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Literature / The Blind Side

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The Blind Side is the 2009 film adaptation of a 2006 book of the same name by Michael Lewis, loosely based on the true story of American football player Michael Oher's life.

Michael was born in the housing projects of Hurt Village to a crack mom and a father who left a week after he was born. By the time he's of high school age, he's homeless. He is on the verge of failing out of school, and is dismissed by teachers and shunned by other students as a Scary Black Man, despite actually being a Gentle Giant.

Fortunately, the religious, wealthy Tuohys, consisting of mother Leigh Anne, father Sean, teenage girl Collins, and little boy SJ, recognize Michael's plight and open their home to him, eventually adopting him. With their help, Michael becomes a star football player, leading the Miracle Rally against the cheating and unnecessarily rough Opposing Sports Team. Colleges come knocking on the door with athletic scholarship offers.

However, an NCAA investigation raises doubts in Michael that the Tuohys have his best interest at heart, and it's only after Michael confronts his Dark and Troubled Past can he finally learn to truly trust his new family.

Among the film's award wins, Sandra Bullock won her first Academy Award for Best Actress — notably in the very same year that she won a Worst Actress Razzie for All About Steve.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Michael's biological mother Denise neglected him because of her cocaine addiction.
  • Accidental Athlete: Michael excels as a linesman only when he learns to tap his "protective instinct." After Leigh Anne Tuohy discovers his 98th percentile score on the 'protective instincts' category of an aptitude test, she helps him exploit his custodial nature on the gridiron. He imagines his team as his family.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Averted, it is a point of comparison since the film ends with still images of the real people who the story is based on. Each actor has a reasonable resemblance to the person they portray. Though Tim McGraw is probably better looking than Sean Tuohy. Tuohy himself admitted that McGraw was better looking than him.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: The film (along with, to a lesser extent, the book) portrays Michael as a Dumb Jock who can't succeed on his own merits even while applying himself, both on and off the field. To his credit, the real Michael took issue with this, and wrote a memoir to set the record straight.
  • Adaptational Personality Change: SJ is portrayed as sort of a young entrepreneur kid, makes sense since his dad owns a number of fast food chains. In real life, SJ wasn't quite like that. He knew when not to interfere and was much more laid-back.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Michael is portrayed in this film as a guy who doesn't really know how football completely works yet. In real life, Michael Oher already knew the rules of football and was already quite good at it by the time he was adopted by the Tuohy family.
  • Adult Adoptee: Michael is already 18 by the time the Tuohy's formally adopted him.
  • As Himself:
    • NCAA Division I college football coaches Philip Fulmer, Lou Holtz, Houston Nutt, Ed Orgeron, Pepper Rodgers, Nick Saban, and Tommy Tuberville (who later became a US Senator), plus college football recruiting guru and talent scout Tom Lemming.
    • Melody Weintraub played the history teacher that taught Michael. Thing is, Melody Weintraub was an actual teacher at Briarcrest Christian High School, the school where the events took place.
  • Based on a True Story: Somewhat loosely, but not Very.
  • Berserk Button: Usually, Michael is the Gentle Giant. But when an armed drug dealer makes sexual comments about Leigh Anne and Collins, an unarmed Michael hulks out and lays out the smackdown.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • The coach has to find some way to make Michael aggressive enough to perform his position as left tackle. Even once he manages to become a brick wall, he still tries to inflict as little pain on the field as he can. Let's just say it is not a pretty sight to see Michael actually get angry.
    • Michael is a gentle sweetheart but he has had his moment in the third act.
  • Big Brother Instinct: With only a split second to act, Michael instinctively saved SJ from being seriously injured or killed during their car accident.
  • Big Fancy House: The Tuohys live in one, allowing them to give Michael a previously unimaginable level of comfort and privacy.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Michael and SJ make such a pair, with Little Guy SJ being far more energetic than his Big Guy counterpart.
  • Big Eater: Micheal Oher. Could be justified due to his size and Athleticism. In one scene that takes place at the school, Micheal's lunch tray has two of every food item.
  • Book Dumb: Michael is portrayed at failing in school not because he is stupid but rather because of the testing methodology. He is actually highly competent and intelligent, but struggles with written tests and the traditional teaching format.
  • Bullying a Dragon: When the drug dealer threatened to shoot Michael and then cross town and do the same to Leigh Anne (and her sweet lil dog). Never mind that fact that Michael is at least a foot taller and wider than he is.
  • The Cameo: Several Southeastern Conference coaches played themselves in various, mostly minor parts of the film. Tommy Tuberville at Auburn, Nick Saban at LSU, Lou Holtz at South Carolina, Houston Nutt at Arkansas, Phil Fulmer at Tennessee, and Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss. Of course, the Ole Miss coach does have a slightly larger role than the others. And everyone in the list had moved on to another job by the time the film was released—notably, Nutt succeeded Orgeron at Ole Miss and was Oher's head coach his senior year.
  • Career-Ending Injury: The movie begins with an explanation of why the left tackle has become such an important role in football: Because Lawrence Taylor ended Joe Theismann's career by snapping his leg with an unlucky tackle, an event that led to football scouts highly valuing the position that protects their most important player (the quarterback) from suffering another career-ending injury.
  • Character Exaggeration: Apparently the actual problems Michael Oher was helped through simply weren't enough for Hollywood. The movie's portrayal of Michael needing to learn American football was pretty much Blatant Lies. Oher himself was notably upset over this particular piece of "artistic license". As for needing to toughen up, that was also untrue. In fact the very notion of putting aggression into someone is dismissed by Oher.
    Michael Oher: "I’ve always had that fire and passion in me on the field. You can’t put aggression into a person. It’s impossible. Either you have that toughness and aggression or you don’t."
    • Michael's size was exaggerated as well, the actor is actually four inches taller than the real Michael.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: A defensive lineman on the Opposing Sports Team deliberately kicks Michael when he's down and after the play has already ended, and the racist referee not only ignores the kick, but penalizes the Wingate Crusaders when Coach Cotton complains. This triggers Coach Cotton's Papa Wolf moment, which motivates Michael to lead the Miracle Rally.
  • Credits Montage: Of the real-life Tuohys and Michael. Collins joins Michael at Ole Miss and becomes a cheerleader like her mom; Michael is the first-round NFL draft pick. Other photos show Michael playing basketball and the only known photo of him as a child.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Michael's history with his upbringing, which he refuses to talk about with anyone.
  • Deep South: There are several racist rednecks in the film. On the other hand, the Tuohys are representative of Sweet Home Alabama.
  • Disappeared Dad: Michael's biological father is completely absent.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Except it's not lunch, but study hall: Michael always sits alone, until Collins leaves her study table to sit with him instead.
  • Fat and Skinny: Michael and SJ, with numerous scenes commenting on their vast size difference.
  • Fish out of Water: Michael, when he first arrives at his new private religious school, and when the Tuohys first invite him into their home.
  • Flashback Nightmare: Michael occasionally has the awake version of these, when thinking about his Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Foil: Big, shy Michael and tiny attention magnet SJ; aggressive Leigh Anne and laid-back Sean; the fortunate Michael and way too many doomed inner-city kids.
  • Freudian Threat: Leigh Anne: "If you impregnate a girl out of wedlock I will personally crawl into my car, come up here, and cut off your penis."
  • Gentle Giant: Michael, which causes some problems for getting him in the mindset to play football.
  • Girls with Guns: Leigh Anne is a member of the NRA and claims to be always packing.
  • GIS Syndrome: Leigh Anne uses Google to find a picture of a young boy that looks enough like Michael.
  • Happily Adopted: The Tuohys adopt Michael and he's very happy with them, even with the expected prejudice and problems.
  • Happily Married: Leigh Anne and Sean are parents of two (and soon three) and said to still be romantically interested in each other and rarely at odds.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Miss Sue tutoring Michael in academics. (This film also has a Training Montage, as described above.)
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Michael, Michael, Michael. A very... humongous example and a bit older than others, but capable of making the hardest heart to melt with his attitude...
  • Holding Hands: The Tuohy children offer their hands to Michael when saying Grace at Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Huddle Shot: Right before Michael begins leading the Wingate Crusaders' Miracle Rally against the Lions.
  • In-Series Nickname: "Big Mike" for Michael.
  • Instant Expert: Mike hadn't played league football before that season. He falls under the natural athlete category.
    • Mike also took part in a few other sports during school, but couldn't make it to practices because of the time he spent either practicing football or studying. Didn't stop him from excelling at most of these sports, either.
  • Interracial Adoption Struggles: Gentle Giant Black teen Michael is adopted by the white, wealthy and religious Tuohy family. In the beginning, Michael and others have doubts about the family's interest in him, thinking they are exploiting him for his football abilities. Other rich white people in the family's circle are also critical of the adoption, seeing him as a threat to the teenage Tuohy daughter he's going to live with. A Black drug dealer (team mate in the book the film is based on) accuses Michael of selling out "to white people" and makes sexual comments about the Tuohy women, implying they're not his real family.
  • It's All My Fault: Michael feels this way after he is involved in a car accident which injures SJ. It was partially his fault for not paying enough attention while driving and letting SJ ride in the front seat, but on the other hand, Michael also saves SJ from suffering more serious injuries or being killed during the accident.
  • Jerkass: The guy in the first game, who keeps taunting him. Guess what happens to him...
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Leigh Ann is a real Mama Bear, both intimidating and even fearful by her family is really loving.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Michael is usually a Gentle Giant, but a drug dealer hits Michael's Berserk Button by making sexual comments about Collins, and Michael flies into an Unstoppable Rage.
  • Lighter and Fluffier: The actor who plays Michael has a considerably gentler face then the real-life Michael.
  • Magical Negro: "Honey, you're changing that boy's life!" Leigh Anne's friend tells her about Michael. Leigh Anne's response: "No. He's changing mine."
  • Mama Bear: "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 D.A., I'm a member of the NRA, and I'm always packin'." Genius Bonus when the thug says "what is it, a Saturday night special" and Leigh Ann replays "and it works just fine every other day of the week" she means she packs a .44 Special...which is about double the power of the usual .38 saturday night special.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Michael has at least a dozen biological siblings. The case worker notes that his mother probably doesn't even know how many she really has due to drug addiction.
  • Mighty Whitey: Thank goodness there was a rich, righteous white lady around to teach the ignorant black man how to play football. Unlike many films, though, this is called out in-universe and makes the Tuohys the object of suspicion.
  • Miracle Rally: Michael leads one in the Crusaders-Lions game, which gets him attention from scouts..
  • Obnoxious Entitled Housewife: The group of rich, white women that Leigh Anne lunched with. They are well-dressed Southern Belle Republicans like she, but where Leigh Anne is open-minded and warm-hearted, the ladies look down their nose at poorer people "for not working hard enough" and question Leigh Anne if it's wise to let Michael, a large black teen boy, live in the same house as her white teen daughter. Leigh Anne promptly tells them off and stops hanging out with them.
  • Once More, with Clarity: The opening interview is revisited again near the end of the film.
  • One Head Taller: Oh, guess. An Exaggerated Trope, Michael in the movie is actually closer to a full head and shoulders taller than everyone else.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Michael, at first anyway. After he reveals to Leigh Anne that he doesn't like to be called "Big Mike", she thereafter always calls him "Michael" instead.
    • Sean Jr. is usually called SJ. The coach from the Tuohys' hated Tennessee makes a good pitch until he calls him CJ.
  • Opposing Sports Team: The visiting Lions; their defensive lineman deliberately kicks Michael when he's down and after the play has already ended.
  • Oscar Bait: Became this, though the film's producers hadn't dared initially to think that high. Indeed, it was quite a surprise that the film became the hit it became.
  • Papa Wolf: Coach Cotton has such a moment after the Opposing Sports Team deliberately kicks Michael when he's down and after the play has already ended, and the racist referee not only ignores the kick, but penalizes the Wingate Crusaders.
  • Parental Abandonment: Michael's biological father is completely absent from his life and the film.
  • Parents in Distress: Towards the end, when a gangster threatens to hurt Leigh Anne showing Michael his gun, Michael gets worked up and throws him across the room.
  • Pitbull Dates Puppy: Leigh Anne and Sean's relationship, a pretty healthy example of this, actually.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • Michael's encounter with a drug dealer at a party in his old neighborhood is an approximation of an actual incident Michael had when at college where a black classmate harassed him for "selling out" to a white family and made sexual remarks regarding Collins, and Michael went berserk. The fictionalized story ends as Michael goes to college, so the event was transcribed to a time before graduating from high school.
    • The book the movie is adapted from is part Michael Oher biography and part grand study of the evolution of football, especially the left tackle position. (The full title of the book is The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.) No one much thinks of the latter when thinking of the book, and Oher's story is certainly substantially more interesting and filmable than a history lesson on offensive linemen.
  • Rags to Riches: Michael: from the projects to the wealthy household of the Tuohys to a multi-million-dollar NFL contract.
  • Real-Person Cameo: Not Michael himself, but Michael's high school coach, Hugh Freeze, has a role as an unnamed assistant coach watching film with Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt. This scene would become Hilarious in Hindsight/Harsher in Hindsight when Freeze was forced to resign from the head coach position at Ole Miss due to a scandal unearthed by a lawyer representing Nutt, his predecessor, who was in the process of suing the university for trying to blame him for their issues. Which was exactly how Nutt lost his job at Arkansas, which led him to becoming Ole Miss's head coach in the first place.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: The movie adaptation ends with a scene featuring the real Michael Oher and his adoptive family.
  • Rich Bitch: Leigh Anne's snobbish salad luncheon friends, who make extremely patronizing comments about Michael.
  • Saintly Church: Christian charity is part of what motivates the Tuohys to help Michael.
  • Scary Black Man: But despite his intimidating size, Michael is actually a Gentle Giant.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Blind Side was released in theaters on the same week as New Moon, the sequel to Twilight. Collins is watching Twilight on television when Leigh Anne brings Michael to the Tuohys' home for the first time. (Which is actually an anachronism, because most of the key events of the original book take place between 2003 and 2005, considerably before Twilight became a phenomenon.)
    • The very beginning of the movie starts with video of a 1985 Monday Night Football game which Lawrence Taylor breaks Joe Theismann's leg to illustrate the point of the importance of the left tackle in protecting the quarterback's, well...blind side. The book started with a detailed description of said play.
  • Shown Their Work: As many Mississippians can tell you, the filmmakers nailed their portrayal of life in the New South. They also nailed private school moms.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Collins is depicted as extremely kind despite her wealthy background.
  • Sweet Home Alabama: Well, it's actually Tennessee, but still. The film also has elements of Deep South.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: A gangbanger uses this against Leigh Anne. She throws it right back at him.
  • Title Drop: Implied a few times, but not expressly said. The title refers to the reduced field of vision over the (right-handed) QB's shoulder as they are preparing to throw, where they put the biggest, strongest and fastest guy they can as left tackle to protect his blind spot.
  • Training Montage: SJ training Michael for football. (This film also has a Hard-Work Montage, as described below.)
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Michael has this; Sean mentions halfway through the movie about how "Michael's gift is his ability to forget" his Dark and Troubled Past, and near the end, Michael explains how he would "close his eyes" when bad things happened.
  • Tsundere: Leigh Anne. When Michael goes to Ole Miss she warns him that "if he gets a girl pregnant [she'll] hunt him down and cut off his penis", then hides in the car so no one will see her crying.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: The defensive lineman of the Lions deliberately kicks Michael when he's down and after the play has already ended, and the racist referee not only ignores the kick, but penalizes the Wingate Crusaders after Coach Cotton complains.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Michael hulks out when a drug dealer makes sexual comments about Leigh Anne and Collins.
  • Untranslated Title: In Dutch, European French (but not Canadian), Italian, Norwegian, and Swedish, to name a few.
  • Urban Segregation: Contrast the wealthy suburban community of the Tuohys and Wingate with the housing projects of Hurt Village.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: The NCAA investigator is only doing her job. And for that matter, she's kind of right about how the Tuohys manipulate Michael into going to Ole Miss.
  • The Voiceless: Michael, due to his Dark and Troubled Past, when he first arrives at his new private religious school. He eventually opens up and starts talking after the Tuohys begin helping him.
  • Where da White Women At?: A drug dealer makes sexual comments suggesting he thinks this way about Leigh Anne and Collins, setting off Michael's Berserk Button. Also, Leigh Anne's snobbish salad luncheon friends warn Leigh Anne of this.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Of the real-life Tuohys and Michael. Collins joins Michael at Ole Miss and becomes a cheerleader like her mom; Michael is the first-round NFL draft pick. Other photos show Michael playing basketball and the only known photo of him as a child.
  • White Man's Burden:
    • Michael is portrayed as someone incapable of thinking for himself and whose only hope is being saved by the nice white family, and the whole narrative of the movie is told from the heroic white family's point of view. To make Leigh Anne and co look even more saviour-like, the film even ignores real-life facts, such as that Michael Oher already knew how to play football before he met the Tuhoys. While this element of the film was critiqued even at the time, it has only become more difficult to ignore after Oher later alleged that the Tuohys deceived him into signing into a conservatorship instead of actually adopting him.
    • The NCAA inspector accuses the Tuohys and other wealthy alumni of this when she implies they picked him in order to "groom" him into an Ole Miss football player, which greatly disturbs Leigh Anne.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: The housing projects of Hurt Village, where Michael is from.

Tropes found in the book include:

  • Berserk Button: In the book the disparaging words against Leigh Anne and Collins (which Michael refuses to ever repeat) were said by an Ole Miss teammate. After finding a shirt he wasn't afraid to get blood on, he chased the guy all over school and finally attacked him in a classroom filled with people — which unfortunately also contained the coach's three-year-old son (he's wasn't injured too much, but the coach had just lost his other son and was understandably upset. This is "referenced" in the movie where Michael's distracted driving nearly kills SJ and when he knocks over a crib with a baby in it at his mother's place).
  • The Big Guy: Michael. Literally everyone who sees him can't help but comment on his size (when he and Sean are at a college football game, Sean notices that the players — all future NFL stars — are smaller then Michael), and then they see how fast he is. When Leigh Anne tries to find new clothes for him, she searches every Big & Tall store within driving distance, including ones in the worst part of Memphis (to Michael's horror). She eventually gave his sizes to an ex-NFL friend hoping he might have some spare clothes that would fit him, and he can't help either (naturally, he's dumbfounded by Michael's ridiculous measurements).
    • Also Michael's friend, a coach nicknamed Big Tony. Michael hates being called "Big Mike", but when you're bigger at age 14 then a full-grown man named Big Tony what do you expect?
  • Book Dumb: Michael, although he has an amazing memory. When he's classified as Learning Disabled it actually helps him get into college.
  • Boring, but Practical: The Left Tackle position. Left tackles are almost invisible during a football game, but they're so important that they're one of the highest-paid players on the field.
  • Cool Car: Too cool: When Sean shows up at his first football practice, he immediately notices that he's the only one in a BMW ("I need to get a pickup truck").
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Oh boy, Michael. He's so reluctant to reveal anything about himself and will say whatever it takes to make to conversation go away that Leigh Anne worries he might be gay. Speaking of which...
  • Depraved Homosexual: While none actually show up, the story does mainly take place in a conservative Christian private school in The Deep South (a graduation speech warns against homosexuality). At Ole Miss the football team is freaked out by the sight of "an actual tranny!".
  • Dissonant Serenity: Before attacking a classmate for making sexual remarks about his mother and sister, Michael goes to find a shirt he isn't afraid to get blood on.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: "Big Mike" for Michael - he wanted to be a basketball player, and basketball players aren't supposed to be quite that big.
  • Enfante Terrible: Sean Jr, in a good way: he uses his closeness to Michael to see what he can get from the various college coaches. He later points out that his, Michael, and Collins' futures are basically secure so they wouldn't need their inheritances, planting a seed in Leigh Anne to do more.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The book points out that one of the reasons Michael didn't fall into gang life or be injured in the horrible Hurt Village projects is that the Gangster Disciples that ran it made a point to keep kids out of the game.
  • Genki Girl: Leigh Anne.
    Sean: You have to understand, my wife's heart's the size of a pea. If you cross her, she'll stomp on your throat and take you out and she won't feel a thing.
  • Gentle Giant: The Tuohys resented the inference that their daughter was in danger from Michael.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: Michael's mom, who's extremely neglectful (though not abusive, as far as what's shown of her) to all thirteen of her children (their dads are not in the picture). As the author put it (and I can't quite remember how), "it's as if she was an experiment to see how absent a parent could be yet still retain the love of her children."
  • Lightning Bruiser: Michael's love of basketball helped him gain amazing speed despite his large size.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Michael, at first, with a grand total of one shirt. To Leigh Anne's confusion and annoyance, he's extremely picky about his clothes, especially his shoes, mainly due to the fact he does not want to be seen as The Big Guy.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After Michael attacks his teammate and fears he may have injured his coach's kid, not to mention destroying his football career. It takes Sean and the other coach to coax him out of hiding.
  • Non-Answer: During the recruiting frenzy, Michael asks LSU's coach Nick Saban whether the rumors are true that he's thinking of leaving LSU to become an NFL coach. Saban, who'd spent the entirety of the recruiting visit charming the family, smiles and says "I've been offered several NFL jobs since I've started coaching at LSU and I haven't said 'yes' to one yet." It's not until after he leaves that the family realizes that Saban didn't actually answer the question. A few weeks later, Saban would be hired as the head coach of the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
  • Picture Day: Michael is positively mystified when someone, possibly his bio-mom, finds a photo of him as a child; given Michael's very poor upbringing the fact that it even exists is a miracle.
  • Pom-Pom Girl: Features of both the sport Oher wants to excel at (Basketball) and the one he makes it in. Collins is herself is on a cheer squad.
  • The Quiet One: Michael, at first. His past is eventually revealed (to the author: "Are you the guy who keeps calling about me?") Presumably, the past couple years were probably excruciating ones for an intensely private person like Michael, but it also led him to write his own book about his experiences; The Tuohys have also written their own book.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Zig-zagged. While under investigation by the NCAA, Sean Tuohy points out that Michael couldn't have been bought by the other colleges because they're already very wealthy (Sean and Leigh Anne's absolute loyalty to Ole Miss notwithstanding). Later, when Leigh Anne wants to build a foundation ("I want an actual building!") to help other inner-city kids like Michael, Sean fears that it might put a drain on their finances.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The other half of the book is about the development of Michael Oher's future position.
  • The Unintelligible: The University of Mississippi's Coach O. The only person who can understand him is fellow Louisianan Sean.
    Coach O: Dajus da crap dey wrote bout me last sittee days! (That's just the crap they wrote about me the last sixty days!) trying to cheer Michael up after he almost killed his football career by attacking his teammate and was terrified of being expelled is one of the more intelligible of his lines.
    Coach O: WOOOOYUUSAHBIGBOIDERE! (Wooo, you're a big boy there!), after meeting Michael for the first time.
  • Walk Into Camera Obstruction: Near the beginning where Michael is walking and quick flashbacks of his family were shown. Then the scene cuts to him in a conference room with an NCAA investigator.

Alternative Title(s): Blind Side