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The uplifting narrative in 'The Blind Side' takes a somber twist in reality.The uplifting narrative in 'The Blind Side' takes a somber twist in reality.

The uplifting narrative in ‘The Blind Side’ takes a somber twist in reality.

Publish – 19 aug , 2023


Undoubtedly, America embraced ‘The Blind Side,’ the 2009 film depicting the transformation of a homeless and struggling Black teenager’s life through the intervention of a prosperous white family. The movie was inspired by the true account of the Tuohy family, headed by Sean and Leigh Anne, who embraced the future NFL player Michael Oher into their home, guiding him through college and beyond.

This narrative aligns with the familiar theme in sports—a story that reinforces our convictions about the capacity of sports to forge enduring connections, help individuals surmount challenges, and nurture character. However, it also presents a simplified view of race in America, one that relies on the notion that white individuals can be redeemed by coming to the rescue of a Black character.

The masses enthusiastically embraced this narrative. The film amassed over $300 million at the box office, and Sandra Bullock clinched an Oscar for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy, the poised embodiment of the New South.

Nevertheless, ‘The Blind Side,’ derived from Michael Lewis’ best-selling book, translates a complex reality into a highly consumable package. Recent surprising developments, such as Oher’s lawsuit against the Tuohys, have prompted a reevaluation of the movie. People are now seeking answers to the queries raised by Oher’s legal claim, which were overshadowed by the film’s convenient and neat storyline.

Oher has initiated legal action against the Tuohys, demanding a comprehensive account of their relationship. He asserts that when he believed he was being adopted at the age of 18, the Tuohys coerced him into signing a conservatorship that granted them the authority to engage in contracts on his behalf. He alleges that the familial bond, depicted warmly in the movie, was a façade, and that the Tuohys profited at his expense.

In response, the Tuohys have come to their own defense, explaining in a statement that the conservatorship was essential from a legal standpoint, enabling Oher to play football at the University of Mississippi without compromising his eligibility.

In a narrative with no less than four perspectives—those of Lewis, the film studio, Oher, and the Tuohys—it becomes nearly impossible to ascertain the verifiable truth.

The uplifting narrative in 'The Blind Side' takes a somber twist in reality.
credit – gettty


The uplifting narrative in ‘The Blind Side’ takes a somber twist in reality.

Up until this week, I confess that I had never watched “The Blind Side.” I had intentionally evaded it. I tend to be cautious of movies that rely on simplistic racial stereotypes—a weariness that traces back to my childhood, when numerous Black role models met their demise in films, often making way for white heroes to prevail.

The news of Oher’s legal action persuaded me that it was time to settle onto the couch and experience the movie, now armed with 14 years of hindsight—14 years during which matters of race and sports have once again taken center stage, serving as crucial arenas for the examination of America’s challenges. My anticipations were swiftly validated early on in the film, as Oher’s character began to take form. As the narrative unfolds, he is depicted as a hopeless case until his encounter with the Tuohys and his enrollment in an affluent Christian school in Memphis. The movie paints a simplified portrait of him: primarily as a physical presence—an enormous Black teenager whose purportedly low intelligence quotient is emphasized, and who appears entirely unfamiliar with existence in realms not steeped in impoverishment and hopelessness.

The Oher portrayed in the film, especially in its early stages, lacks agency and possesses no genuine aspirations of his own. Witnessing this aspect felt like a striking blow to my understanding. I couldn’t help but mutter, “Really?” It seemed implausible that this characterization could hold true.

The Baltimore Ravens picked Oher in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft. No individual reaches such heights in sports without a bedrock of years of dedication and preparation, which lends credence to Oher’s longstanding critique of his portrayal in the film. He himself has reiterated time and again that he is a person of intelligence, and he was a proficient football player long before his encounter with the Tuohys.

He wasn’t someone who required the Tuohys’ young son, Sean Jr., to teach him the game in the most basic terms—using condiment bottles to illustrate formations and plays. We observe Sean Jr. at a park, gleefully guiding a clueless Oher through workout routines.

The film also illustrates the Tuohys employing sports as a means for Oher to cultivate self-assurance, step into a realm of distinction and affluence, and ultimately enroll at Ole Miss, the alma mater of the couple, where Sean Tuohy once excelled in basketball.

Oher shields Leigh Anne Tuohy when they venture into the neighborhoods where he grew up—what she refers to as “that terrible part of town.” He saves Sean Jr.’s life during a car accident by using his formidable arm to shield the young boy from the impact of an airbag. When Oher grapples on the practice field as he familiarizes himself with the game, Leigh Anne Tuohy rushes from the sidelines and imparts stern guidance: He must safeguard the quarterback just as diligently as he protected her and her son.

“Protect the family,” she insists.

This lesson imparted to Oher by a spirited white woman, as though he were a first-grader (or a servant), marks a pivotal juncture. Oher embarks on a transformation, evolving from a football newcomer raised on the streets into an offensive lineman possessing the strength of Zeus, the agility of Mikhail Baryshnikov, and the proportions of an upright piano.

The uplifting narrative in 'The Blind Side' takes a somber twist in reality.
credit – getty


Before long, we witness his participation in a game, enduring hostile and racially discriminatory jeers from an adversary who initially gains the upper hand against his inexperienced opponent.

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Abruptly, Oher reaches a breaking point. Instead of merely obstructing the opposing player, Oher’s anger boils over, causing him to hoist the adversary and propel him across the field, eventually sending him sailing over a fence.

As Oher stands on the sidelines, his coach questions, “Where were you taking him, Mike?”

“To the bus,” Oher replies with a deadpan expression, his tone innocently childlike. “It was time for him to head home.”

As the film concludes, the transformation is fully realized. We come to understand that under the guidance of a prosperous white family, Oher’s intelligence quotient has improved to an average level! We witness his rise to become a champion in high school! A procession of actual coaches, playing themselves in the film, parade in front of Oher, lavishing praise upon him as they strive to recruit him for their teams.

According to the film’s portrayal, it’s challenging to decipher Oher’s motivations or his astuteness, as he continues to be depicted as a mere accessory—silent, compliant, a young man who, for the most part, abides by the directives of his newfound family. This aspect, incidentally, contributes to the ongoing challenge of discerning the truth behind his lawsuit, even after all these years.

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