Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Blind Side

“The Blind Side” is a feel good, family movie that is based on the true story of  Michael Oher, a young black teen who came from a troubled family. Michael grew up living in the projects in Memphis, Tennessee with his mother, a drug addict. Michael was taken from his mother and placed into a number of different foster families. He did a lot of bouncing around between families and sleeping on friends’ couches. Michael ended up being accepted into a private Christian school.  It is here that SJ Tuohy befriended Michael one day at school.  This is where the story really begins. The rest of the movie is about how the Tuohy family -- Sean and Leigh Anne, and their children Collin and SJ --  generously opened up their home to Michael and eventually adopted him into their family (The Blind Side, Film). The movie is about the ups and downs that the family went through dealing with outsiders looking in on their lives. “Underdogs almost automatically win us over to their side” (Giannetti p 406). You just can’t help but root for Michael as you watch his transformation, eventually heading to Ole Miss as a highly recruited football player, graduating on the Dean’s List and being drafted into the NFL.

“The Blind Side” is not a fictional story with a hidden agenda about racial or socio-economic differences or “judging a book by it’s cover.”  However, because it is a story of a disadvantaged black youth being taken in by a wealthy white family these undercurrents run throughout.  All sorts of people around the situation -- teachers, people from Michael’s neighborhood, friends of the Tuohys, Michael’s mother, a representative from the NCAA -- are unsure about what looks to them to be an unlikely combination. Will “Big Mike” fit in in the rich white community the Tuohys are a part of? Will the kids at school accept him? What will Leigh Anne and Sean’s friends think? For that matter, what will Big Mike’s former neighbors think?  Can this really work?  Is it wise?

Michael really struggles with the workload when he starts at the private school. There is a scene where his teachers are talking together about Michael and how he is doing in their classes. They all have negative things to say about him, but his science teacher steps up and says that if you step in and help him that he can be successful. This one teacher has faith in Michael and really wants to help him. She is doing the opposite of what all the other teacher are doing which is judging Michael by his looks and not by who he really is. They just assume because of his background that he is going to do poorly. They see him as lazy and unintelligent. The science teacher takes the time to sit down with Michael and do his tests orally. She finds that Michael performs much better when he can explain what he knows about the questions (The Blind Side, Film).

One night as the Tuohy family is driving home from a school event they come upon Michael walking along the road in the cold.  At first they pass him but Leigh Anne quickly tells her husband that they must turn around. SJ recognizes him as Big Mike from school.  Leigh Anne  gets out of the car and approaches Michael. She asks, “Do you have any place to stay tonight?” Michael responds with a head nod saying yes. Leigh Anne then replies “Don’t you dare lie to me.” (The Blind Side, Film) She tells him to get in the car and come home with them. Michael, a little surprised at first, gets in. That night Leigh Anne doesn't see Big Mike as a large, black, homeless teenager the way others may see him.  All she sees is a child who is walking in the cold with no jacket on who needs a place to stay. You would think most wealthy white families would just keep driving, but not the Tuohy family. Leigh Anne has a big heart and she doesn’t judge Big Mike by his appearance. “Filmmakers create sympathetic characters by dramatizing such traits as idealism, courage, generosity, fair play, kindness, and loyalty” (Giannetti p 406) .Leigh Anne is a sympathetic character!

Both of these scenes make me tear up. One of the reasons I love this movie so much is because of the emotions it stirs up.  There are scenes where I am happy, sad, laughing and crying. This movie really hits on lots of different emotions (pathos)! Pathos was used in “The Blind Side” to keep the audience interested. Throughout the movie, it is so touching to see how the Tuohy family truly cares for Michael. When your audience feels for your characters they enjoy the movie more. In the book Everything’s an Argument, authors Andrea A. Lunsford and John J. Ruszkiewicz believe that you can use pathos to create an emotional appeal that will make the scene stronger and more memorable for the audience.

There is a telling scene in the movie where Leigh Anne is out to lunch with three of her friends. One of the women asks Leigh Anne, with a smile, “Does Michael get the family discount at Taco Bell? Because if he does, Sean is going to lose a few stores!” Leigh Anne responds, “He’s a good kid.” A friend then jokes saying “Well, I say you just make it official and adopt him.” Leigh Anne quietly answers, “Well, he’s going to be 18 in a few months so it doesn't make sense to legally adopt.” Her friends go silent and seem shocked by this remark. “Leigh Anne, is this some sort of white guilt thing?  What will your Daddy say?” “I don’t need y’all to approve of my choices but I do ask that you respect them,” says Leigh Anne. “I think it is so great what you're doing, to open up your home to him. Honey, you’re changing that boy’s life,” remarks one friend. “No, he’s changing mine,” Leigh Anne replies with a serious look.  Another woman then challenges Leigh Anne by saying, “And that’s awesome for you, but what about Collins? … Aren’t you worried, just a little?  He’s a boy -- a large, black by, sleeping under the same roof.”  “Shame on you,” Leigh Anne answers. (The Blind Side, Film)

Leigh Anne’s friends aren’t the only ones who question why the Tuohys would take Michael in. In one scene Leigh Anne goes to the projects to look for Michael. Leigh Anne runs into some trouble makers who make rude comments to her. Showing her resolve and her genuine concern for Michael, Leigh Anne tells them, “If you threaten him, you threaten me.” When Michael later returns to the projects his friends all ask him if that white women was his “sugar momma” (The Blind Side, Film). They ask if he was sleeping with her.  In their minds why would a rich white woman want to take in a black teenager?   

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is a well-known cliche.  Because it is stated in the negative (“don’t”), this saying implies that people do, in reality, judge others by what is seen on the exterior or at first glance.  We know there are misconceptions made when people “judge a book by it’s cover.”  The whole point of this cliche is to remind us not to quickly judge someone by the way he or she looks on the outside, but to really get to know the person on the inside.   Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy saw a young man who needed help and they stepped in.  Despite the racial and socio-economic differences that might have kept them apart, Michael Oher and the Tuohys truly became one family and each member has been blessed.  Theirs is a heart-warming and inspiring story.  

Giannetti, Louis D. Understanding Movies 12th edition. NJ: Pearson, 2011. Print.

Lunsford, Andrea; Ruszkiewicz, John. Everything’s an argument. MA: Bedford, 200 (The Blind Side, Flim)

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