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The “Blind Side” and Hollywood’s blindness to reality


What fidelity to reality do you expect from Hollywood?

The 2009 movie “The Blind Side” seems to tell the story of Michael Oher, a black high school student who is rescued from poverty and neglect by the Tuohys, a wealthy white family who takes him as one of their own and takes care of his love and selfless care. She guided him on a path that would eventually earn him a career in the NFL.

Last week, Oher filed a petition with the Tennessee court, not only contesting the validity of this depiction, but also alleging that the couple had not adopted him, as they claimed, but tricked him into signing a document recognizing the couple’s right to marry when he was 18. its conservators for the past twenty years.

Like reported The petition by ESPN states that the Tuohys “used their power as guardians to reach a deal that paid them and their two born children millions of dollars in royalties for an Oscar-winning film that earned more than $300 million, whereas the Oher received nothing in return for a year.” is alleged. The story of ‘it wouldn’t exist without it’. In the years since then, the Tuohys have continued to call 37-year-old Oher their adopted son, using that claim to promote both their foundation and the work of Leigh Anne Tuohy as an author and motivational speaker.”

“Blind Side” awarded mixed reviews upon his release. A lot registered white savior tropes. Despite this, the film was nominated for two Oscars, including best picture. Sandra Bullock won for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy, adding art, status and validity to what Oher claims to be a fundamentally bogus story.

Bullock is not responsible for the situation between Oher and the Tuohys. However, he benefited financially and reputationally from the film. As viewers, it’s worth considering that he and others involved in the film, including the studio (Warner Bros.) and writer-director John Lee Hancock, are part of the apparatus that sanctifies the story for the profit of everyone but Oher.

He was constantly opposed to the film. “I felt it portrayed me as an idiot rather than a child who had never had a consistent academic education and succeeded after that education,” she writes in her 2011 memoir. If the movie was a lie, it was sarcastic or sincere.

White filmmakers have a habit of commercializing these themes, and Oscar voters have a habit of rewarding them for it. “Green Book”, the winner of the best film award of 2019, Black pianist Dr. It chronicles the growing friendship between Don Shirley and his white driver, Tony Lip. The latter worked as a chauffeur on a concert tour of the South in the early 1960s, and at various moments, bodyguard Tony came to the rescue.

The film was co-written with director Peter Farrelly by Brian Hayes Currie and Tony’s son Nick Vallelonga. They based the script on the letters Tony wrote home during the tour, as well as recorded conversations between Vallelonga and his father for posterity. After the movie’s release, Time magazine reported that “everything depicted in the ‘Green Book’ movie happened in real life,” according to Vallelonga.

Left to right: Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali "Green Book."

Shirley’s relatives were not contacted and they had no information either. In fact, after the movie won the Oscar, Vallelonga registered: “I didn’t even know they actually existed until I made the movie and contacted his property for the music.”

Creative parties became a mechanism to sustain and distribute what the Shirley family owned. has been described as a “symphony of lies”. Maybe there are nuances behind everyone’s decision to work on the movie. Maybe they didn’t ask enough questions.

Hollywood executives probably prefer it that way.

Six months ago, podcast hosts Len Webb and Vincent Williams aired a multi-episode series called “The Class of ’89” analyzing the major Black movies of the year. A striking detail according to Webb: “You’re ignoring the old tropes played out by the Academy in ‘Do the Right Thing’, which is clearly about race from a Black perspective, and ‘Driving Miss Daisy’, the dominant narratives about Blacks. Experience when it comes to Hollywood.”

The latter won best picture. The first was not even nominated.

In 2012, “The Help” was nominated for best picture and Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for her performance. The film is about the lives of black domestic workers and white women who are interested in their stories. Years later star Viola Davis (again nominated for an Oscar for her role) aforementioned He regretted doing this: “Part of me feels like I betrayed myself and my people because I was in a movie and wasn’t ready to tell the whole truth.”

Davis speaks of a greater emotional truth. This is as important as verifiable facts.

“The Blind Side” is adapted from a 2006 nonfiction book by Michael Lewis that includes the following striking quote from Sean Tuohy: “Michael’s gift is that the great God gave him the ability to forget. He’s not angry with anyone and he doesn’t care what happens.” Does this sound like an emotional truth or is it a denial of one’s entire humanity?

Lewis and Sean Tuohy have a longstanding and mutually beneficial connection; They were classmates from high school and are still friendly. Personal relationships between author and subject can cloud one’s judgment, and this is referred to in an old journalistic saying: If your mom says she loves you, take a look.

He says Lewis never confirmed his claims that the Tuohys adopted Oher. He took their word and then made the lie even stronger. “They showered him with resources and love,” Lewis said. recently said From the Tuohys. “His suspicion of them is breathtaking.” Perhaps breathtakingly, Lewis’ first instinct is not to be a terrifying moment of self-reflection: Have I got this story wrong? Have I misrepresented Oher’s experience – for my own benefit? What are my biases that might have led to this?

Whites get nervous when they hear the word “racism,” but there is no other term to collectively describe these films or reflect on the decisions that led to how these stories were shaped.

Let’s get back to the original question: What fidelity do you expect from Hollywood? When anything is adapted for the big screen and accompanied by the words “true story” along with “based on”, “inspired” or any squirrel disclaimer in between, there is a way to become a settled fact in the minds of viewers. This puts us in charge of handling these stories more carefully. It also means that filmmakers have a responsibility beyond just having a good time with the audience.

If you go to Leigh Anne Tuohy’s and her family foundation’s websites, you’ll see that they both sell branded products that relate to the movie’s message. One t-shirt reads: “Families don’t need to adapt.”

Another says: “Property of The Blind Side 2009 Athletic Department.” This is a common rumor on school-issued t-shirts. In light of Oher’s claims, the word “property” takes on a completely different and chilling context.

Nina Metz is a Tribune critic.


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