SIMPLE GOODNESS IS OFTEN
AN AFFRONT TO IDEOLOGUES
My daughter and her husband — being of the wired, high-tech generation — have taken to downloading movies, documentaries, and TV series from Netflix.
This technical advance benefits my wife and myself. We long ago dropped cable TV; and slow web speed in our rural community makes video streaming agony.
Thus, the kids gain shelf space, and the DVD collection at our house expands.
The latest batch of disks, acquired during our Christmas visit, includes a film titled, “The Blind Side.” It tells the story of an under-achieving but athletically gifted black teenager who is saved from a dead-end life in the Memphis, Tennessee “projects” through the combined efforts of a local Christian academy’s white coach (who knows football bulk when he sees it) and a rich white couple who welcome the youth into their home, eventually adopting him.
The 2009 film, which we had never seen before, was inspired by the real-life experience of Michael Oher, offensive tackle for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. Oher is portrayed by actor Quinton Aaron.
Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy, the tough-as-nails/heart-of-gold mother who perceives the intelligence, talent and spirit which Oher’s intimidating physical presence and introverted nature conceal from most people. Her part veers close to a “Steel Magnolias” cliché of the strong-willed, all-knowing, “momma grizzly” Southern woman. It’s kept on track by Bullock’s engaging screen presence. She’s good at portraying confident, personable women.
The movie was a box office success and received a Best Picture nomination. A little poking around on the web reveals that it also stirred controversy.
It was explicit on the point that Oher’s positive life change came about because certain people — certain Southern white people — believed in his potential and reached out to him with acts of charity motivated by Christian faith.
Southern? White? Christian?
Now, there’s a trinity of politically incorrect identities.
Typical of negative reactions was this from film reviewer Melissa Anderson, who wrote in the Dallas Observer…
“…Michael ‘Big Mike’ Oher is mute, docile and ever-grateful to the white folks who took him in….
“…the movie peddles the most insidious kind of racism, one in which whiteys are virtuous saviors, coming to the rescue of blacks who become superfluous in narratives that are supposed to be about them.”
I doubt Michael Oher would consider his character superfluous to this picture, or the acts of his adoptive family as racist. But then, such altruism on the part of Southern white Christians just has to be insidious. No doubt to cover other, more questionable, motives.
The film itself explores this possibility. Scouted by college football recruiters, Oher accepts an offer from the University of Mississippi, alma mater of his adoptive parents. An NCAA investigator presses him about whether the Tuohys, who are “Old Miss” football boosters, have undertaken their good works merely to snag him to play for the Rebels.
This creates a crisis of trust in Oher and a self-questioning of motives in Leigh Anne Tuohy. Naturally, all is resolved before the film’s uplifting conclusion. Not that a happy ending offers any comfort to reviewer Melissa Anderson, who complained…
“The filmmakers would like to lull you to sleep with this milk of amnesia, hiding behind the fact that this bewilderingly condescending movie is based on an actual person — but one who you end up knowing almost nothing about.”
Well gee wiz, Melissa, we know that he’s real. We know that these things actually did happen — schmaltzed up a bit for entertainment value, I assume, but the core of the story is true.
Which surely must have been painful to Anderson, and made things all the worse for Jeffrey Montez de Oca of the University of Colorado, who wrote in the journal, Sociology of Sport, that the film was an object lesson in how…
“…charity operates as a signifying act of whiteness that obscures the social relations of domination that not only make charity possible but also creates an urban underclass in need of charity.”
Cutting through the sociological gobbledygook, I take this to mean something like…
White people oppress black people, then take wrongful pride in helping them.
And here, I think, this CU sociologist was getting to the heart of what’s really bothersome about the picture.
The problem isn’t so much all that racialist clap-trap. Yes, race is a touchy subject, and I can well understand the desire to see a poor black kid overcome his difficulties without the aid of whites — without the aid of anybody, for that matter. Ideas like bootstrap self-improvement and rugged individualism are admired by some people within all groups.
But I also know that people can, and do, reach out to help others, to form strong relationships, across racial lines. Sometimes they succeed, with life-changing results, as in Michael Oher’s case.
No, the primary problem with this movie isn’t race. The primary problem is charity.
What did Montez de Oca say? That charity “obscures the social relations of domination.”
In other words, giving to the poor is profoundly non-egalitarian. This is the ideological madness of our time, a leftist delusion that turns morality on its head.
Generosity toward others is seen in some quarters as inherently evil.
Why? Because if you can afford to be generous, it means you’ve got more than others have, and that’s unfair.
Performing charitable acts out of religious faith is an even greater evil.
Why? Because you are responding to a personal claim upon your heart — and worse, attributing this inner impulse to a call from God — rather than demanding that government take action through higher taxes and new social programs.
There are reasons to criticize “The Blind Side.” It’s pat. It’s a little corny. There are “heart warming” elements cribbed right from the Frank Capra, it’s-a-wonderful-life playbook. But we’re not talkin’ motion picture aesthetics here.
People who find this film truly offensive have been blindsided by a simple, truthful tale of human compassion.
Their outlook is what you call moral blindness.
After “The Blind Side” gained its Academy Award nomination and Sandra Bullock took home her Oscar, Josh Levin, executive editor of Slate, explored the situation of black athletes being taken in by white families. He found it was surprisingly common…
“Once you start looking for these stories, you find them all over the country, at all levels of the sports world …. a 2009 Sports Illustrated story identified Keith Bulluck, Marcus Dixon, and Jeremy Maclin as three more NFL “players who owe their pro careers in part to white families who provide them havens from adverse circumstances.”
But, hey, just so you don’t miss out on your daily quotient of Lefty narrow-mindedness, here’s a link to Mellissa Anderson’s movie review…
Lordy! She must find white people annoying.