Tuesday, December 29, 2009


So, I saw The Blind Side last weekend. And tonight I watched the 20/20 piece about the back story. It was both moving and eyebrow-raising.

I was glad that the 20/20 story highlighted some key points that the film took liberties with. For instance, the movie basically gave all the credit to the Tuohy family for joining Oher and football; Oher himself was quick to point out the fact that the sport had been part of his life long before the Tuohy family entered. I also thought it was very important that the film chooses to start this story after other people had shown interest and concern for him. Specifically, there was a recreation director (or someone like that) who facilitated his entrance into the prestigious school where he began to flourish. That man took Oher to the school along with his own son. And he was African American.

I point that out for two reasons: 1) I try hard to avoid the Dangerous Minds/Freedom Writers/Losing Isaiah formula that seems to suggest that black people are doomed to their own pathology and tragedy unless able white folk save them; 2) When Debra Roberts asks the Tuohys to comment on the curious coincidence that the large black boy who they take in is steered toward the school where they are former athletes and boosters, it just sort of hangs there. The issue is never fully addressed, although they and Oher dismiss any sordid intentions. They also mostly glide by the issue of race; although they acknowledge the weirdness of a big, homeless black boy living with a wealthy white family in Memphis, their message is that love took over and he just became their son. The daughter's words about being able to count on someone who loves you for no particular reason had a clear ring of sincerity. So my eyebrow raising has less to do with the idea that these people schemed to deliver a football giant to Ole Miss (because it doesn't seem that they were scheming) than it does with the incomplete discussion of these issues.

I think it's also important to note that the Touhys suggest that Oher would have made something of his life anyway. He is a central player in, well, his own story.

I'm just wondering what falls out if we shake this tree a bit. So, what's the story of all of those children who aren't great at sports or who don't stumble upon the right rich family? While these stories make us feel good, doesn't every child deserve a school where someone notices that he's homeless? Where he gets some help even if he's a she (why are these movies never about girls, anyway?) Doesn't every child deserve a life that allows her to fulfill her whole potential? How do we make that happen without simply waiting on rich families?

So, while there are heart-tugging, smiley, sweet moments in this film, I'm also saddened by the children I know who didn't get everything they needed to be whole. And by thoughts of the children I don't know who have holes in their lives. It's complicated.


evenshine said...

Cosby's got some great things to say about your last question in the second-to-last paragraph. As a thoroughly white mommy I wonder how many of my good intentions are invalidated by my skin color. But there's a dichotomy that's hard to solve between African-Americans pulling themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps and professor mommy sweeping in and placing band-aids on wounds that are harder to heal.

The Steel Magnolia said...

Cosby chaps my hide in most of his tirades, and I think he tries too hard to ignore the systemic problems that too often invalidates individual "responsibility"; I mean, look at how many issues this one story brings up: parental absence, inadequate education, body issues, homelessness, etc., etc. You are right, evenshine, that the wounds are deep and stubborn.