response to it. And I have thought about it for more than a month. But I just heard that Sandra Bullock is nominated for Best Actress for her role. Good for her. She was brilliant. She made the movie fly. And apparently she directed it as well. So I think the movie will be getting more attention. I’d like my thoughts out finally and writing sometimes helps me figure out what I think.
Blind Side is based on a true story about Michael Oher a young black man; essentially homeless in Memphis until he was taken in and eventually adopted by an extremely wealthy white family. The two children adored Michael and everyone in his life from teachers to family to tutors taught him a little something. After a lot of work on his part on academics, he qualified to play football in college. He went to the University of Mississippi. And Oher was eventually drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.
My gut reaction coming out of the movie was dismay. And then I was dismayed by my own dismay as I heard my mom and daughter positively gushing. “Wasn’t it wonderful. It was so beautiful. What a story. So uplifting.” They genuinely loved it and were inspired.
What’s going on? It didn’t make me feel good. It made me uncomfortable. But this is a true story. I kept thinking no wonder the book was made into a movie they could not have made up better stereotypes for “white wealth” and “black poverty.”
I’m not sure which made me more uncomfortable the white family’s wealthy excess and sense of privilege. Or the black kid’s poverty, homelessness and disadvantage. I kept thinking about all the other kids that will never be able to achieve what this young man did — not because they aren’t as deserving, or willing to work, or wonderful like Michael Oher. (Clearly is if he is anything like the person on the screen.)
But no-one will help them and the System is so messed up.
- The terrible, terrible schools in inner cities. This boy got into a private school on a lark of a teacher. He had a 1.0 GPA. He clearly hadn’t been learning at school.
- The danger of living in abject poverty and neighborhoods riddled with crime. Guns, drugs, illness and lack of proper nutrition.
- Being homeless and just surviving.
- Having one pair of extra clothes so he had to go to a laundry mat to wash them. Having no money he had to throw his clothes into someone else’s cycle to be washed.
- Having few positive role models.
My problem with this movie is that it glorifies a kind of racism where rich white people are honorable, upright, righteous “Saviors” of the poor, black away from the gangsta and drug peddling culture and a drug addicted mother. My problem with this movie is that African-Americans are so often portrayed like this in movies, especially black men. I have a problem that Leigh Anne Tuohy (played by Sandra Bullock) welcomes a homeless practically mute “Big Mike” (played by Quinton Aaron) into her family’s life. The movie glorifies Tuohy while Oher is lectured, tutored, fed, dressed and loved like a big pet or a prize poodle. Bullock shines while Aaron has perhaps twenty lines of dialogue. Kind-hearted but imperfect whites save the lost black boy. The movie really did make the Tuohys out to be generous and good people. And I am sure they had good intentions. And Michael Oher clearly has made something of himself which is great.
All’s well that ends well right?
Actually, not really. Michael Oher is one boy**. What is my problem with this movie? It made me uncomfortable. Uncomfortable with how wonderful everyone will think it is and overwhelmed by how sad it made me feel. It made me miss Dr. and Mrs. Cosby.
You may not agree with me, my mom didn’t. But I hope that I have made you think.
Be friends, be well.
Among the 50 largest cities in the nation, Memphis has the highest poverty rate, approximately **18 percent, with many of our children living in extreme poverty. No other city comes close. The percentage of college graduates in Memphis is below 24 percent, a figure in the lowest quartile. And perhaps most problematic of all, the economic segregation in Memphis is crushing: in an $87 billion local economy, minority businesses generate only $1.3 billion (1.5 percent) of the total.[Observations from a year in Memphis City Schools, by Dr. Kriner Cash, written in Aug-2009]