Some reviewers have discussed The Blind Side in terms of a 'sports movie' (theblurb.com.au), an 'Oscar movie' or 'race-relations movie' (abc.net.au/atthemovies), or a 'female-as-lead-actor movie' (taragana.com). This article is not a general overview and evaluation of the film and I will not be focusing on how the film sizes up to a conceptual model. This is an article about four scenes from the film. I will examine closely what is seen and heard and intersperse my own commentary throughout. I have put the scenes under the headings opening, midpoint, end of act two and climax to indicate their place in the plot. These are just general indications, broadly consistent with a range of common ways of describing plots, such as Syd Field's approach or Blake Snyder's approach (blakesnyder.com). The midpoint could easily be considered the scene following the one I have included, the end of act two could easily be considered either of two scenes following the one I have included, and the climax could easily be considered the scene before the one I have included; or each could be considered to involve several scenes together. I have deliberately not covered the full length of the film because I want to emphasise the 'micro aspects' of the film - not attribute a 'macro structure' for people to take away and treat as "the structure of the film."
Below is the trailer for The Blind Side:
The Blind Side starts with a blank (black) screen. A voice over begins:
“There’s a moment of orderly silence before a football play begins.”
Visuals come up - television coverage of football players on the field preparing for a play, as the voiceover continues.
The moment of ‘visual silence’ provided by the blank screen resonates with the moment of orderly silence described in the voiceover and the visuals onscreen.
“The players are in position. Linemen are frozen. And anything is possible.”
The ref blows the whistle.
“Then, like a traffic accident, stuff begins to randomly collide. From the snap of the ball to the snap of the first bone is closer to four seconds than five.”
This conveys that football can be a tough and dangerous game.
The play starts and the players are piled on the ground in seconds. The visuals rewind, with an accompanying rewind-whirl sound.
The play begins again, this time pausing a number of times for commentary to be provided.
“One Mississippi. Joe Theismann, the Redskins quarterback, takes a snap and hands off to his running back.”
“Two Mississippi. It’s a trick play. A flea flicker. Running back tosses the ball back to the quarterback.”
“Three Mississippi. Up to now, the play’s been defined by what the quarterback sees. It’s about to be defined by what he doesn’t.”
“Four Mississippi. March Taylor is the best defensive player in the NFL, and has been since he stepped onto the field as a rookie. He will also change the game of football as we know it.”
If you play the game skillfully, you can out-manouver opposition to your goals.
Joe Theissman gets taken down by a tackle from behind.
But it can be difficult to do it on your own without someone having your back.
“Joe Theissman will never play another game of football. Now, y’all ‘d guess that the highest paid player on an NFL team would be the quarterback, and you’d be right. But what you probably don’t know is that more often than not the second highest paid player, thanks to March Taylor is the left tackle. Because, as every housewife knows, the first checque you write is for the mortgage but the second is for the insurance. And the left tackle’s job is to protect the quarterback from what he can’t see coming; to protect his blind side.”
This sets up a major theme of the film, in which the game of football is a metaphor for ‘the game of life.’ The mood set up by this beginning is one of striving to overcome obstacles and working together to give people the chance to reach their potential.
Like a left tackle, Leigh Anne is tough and, by watching Michael’s back and allowing him to become part of her family, she and her family stop Michael from being taken out of the game of life by falling victim to the dangers of his environment. Reciprocally, Michael does the same for Leigh Anne by protecting her, to an extent, from the dangers she poses to her own happiness and full engagement in life.
Around the midpoint of the film, Michael proves himself to be an unusually good football player. What follows below is from the scene in which Michael proves his ability.
A player kicks Michael's helmeted head, while he lays on the ground after a play, and says "You black piece of crap."
Sean replies, "Ref! Are you gonna do something about this? He just kicked my boy in the head. And he cussed him."
The ref throws a yellow cloth in the air (indicating a penalty).
The ref calls the penalty as unsportsman-like conduct against Sean, to which he replies,"This young man plays for my team! My team! And I will defend him like he's my own son, against you or any other redneck son of a bitch!"
Midway through his last sentence, Michael restrains him from physically confronting the ref.
Michael says, "Don't worry coach. I got your back." He takes the yellow cloth, hands it politely to the ref and heads to center-field for the next play.
This indicates that Sean considers Michael to be on his team; in football and in life. Sean accepts him and tries to protect him in a way that his own parents had not. In return, Michael protects Sean from getting himself into trouble. Michael realises that it's not about whether the football game, or life, is fair. It's how you play the game, and live life, considering the situation you're faced with.
END OF ACT TWO
In order to get a football scholarship Michael has to achieve a certain academic grade, but he needs a good mark on a specific final essay to do that. He has a tutor, Miss Sue, who has been helping him with his studies.
Miss Sue says, "Why don't you write about Great Expectations? You're a lot like Pip! I mean, he was poor, he was an orphan and someone kind of found him. You should be able to relate to that."
Michael shrugs, uninterested.
Michael is not interested in a take on his life which tries to categorise him as a person into a pre-conceived character-type living out a pre-conceived story-type.
Miss Sue tells him that he has to pick one of the stories on the list to analyse for his final essay, and begins reading out titles. Sean calls from the couch in the adjoining room about Charge of the Light Brigade, which he says he loves. Feeling her authority to be challenged, Miss Sue asks rhetorically if Sean would like to do her job. Sean gives it a shot.
"All in the valley of death rode the 600. They named LSU stadium Death Valley because of this story. Alfred Lord Tennyson was writing about LSU Ole Miss (a football team)."
"You're kidding," Michael replies.
"No. It's a great story."
Miss Sue interjects, annoyed: "It's a poem!"
Miss Sue tries to undermine Sean's discussion of the poem's story by attempting to assert her expertise.
He continues, "Forward the light brigade. It's like the offense. Charge for the guns he said. It's the end zone. Into the valley of death rode the 600. Forward the light brigade. Was there a man dismayed? Not - though the soldiers knew someone had blundered."
"Someone made a mistake?"
"Yep. Their leader. Their coach."
"But why would they go ahead if they knew he messed up?"
"There's not to make reply. There's not to reason why. There's but to do and die. To the valley of death rode the 600."
Michael contemplates this for a moment.
"They're all gonna die, aren't they?"
"That's really, really sad."
"I think you just found something to write about Michael."
Sean continues, undeterred by Miss Sue's comment, and has Michael's interest. Michael realises that it is not always wise to follow an authority figure. An unthinking deferral of a person's own judgment to another person because of their position can lead to bad results.
Leigh Anne's cell phone rings.
Leigh Anne pulls up at the laundromat in her car. Michael is sitting inside. He looks at her through the window. She looks back.
This is the kind of look a mother gives her son. The kind of look that says 'You've gotten into trouble but I'm glad you're safe.'
"You think the police are gonna come and get me?"
"I'd imagine the last thing they'd want in Herd Village is a bunch of cops snooping around. I swore I would never ask this, but how did you get out of there Michael?"
This gains its meaning in the context of previous scenes in which we see Michael's old neighbourhood and some of the people who live and hang out there.
"When I was little and something awful was happening my mama would tell me to close my eyes. She was trying to keep me from seeing her do drugs or other bad things. And when she was finished all the bad things were over she'd say "Now when I count to three you open your eyes. The past is gone. The world is a good place. And it's all gonna be okay."
"You closed your eyes" (sighs) "You know when I was driving all over Kingdom come looking for you I kept thinking about one thing. Ferdinand the Bull."
Ferdinand the Bull is a story about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in a bullfighting stadium, regardless of attempts to provoke him. Michael listened to Leigh Anne read the story to her son SJ in an earlier scene, enjoying an experience that he did not get from his own mother. Leigh Anne's dialogue alludes to both her commitment to Michael, who she treats as being like her own son, and her confidence that Michael would not set out to start trouble or be easily pressured into it.
"I know I should have asked you this a long time ago Michael. But do you even want to play football? I mean, do you even like it?"
"I'm pretty good at it."
"Yeah you are. Sean and I have been talking and, Michael, if you're gonna accept a football scholarship, we think it should be from Tennessee. And I promise that I will be at every game, cheering for you."
"But I will not wear that gaudy orange. I will not. It is not in my colour wheel and I am not gonna wear it."
Leigh Anne considers that, although she and Sean have helped Michael out, they may have also exerted unitended pressure on him to do what they wanted him to do. She realises that it is not enough for someone to have choices presented to them, but that they must also have a choice about determining what choices they have. It's not a matter of whether he wants to play football for one University or another but also about whether he wants to play at all.
"So you want me to go to Tennessee?"
"I want you to do whatever you want. It is your decision Michael. It's your life."
"What if I wanted to flip burgers?"
She looks up as if to say 'God give me strength.'
"It's your decision Michael. It's your life."
Regardless of what Leigh Anne thinks would be best for Michael, she confirms that she thinks Michael should make his own choices.
I'll leave you with Michael's words from the film:
"Courage is a hard thing to figure. You can have courage based on a dumb idea or a mistake but you're not supposed to question adults, or your coach, or your teacher, because they make the rules. Maybe they know best. But maybe they don't. It all depends on who you are; where you come from. [...] That's why courage is tricky. Should you always do what others tell you to do? Sometimes you might not even know why you're doing something. I mean, any fool can have courage. But honour, that's the real reason you either do something or you don't. It's who you are and maybe who you want to be. If you die trying for something important then you have both honour and courage. And that's pretty good. I think that's what the writer was saying; that you should hope for courage and try for honour. And maybe even pray that the people telling you what to do have some too."