The Blind Side, based on the true story of Michael Oher, is a competent movie. Its camera movements are steady, and its actors say their lines in human-like ways. It runs out of narrative steam halfway through - and it's definitely not as funny as it thinks it is - but it is not terrible. It is an acceptable movie to watch in the YMCA movie room if you have forgotten your headphones and also if most of your soul has died. Its one great achievement was forcing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, through sheer mediocrity, to change its voting rules so that similarly mediocre movies would never again be nominated for Best Picture. It's also pretty racist.
The Blind Side stars Sandra Bullock as Oher's real-life adoptive mother Leigh Anne Tuohy, who is married to a guy named Sean who owns Taco Bell (played by country singer Tim McGraw). When she sees Michael, a large black man, walking on the side of the road one night, she stops and talks to him instead of rolling up her windows. She and everyone else around her congratulates her for this act for the rest of the movie.
White saviors in film are nothing new, and they've even been parodied by MAD TV. There are also plenty of famous racist movies that have won Oscars. Despite this, The Blind Side sticks out as particularly egregious due to its heavy-handed undertone that black people are destined for lives of crime unless they meet white people.
Racism in The Blind Side manifests itself in ways both subtle (Michael is a Magical Negro) and overt (white characters, and the movie itself, are interminably condescending towards Michael.) Through it all, the film's muted politeness prevents it from ever having to address any of these issues. Its racism, like the film itself, is quiet.
If you'd like to learn more about subtly racist movies or movies with subliminal racism, click here. If you'd like to read about other critically-lauded movies that aren't all they're cracked up to be, here and here you go. If you'd like to learn more about the quiet ways in which The Blind Side is racist, by all means keep reading. There are so many ways.
The White Savior Complex is alive and well in Hollywood. And even though The Blind Side is based on true events, the movie loves its White Saviors as well, with Sandra Bullock selflessly rescuing future offensive lineman Michael Oher from an inevitable life of crime and poverty. No one asked her to do this, and Oher was doing fine on his own, but Bullock's character felt it her sacred duty to allow Oher entry into her magical Land of White Privilege wherein she positions herself as his very own saving grace.
According to Oher in real life, he was already participating in basketball, football and track before the Tuohys came along. He also had middle-class friends who were helping him get into a better school and living situation.
The Blind Side features zero non-poor Black Americans - save for the NCAA employee who investigates Oher (and presumably the sassy lady at the DMV who likely earns a middle-class wage.) Instead, the movie feels the need to draw extreme comparisons between the Tuohys' mannerly haven of Whiteness and Oher's crack-addled, gun-toting extended family. The film's portrayal of Black America is an inner-city Donald Trump fantasy - and even includes a crack addict mother, without which no quietly anti-black film is complete.
The important thing to remember here is that all of the characters who exist in the cityscape but don't have real-life counterparts are carefully crafted, quietly racist caricatures on the part of the filmmaker.
All of the black men near Michael's home are portrayed as violent and thuggish, including one man who confronts Sandra Bullock. This leads to Sandra Bullock threatening to shoot and kill him with the gun she is always packing. No, really. And it should go without saying that, regardless of the real-life origins of the film, these portrayals are implicitly racist ones, stemming from stereotypes of urban blackness.
This is a literal exchange between Bullock's character and a gang member who knows Michael:
Bullock: "No, you hear me, B*TCH! You threaten my son, you threaten me. You so much as cross into downtown, you will be sorry. I'm in a prayer group with the DA, I'm a member of the NRA and I'm always packing."
Bullock: *wins Oscar*
Seriously, though, can you imagine how differently this would've played out had the roles been reversed?