The Blind Side

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Postby Joey » Thu Jan 07, 2010 5:30 pm

Johnny Guitar wrote:What in this "true story" appealed to the development people, marketers, producers, filmmakers? What made them think this would be a good project, a potentially successful one, which would touch people and earn bucks at the box-office? To say, "but it's a true story!" or some variant thereof does not address this still-very-important question, don't you think? For example, the circumstances of white affluence & black passivity/shyness that Italiano criticizes may indeed have been drawn from the actual story of this boy. But he's not saying they're fabricated, only that they're formulaic, and perhaps suspect on sociopolitical grounds (i.e., because they highlight one type of story at the expense of others, for one thing). So while one may point to the "reality" of their origins, the project was singled out and put through committees to become a motion picture. That, combined with "the way it is told," means that we cannot simply point to a referent in real life to justify (or criticize) the film itself ...

This is an excellent analysis of the problems that often arise when those within the dominant culture try to tell the stories of marginalized subjects, and then market them primarily towards a dominant culture audience. Full disclosure: I'm an Hispanic American, and as such, I'm an American who often feels like an American "other" because of dominant culture media portrayals of Hispanics (and years of systemic social conditioning), and I know that other people of color have similar reactions.

This is not to say that the producers of "The Blind Side" are racist or that the (presumably) white people on this board who enjoyed the film are racist. This used to be my initial reaction/judgement, but I've learned that many white people (and it must be said, some people of color who appropriate white privilege as a reaction to their internalized inferiority) are just unaware of how offensive and problematic it is to portray people of color in these ways, probably because they never had to think of themselves in terms of marginalization. Everywhere white Americans look, there are portrayals of white Americans (OK mostly straight men, but still) who are allowed to be individuals first. How nice it must be to have your pick of Disabled Hero who Saves Blue Cat-People, Charming Executive Who Flies All Over the Globe Firing People, Brave Soldier Who Defuses Bomb in Country He Never Should Have Invaded To Begin With and so on and so forth, while Black men got Incest Rape Father and Marginalized Mute! (And it's even worse for my people, we got Surly Soldier Who Dies in Big Plane in a C-Storyline so Disabled Hero Can Continue to Save Blue Cat-People!) I mean really, if I were a white man, I'd be very happy with my representation too, and I'd probably be unable to see the lack of representation for others. I imagine it never occurs to many white people that this is a privilege in America (sadly, not a right) and one that is not afforded to many people of color. But I recognize now that people can have this blind spot without necessarily being racist themselves.

As Italiano correctly points out, the black man is passive in the film and exists to illuminate the agency and goodness of the white people. This is only surprising to me because this kind of dominant culture trope was very popular in pre-Civil Rights fiction and film, and one would like to think we've grown past that. A sobering reminder indeed that nothing has changed even in this Post-Obama world.

And again, I am not accusing those who enjoyed this film and cannot see its socio-political problems, of being racist themselves or insensitive to racism. But I do think it is important for those of us (especially people of color) who do see these problems to point them out, and to not back down from a firm criticism of the film. And to the three posters in this thread who have done just that: thank you for your intelligent analysis and for defending the positions of marginalized subjects. I'm not sure whether any of you are American or what your ethnic backgrounds are, but your comments are appreciated nonetheless.

As for my own assessment? I think "The Blind Side" is terrible and the adulation for Bullock eludes me. It would be the most offensive film this year, were it not for the staggering exercise in modern day minstrelsy that is "Precious." Two films celebrated and heralded as black issue and socially conscious films...by white people.




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Postby ITALIANO » Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:43 pm

Thanks for translating my Italo English, Johnny Guitar. And try to be here more often. I hope now they will understand what I meant.

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Postby Johnny Guitar » Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:33 pm

If I may be permitted to interject a thought that could help bridge the gap between the two sides of this debate (not that I've seen The Blind Side) - it's not only the way a true story is told that is important, but also the fact that from among a plenitude of true stories, this particular kind of true story is chosen by movie producers.

What in this "true story" appealed to the development people, marketers, producers, filmmakers? What made them think this would be a good project, a potentially successful one, which would touch people and earn bucks at the box-office? To say, "but it's a true story!" or some variant thereof does not address this still-very-important question, don't you think? For example, the circumstances of white affluence & black passivity/shyness that Italiano criticizes may indeed have been drawn from the actual story of this boy. But he's not saying they're fabricated, only that they're formulaic, and perhaps suspect on sociopolitical grounds (i.e., because they highlight one type of story at the expense of others, for one thing). So while one may point to the "reality" of their origins, the project was singled out and put through committees to become a motion picture. That, combined with "the way it is told," means that we cannot simply point to a referent in real life to justify (or criticize) the film itself ...

(p.s. I just realized I read too quickly and saw that Italiano did mention this very point ... apologies if I'm repetitive)




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Postby Zahveed » Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:27 pm

Yep, in the Goose Creek/Ladson area a few miles away. I haven't spent too much time in Columbia, but Charleston is starting to get that filmschool crowd now since they started that film festival. I want to submit a screenplay this year for competition, but I don't know which.



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Postby Big Magilla » Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:20 pm

Zahveed wrote:Another thing that annoys me, I don't know about anyone else, is the portrayal of Southeasterners as - yet again - racist, gun toting, fried chicken lovin' folk and only one family could stand above the rest. That's every small town and rural area in this country and I'd argue most parts of the world. This is coming from a resident of South Carolina, supposedly one of the more racist states, which is a load of crock. Don't picture me with a southern accent though. I don't have one. Grew up in the burbs.

You're from somewhere near Charleston aren't you?

I love Charleston which is one of the oldest cities in the country which has done a lot to preserve its long and colorful history. On the other hand I spent a lot of time in Columbia while in the U.S. Army forty-five years ago. I don't know how much it's changed, but back then it had the snootiest locals I'd ever come across before or after. They turned their noses up at anyone who wasn't a Southerner, white, black, Asian or whatever.

After that experience I spent time in Richmond, Virginia which was a wonderful town that made everyone feel welcome. The same goes for Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Jacksonville, Florida and other places in the South I've visited.
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Postby ITALIANO » Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:12 pm

Well, they are closer to your world than to mine.

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Postby flipp525 » Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:11 pm

ITALIANO wrote:No, but I mean, it's more your kind of movie than mine, let's face it, I'm sure that you can recognize some of the characters (and I'm not referring to the black ones, of course), those beautiful big American living rooms, the dresses, etc.

Because I can "recognize the characters and their living rooms", that makes it my kind of movie? Um, okay. That's a great barometer.
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Postby ITALIANO » Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:02 pm

Oscar Guy, now seriously because I'm losing my patience. If you want, open a thread about Italy, but dont go off topic here. We can discuss my country at length; but you MUST be prepared about it, ok? So start studying, watching Italian movies, reading Italian novels, etc, like I did for America (I think I've read more American novels than you did, but of course I might be wrong). Anyway, I dont "love" Italian culture, I don't "worship" Europe, and I'm open to criticism about my country which is far from perfect. But again, what has this to do with The Blind Side and with America?!

About The Blind Side, one last thing because otherwise if you dont understand me it really means that my English is too bad, since it can't be you of course. The story the movie is based on can be even true, or vaguely true, but it's THE WAY IT'S TOLD which matters (and, I'd say, even THE REASON WHY they chose to tell it). One could find all kinds of motivations, some good, some less good, for a rich family to act like the one in the movie, and even the "less good" reasons wouldnt make them less admirable, just less unbearably saintly and more human; and in the course of the movie they COULD make some mistakes, just once in a while, to be a bit more believable. Or do you think that just because it's "based on a true story" the movie has to be trusted like the Bible?!

There's a moment in the movie which made me think though, and (since you are personal in your attacks for once I will be too) made me understand more where you come from. The boy must go to university, and needs a good grade to qualify for a scholarship. Still, he has problems. But then, with the obvious help from his stepfather (in this movie, he's helped in every step by someone white), he writes an essay about, I seem to remember, courage, which gets an A and allows him to qualify. The essay is heard in voice over, while the teacher admiringly reads it.

It's supposed to be, by American standards, a profound piece of writing by a teenager. In Italy, Oscar Guy, that same essay wouldnt be accepted from a 8 year old in any normal school. I used to write essays about Greek Philosophy when I was in the Italian equivalent of high school.

So now you know what is MY culture. And I dont have any problems comparing it with yours, with Big Magilla as a referee even (I'm sure he will be objective). But not in this thread. You chose when and where, but I won't be kind.




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Postby OscarGuy » Thu Jan 07, 2010 1:13 pm

So, because Michael's adoptive family was rich, they shouldn't be portrayed that way? So, let's re-write the entire story and fictionalize everything, make it about a poor black family who takes in an outgoing, overzealous white rich kid...

When it's based on real life, you don't just change everything because it gives "the wrong impression". But, that's a problem with the script, which was based on real life. It's a vicious circle...you won't ever be pleased, so you might as well drop it and go back to worshiping Europe and your beloved Italian culture forced down your throats by the Roman Catholic Church who has more control over the Italian government than the people of that country do. Because America is the only country in the world that has social/government problems and idiots for residents.
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Postby ITALIANO » Thu Jan 07, 2010 12:46 pm

No, but I mean, it's more your kind of movie than mine, let's face it, I'm sure that you can recognize some of the characters (and I'm not referring to the black ones, of course), those beautiful big American living rooms, the dresses, etc.

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Postby flipp525 » Thu Jan 07, 2010 12:39 pm

ITALIANO wrote:I'm sure that this must be flipp's favorite movie of the year even.

Wait, how did I get dragged into this? It's definitely not my favorite movie of the year, but I certainly loved that homage to Joe Theisman opening, a hometown hero for many years.
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Postby Zahveed » Thu Jan 07, 2010 12:02 pm

There is no realistic character in that whole movie. That's why it gets the Made-for-TV Movie seal of approval. To be that passive in real life would suggest he was not only shy, but scared and uncomfortable that some random rich white lady took him into a family he doesn't know and makes him play football. He would have became more accepting and outgoing after while, but we never see that in the course of the film. I would have been just as suspicious as the investigator.

Another thing that annoys me, I don't know about anyone else, is the portrayal of Southeasterners as - yet again - racist, gun toting, fried chicken lovin' folk and only one family could stand above the rest. That's every small town and rural area in this country and I'd argue most parts of the world. This is coming from a resident of South Carolina, supposedly one of the more racist states, which is a load of crock. Don't picture me with a southern accent though. I don't have one. Grew up in the burbs.
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Postby ITALIANO » Thu Jan 07, 2010 11:43 am

But there IS a difference between being SHY and being INERT, PASSIVE not only as a character but from a narrative point of view (all the decisions are conveniently made by the white rich)... I'm starting to cry, I am a man of a certain age now, and these two are too strong for me!!!

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Postby OscarGuy » Thu Jan 07, 2010 11:37 am

Actually, I did find them realistic. When I was in high school, a 95% white high school mind you, I rarely had more than 1 black student in any of my classes, yet every single one of them was shy and reserved. I also know plenty of white kids like that. What you're saying is you wanted them to change life so he was more aggressive and irritating? So, you want him to be portrayed in the typical stereotype of black gang members in the projects who resent and thwart authority at every turn? Is that what you really wanted out of this? I think this portrayal was rather unique in many regards. I don't see very many such black protagonists.

Of course, you don't like the film, so you're projecting ulterior motives on the director for having portrayed Michael as reserved, shy, withdrawn? Maybe he wanted to show this character as the recipient of childhood abuse or rejection so much and so often that he has withdrawn from society, preferring to keep to himself and stay out of trouble. Sounds quite a bit like me when I was in High School.

Matter of fact, the more I think about it, the more it sounds like me. I wasn't abused, but I grew up poor and never had nice of fancy clothes, was always looked down upon because I wasn't a joiner and I didn't participate in activities. I was exceedingly shy and still am today. And, at times, I was even rather withdrawn, especially in social situations. I made few friends and spent a lot of time at home away from the world. While I was not entirely the same as Michael, I was performing well scholastically, I think Michael represents an ill-represented minority in motion pictures.

Most high school films I've ever seen tend to ignore the loners, the quiet ones just because they don't make for great entertainment. Breakfast Club was one of the few I can remember doing so and even that film made the characters converse more than they naturally would.

For me, I think the best conveyance of shyness in high school is Heather Matarazzo in Welcome to the Dollhouse. It is a rare take on that personality. So, I guess I'm more likely to identify with someone who was like me as a kid and I'm guessing you weren't like that at all, so probably is hard for you to relate to it and accept it.
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Postby ITALIANO » Thu Jan 07, 2010 11:37 am

I read it now. Well, of course I'm speechless. But it proves that I'm right, in many ways (including about the fact that luckily not all Americans are alike).


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