I finally got around to seeing The Blind Side last night, and I came away pleasantly surprised by the film, which offered the most favorable Hollywood portrayal of a rich white southern Christian conservative family that I can recall. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the movie, based on the book by Michael Lewis, tells the true story of a homeless black teenager, Michael Oher, who is taken in by a well-off Memphis family and ends up becoming a successful offensive lineman. (Oher is currently in his rookie year with the Baltimore Ravens.)
The mother who adopts him (played by Sandra Bullock) is the heroine. Unlike with most Hollywood films, the character’s faith and NRA membership aren’t mocked, but used to paint a portrait of a no-nonsense southerner whose Christian values compel her toward charity. Meanwhile, Oher (played by unknown Quinton Aaron, another Cinderella story) ultimately has to work hard to hone his talent and succeed academically. It really is an affirmation of conservative values, told within the conventions of a sentimentalist tug-at-the-heart-strings movie.
It shouldn’t be surprising that a film that celebrates rather than ridicules values that so many Americans hold dear has turned out to be such a success. Though it had a relatively modest $29 million production budget, it has emerged as the first film with a female lead to gross over $200 million. Don’t expect Hollywood producers to connect the dots and realize that there’s a market for films that don’t make fun of the rest of the country.
For more, check out this recent 20/20 episode, which interviewed all the real life members of the family.
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