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The Blind Side

by on March 20, 2010
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Shallow, manipulative, at times morally repugnant and even stupid, “The Blind Side” represents the worst in liberal “we can save the black man” white-guilt assuasion.

That’s right. I said it. Everyone’s favorite Oscar contender was a heaping, steaming pile of crap.

Making things worse is that “Blind” is based on the fascinating true story of Michael Oher (who [SPOILER ALERT] now plays for the Baltimore Ravens), a homeless hulk of a teen who was taken in by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, a rich family with connections to the University of Mississippi, who cared for Oher and guided him to football stardom.

If I tell you the story of a rich family helping a downtrodden poor inner-city boy, you’d coo and go buy a ticket. Now what if I told you the story was about a self-serving bunch of rich white people who exploit a large, uneducated black man and manipulate him into serving their own selfish interests? Different story.

I don’t want to cast aspersions on the real-life story, because I have no idea what really happened, what kind of people the Tuohys are, or even how faithful the film is to the real events. By all accounts it seems like a perfectly heartwarming story of a rich family helping someone who wasn’t so fortunate in life and helped him reach his full potential.

The film, though, paints Leigh Anne and Sean as opportunistic saviors who take in this large black man as they would a stray dog, train him up, invest enough time and energy into him to make him a football star so that their alma mater, the University of Mississippi, can benefit from his skills. Then of course when he hits the big time, they’re really in (and before you pooh-pooh this theory, it’s a real issue in college football these days. Look at this story about football legend Deion Sanders, who is alleged to have done this very thing).

Take this sequence for example: As Michael is being recruited by most every college coach in the country (many of whom make cameos in the film), Michael is mulling whether to attend Ole Miss or the University of Tennessee, which the Tuohys want no part of. Michael’s tutor, in charge of getting his grades up enough for him to attend college, mentions to him off hand that UT has a great medical school, but it’s kind of weird that they bury all of the spare cadaver parts inside the football stadium. You wouldn’t want to go there, would you, Michael?

The audience too is manipulated repeatedly, first when Tuohy meets at with the heads of posh private school that has already taken Michael in (at the behest of the football coach, who sees a college coaching job in his future if he works out). The administrators rattle off Michael’s test results: 2nd and 3rd percentiles for math and English, but 92nd in “Protective Instinct,” which is not any academic category I ever encountered in my years of taking standardized tests.

It’s simply a ridiculous device intended to say “Michael will be a terrific offensive lineman.”

What “The Blind Side” is really about isn’t pure and wonderful, its shady and crass, the worst of the condescending  liberal fantasy “we need to save the black people” mindset. You see Bullock’s self-importance when she mouths off to inner-city toughs who threaten Michael’s life, or (in what passes as metaphor) she reads him the story of Ferdinand the Bull before bedtime along with her young son.

Ambivalence passes as caring when the Tuohy’s teenage daughter (Lilly Collins) simply doesn’t participate in the pointing and snickering at the giant awkward dark-skinned kid as her classmates do, and we’re to believe she’s a good person because, after simply standing there watching them gossip about him the entire film, she finally sits with him at lunch.

Things really ramp up when the Tuohys, boosters and friends of the Ole Miss football program (Sean is a former basketball player) see quarterbacks with plenty of time in the pocket.

It’s worth pointing out that the term “white guilt” is used once in the film, by a poor sap who gets a look from Bullock’s Leigh Anne that I assume would rival her reaction if you, say, threw her grandmother’s china to the floor.

Later, there’s a brief subplot where the NCAA investigates the Tuohys for their actions (because, surprise, it’s morally questionable). Their rebuttal to the allegations are basically, “But no, that’s not why we did it,” and the issue goes away almost immediately.

I’d hoped “The Blind Side” would be the story of a man who lifted himself up from the depths of poverty with the help of a mentor. What I got was the story of a poor helpless black man who was victimized and taken advantage of by the white establishment who looked at this black giant and saw dollar signs.

DVD extras include deleted scenes, though the Bluray version features more extensive extras including an interview with Oher and behind-the-scenes featurettes.