I rarely have time for movies, much less do I have time to review them. But I saw Blind Side on a whim yesterday, and it left me with a strange ambivalence of emotions. While most people walked out of the feel-good movie inspired and hopeful, I walked out thinking about the deeper implication of the movie's message. (*Just so you know, this entire entry will be a spoiler. Don't read it if you plan on seeing the movie and want to be surprised.*)
Blind Side follows a disadvantaged youth known as Michael Oher, or "Big Mike". He is a quiet boy with almost no formal education and seemingly no personality. His story is that he came from a crack Momma who had at least 12 kids and abandoned most of them. He was taken from her and put into foster care, but he would always run away and come home to her. We don't find this out until the middle/end of the movie, but it's important to theme and the overall story.
The movie begins with a black man bringing both his son and Big Mike to a private Christian school. He talks the coach into letting both boys in because Big Mike can play ball and could be an asset to the football team. After some fighting with the educated white folk, they let the boys in. Moments later, the same Black Man is heard fighting with his girl about letting Bike Mike stay with them--and suddenly Big Mike is on the street.
Then comes to the rescue Sandra Bullock, the educated designer whose family is incredibly well-to-do from their 85 different Taco Bells and KFCs they own. She brings Big Mike into their home and eventually gets him to come out of his shell as he becomes part of the family. Everything is as predictable as it could be spoon fed to an audience of Americans--he gets his first bed, his white momma reads him a children's book, he suddenly makes the football team the best in the league, and suddenly colleges want him.
I'll save you the rest of the story. You know what you need to know. In the end, he becomes successful, makes it to the NFL and he has his happy white family to thank for the opportunity. But that's the problem. To me, the take-home message of the movie is given away within the last few seconds of it. They show an article where one of Big Mike's homeboys is shot back in his neighborhood, and they discuss how he, "...was very talented at sports". What is the implication of this? Why did the director do this? In a subtle way, it's almost as if they are saying, "There are a lot of talented black people out there. Let's get rich white people to round them up, give them an education and make them go entertain us with sports!"
I'm aware that that is not the goal or purpose of this movie. And I'm certain that the real Michael Oher (since this was based on a real story) and his family were very genuine in their relationship. But the movie makes it seem like black people are useless to society and will ever be stuck in a rut unless a rich white woman comes along and picks one of them up. I'm sorry to say it like that, but that's how it is.
Further problems with the movie include the juxtaposition of black culture and white culture. When they show white culture, they show a fun and exciting football team supported by cute white cheerleaders rooting for their school. When they show black culture, it's hoodlums on the street carrying guns and making inappropriate passes at women. Where were the black role models? Why was it that every portrait of white culture in this movie was shown in a progressive light, whereas every painting of black culture was as if they are a diseased and filthy kind of people? When did they ever show the camaraderie of black communities, the lively churches, the caring barbershops, the groups of black men and women that lovingly spend time together? In every scene where there was a black person, there was a negative stereotype: a laundromat, the projects, the crime scenes, etc. And that just ain't right.
There are without-a-doubt enormous problems with our society and its view on racism. The other day, one of my co-workers boldly declared, "Today, racism really does not exist anymore." I almost spit out my coffee. This is simply not true--where you are born and what color you are are both incredibly indicative of the life you will have. Our society needs to stop playing as if this is not true. We like to sweep the millions of disadvantaged minorities under the rug and go see a movie like Blind Side to feel good about ourselves. Instead of seeing movies about the mixing of classes, we ourselves need to step up to the other side and start mingling with people who are different from us.
This story is a diamond in the rough, a million in one odds. While truly a great story of how one family believed in a person when he didn't believe in himself, it only highlighted the deep problems we have in this country--we are a country of feel-good people that would rather watch a movie about people doing great things instead of actually doing great things ourselves. And unless we change this mindset, racism will always exist in this country.