The Blindside: Manipulating History for the Sake of the Story

The Blind SideNot enough time to do a vacation post today, so you’re stuck with a movie review of The Blindside. You’ve probably already heard of it. Heck, you’ve likely already seen it. I’m more than a little late to the party on this one. It won Sandra Bullock the Oscar for best actress, and it was nominated for best picture, even. (A prime example of why there shouldn’t be a requirement for 10 best picture nominees.) It was a good, feel-good movie. That’s what it was designed to be. It’s got the requisite “based on a true story” element going for it, to make people feel like there really are good, selfless acts in the world. The plot? A rich white woman takes a poor, mentally challenged African American under her wing and gives him the foundation he needs to become a fantastic football player. If that sounds more than a little racist, you’re right. But the movie means well, and it tries to justify its “white people can save minorities from themselves” undertones with some half-hearted attempts scattered throughout the movie.]

But I’m feeling generous, and the movie was technically based on a true story, so I’ll ignore the racism card for this review. And really, the movie isn’t about race. It’s about privilege. The characters could both be white, and it would still work as a story. (Of course, if they’d whitewashed the thing, that would have been even worse–hence the “get out of racism free” card I’m issuing for the moment.)

It’s a good movie. Three stars, and if you want a feel-good sports movie (and decide Hoosiers, Rudy, Remember the Titans, Rocky, We are Marshall, The Rookie, Miracle, League of Their Own, Chariots of Fire, and Field of Dreams aren’t meeting that need), you’ll enjoy yourself.

But one quibble. (Okay, so there have been a lot of quibbles–but I liked the movie. Honest.) The movie portrays the main character as being totally clueless about football, and it’s up to the other characters to explain it to him in terms he can understand. One thing, though. It’s based on a true story, remember? And in that true story, the main character knows all about playing football and is already very good at it before all the white people in the area show him how its done. (See how that racism card just keeps popping up, no matter how I try to avoid it?) This causes more problems with the plot, but I can’t get into those, since they delve into spoiler territory.

In the end, I understand why they did it. There are a lot of ways they manipulate the “truth” in this movie, and it all does make for a better story. All “historical” movies do this to one extent or another. It’s just when they do it so blatantly–and in the process make the main character the story is based on seem like a total idiot–that I get uncomfortable.

It was a good movie. Best Picture worthy? Don’t make me laugh.

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