Monday, January 18, 2010


I saw the movie "Blindside" last week. A pretty good movie, although sometimes corny and borderline didactic. Aside from its artistic merits, I found it interesting, even bold in the way it unabashedly bashes certain Hollywood cliches and nostrums. First of all, the movie takes a positive stance towards fundamentalist Christians. How often do you see that in movies or on television? Usually these people are portrayed as backward, close-minded, hate-filled lunatic yahoos who are bent on turning this country into a Christian theocracy. So called journalists on the mainstream networks like CNN don't think twice about comparing evangelical Christians to the Taliban, notwithstanding that the incidents of Christians strapping a bomb belts on and pushing the ignition button in a crowded restaurant numbers zero. You have to wonder if these people have ever met a fundamentalist Christian. There is no more sheltered, parochial group than New York/LA based journalists.

I grew up a Southern Baptist and know these people first hand. The portrayal in the movie is accurate. These people say grace at meals and have strict moral standards even when it comes to "cussing." A basic tenet of their faith is the requirement to help those in need. As extraordinary as it was that a white family in Memphis would take a black guy off the street and into their home, such an act is certainly not unbelievable if you understand how fundamental "outreach" is to fundamentalist Christians.

Leigh Anne Touhy, the Sandra Bullock character, is out of the Sarah Palin mold. She informs a thug lording over the project where Michael Oher lives that she is a proud member of the NRA and packs heat in her purse. The scene is far-fetched in more ways than one, but that has to be the first time ever a female character in a major motion picture proudly declared her membership in the NRA.

It's amazing that a movie like this ever got produced, given its political/religious undertones. Thank Phil Anshutz for that. A billionaire listed as number 6 on the Forbes 400, he also happens to be an arch conservative who has backed similar, culturally conservative movies such as "The Narnia Chronicles."

The move has also garnered a bit of controversy by the way it depicts race relations. Although the movie has been a huge box office success and has as its main character an African-American football star, word is that many blacks have shunned the movie. I can understand how they might find the movie patronizing in the way it shows a wealthy white family turning around the life of a hapless negro. I'm sure some blacks are turned off by the way the movie unstintingly depicts the chaotic, crime-ridden, mostly black inner city. The movie rises almost to preachiness in contrasting the stable family of the Tuohy's versus the fatherless, disintegrated families that inhabit the project where Michael Oher lives. The implicit message of the movie and the shining example of the Tuohy's is that the problems that Michael Oher and other children of the inner city face can not be laid at the feet of whites. There are plenty of blacks who would like to think that all whites are fundamentally racist and that a story like the one portrayed in "Blindside" is just a White American fantasy. There's only one problem with this attitude: "Blindside" is a true story.

"Blindside" is a unique movie in that it offers two things that usually don't go together: big box office numbers and a willingness to speak truths that a lot of people don't wish to hear.

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