Depiction of Power Figures in the Film "The Blind Side"

A viewing of John Lee Hancock’s The Blind Side reveals that while Michael Oher may originally appear to be the individual that has the most control over his own life and decisions, the authorities and powers within the film are actually both his adoptive mother Leigh Anne Tuohy and the general power of college football programs; viewing these figures as more powerful than Oher can impact the ways that audience interpret the film and perceive these authority figures.

One of the first authority figures in the film that audiences begun to sense has developed power is that of Michael Oher’s eventual adoptive mother Leigh Anne Tuohy. Leigh Anne can be seen as an individual that gains her power from her race, her position in society (especially that in comparison to Oher), and even from the influence that she has over Oher, his education, and his hobbies. For example, within both the film and in the reality behind Hancock’s production, Leigh Anne is a white woman in Texas, a southern state. Within these southern states in the United States, minority races are often still considered to be unequal to those of the majority white race, and are often discriminated against because of those opinions and prejudices. In considering this element, then, it can be seen that Leigh Anne is inherently more powerful than Oher due to something as innate as race. In other words, because Oher is a young black male, he does not hold as much power or authority either within society, or even in the relationship between Leigh Anne and Oher. Similarly, Leigh Anne is also the individual that has more power than Oher when her place and status within society is taken in consideration. For example, Leigh Anne is a member of a family who have both status and wealth. More specifically, the Tuohy family is described and visualized as being wealthy, which is depicted not just through their clothing, their mannerisms, or their attitudes, but through their expansive home and their willingness to share it with those who are in need of additional care that they cannot afford (Hancock). Thus, these aspects of the film show the ways in which the Tuohy family is somewhat wealthy. Furthermore, Leigh Anne’s husband Sean is a well-known former college basketball star (Hancock). This aspect of the family provides additional means for them to have gained a positive status and reputation in their town. Thus, each of these elements provide for Leigh Anne power and authority, especially in comparison with that of Oher, who is poor, homeless, and almost entirely unrecognized in his town. Finally, the last way in which Leigh Anne is seen as one of the individuals that actually possesses the power in the film is through the pressures that she puts onto Oher. For example, while Oher appears to have an interest in football, it is Leigh Anne that “encourages” him to continue to pursue that interest, even to the point where she is considered with hesitation regarding the amount of pressure that she is placing onto Oher (Hancock). Furthermore, it is Leigh Anne that places enough pressure on Oher that he is able to succeed in his studies, which, while such pressures are often necessary in high school and though this instance resulted in a positive outcome, are even further examples of the ways in which Leigh Anne is visibly the individual that possesses a massive amount of power within the film. Overall, then, reviewing Hancock’s film shows that one of the ways that audiences can begin to alter their perceptions regarding the powerful individuals within the film may begin with a consideration of Leigh Anne.

Another powerful figure in the text is that of the general college football programs. The college football programs, such as the schools they represent, their reputations, and the opportunities that they present to hopeful players, work to not just establish those programs as powerful figures in general, but to also even further influence the behaviors of other characters within the film. One such way in which this becomes visible is that the ability that college football has to provide opportunities to individuals such as Michael Oher, both in relation to scholarships and as a path towards a professional athletic career, is not only enough to entice Oher to follow his interest in football, but it is also enough to change the behavior of Leigh Anne. For example, Leigh Anne is shown throughout the film to have attempted to influence Oher to choose one specific school over another (Hancock). This type of influence is not necessarily due to the offers that the programs were presenting to Oher, but because of their reputation or even due to the type of following that they develop (both among fans and alumni, which is the case of Leigh Anne). In this way, then, the college football programs can be seen as so powerful that they influence the behaviors of others, potentially even on their behalf. Furthermore, the fact that this power eventually allows Oher to see the benefit in following his interest in football (despite the fact that it may not have been a full passion of Oher’s at the time) additionally suggests the level of power that is present within those college football programs. Thus, overall, college football programs are another clear powerful authority figure within the film, as well as one that has the potential to affect the way that viewers perceive the film.

Having established that the most powerful figures within the film are not the main character of Oher himself, but instead his adoptive mother and those college football programs, it is possible to examine what such conclusions mean for the audiences of the film. Mainly, it becomes important and possible to examine how these evaluations have influenced the ability of the audience to support or empathize with certain characters. More specifically, a question of whether Leigh Anne should be seen as powerful in a positive or negative manner emerges, as well as whether Oher can, as a result, be viewed as a beneficiary or as a victim of the power of Leigh Anne and those college football programs. For example, Leigh Anne might be seen as an individual who, while believing herself to be helpful and genuine, may actually be a character that inherently believes in the power of her status as white and wealthy. As author Erin Ash states, this is often described as the “White Savior Complex,” which is a situation in which white individuals develop an ideology where they begin to feel guilty because of their race, and instead develop a belief that it is their duty as a white person to attempt to influence the outcome of certain situations and exert power that helps those of minority races. In considering this standpoint, it is possible, then, to believe that Oher is not a beneficiary of good grace, but is instead a victim of a woman’s “white guilt” and her attempt to overcome those personal issues. Furthermore, it is also possible to consider how Oher was also the victim of college football programs potentially preying upon a poor, homeless minority, who may have otherwise had few opportunities for successes in his careers. In this way, as well, then, it is also possible to visualize Oher as the victim of another powerful figure against which he had no ability to stand up for himself. Thus, in viewing the film in this manner, it is possible that audiences have altered their perceptions of the authority figures within the film; whether or not they believe that Oher is a victim, the film is likely to force those audience members to question who has the power in the film, who should be supported, and what position within such an inherent argument they should take.

In considering Hancock’s film, The Blind Side, it becomes possible to see that there are questions of what figures hold the majority of the power in the film, as well as how the interpretation of those authority figures may alter the perceptions of the audience members regarding which of the characters and figures should be supported or held in high regard. 

16 December 2021
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