Ill attempt to my best Dave Zirin impersonation here.
The night before Thanksgiving Katy and I saw The Blind Side.
I had been familiar with the story when I read this New York Times Magazine profile of Michael Oher a few years ago. After reading the article I bought the book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.
The book was great but the posters for the movie version of The Blind Side looked horrible. It seemed to me that this was going to be a sports movie version of Mississippi Burning . Or might qualify for a recent blog post titled “The Five Most Unintentionally Racist Movies about Racism. Anyways, here is a nice summary of the criticism about Mississippi Burning:
[Missisippi Burning] been criticized by many, including historian Howard Zinn, for its fictionalization of history. According to Zinn: while FBI agents are portrayed as heroes who descend upon the town by the hundreds, in reality the FBI and the Justice Department only reluctantly protected civil rights workers and protesters and reportedly witnessed beatings without intervening. It was also criticized due to its portrayal of southern African-Americans as passive victims. The image of African-Americans as being passive also shapes the film’s reenactment of the assassinations; New York Times film reviewer wrote that the film’s alleged distortions amounted to a “cinematic lynching” of history.
See, The Blind Side takes place in Memphis and essentially a rich white woman comes to the rescue of a homeless black kid with an NFL body. Hollywood could have very easily taken the very powerful story of Michael Oher and Leigh Anne Tuohy and turned into a Disnified, racial fantasy.
Never mind the fact that Memphis might be one of the most racially polarized cities in the country and the place where Martin Luther kIng was assassinated. And the University of Missisippi? It’s racial history is just as brutal. And “Ole Miss,”– the college’s nickname? That is what slaves called the slave master’s wife.
Overall, the book was better and the movie is far from being perfect. The Border’s commercial that breaks out in the middle of the movie also might be the most annoying product placement I have ever experienced.
But still, the movie made me cry. (The last time I cried in a movie might have been in Top Gun when Goose died.)
And I cried, I think, because I grew up around families like the Tuohy’s. Rich. White. Christian. Republican. I never once met someone from that background who would have opened the car door for a homeless black teenager, even if he had NFL tackle written all over his body.
And that is why I loved the movie–because if you are rich and white and powerful, it means nothing if you don’t open the door for others.
P.S. I also thought it was interesting that at the end of the movie when they were showing newspaper clippings of Michael Oher’s career the other story that appeared on the “newspaper” was about Darfur. I think the movie producer’s were trying to make a point….