In honor of the upcoming Oscar bash, let me jump in here with another post on the mainstream media coverage of the religious element in "The Blind Side." In a way, I am making yet another attempt to praise the insightful and nuanced coverage that the film has been given in the Los Angeles Times, among other places. Of course, I took a shot at the topic early on, writing a column about the film for Scripps Howard News Service.
The basic idea, once again, is that Hollywood wasn't scared of this movie because of its respectful portrayal of a conservative, white, evangelical family (although Sandra Bullock has said that freaked her out a bit, at first). After all, this isn't a "Christian movie." It's a movie, by a mainstream Hollywood director who happens to be a Christian, about a Christian family trying to live out its faith.
Now, the subtle issue connected with the film is that, in an age of niche audiences, The Blind Side was a movie that was meant to appeal to all kinds of people -- black and white, male and female, football fans and people who carry tissues to theaters and expect to use them. And then there was the appeal to people in pews.
But it was clear that the movie did freak out some people, although fewer of them put their acidic thoughts into newsprint than I expected.
Then a GetReligion reader send me the following link from the other side of the Atlantic. Holy paranoia! This was the real deal and, if even half of this was voiced inside corner offices in lofty places in mass-media land, it's amazing the movie got made at all.
This is from the Sunday Times and, after reading this headline, you just know you are in for a hathotic treat:
Sarah Palin takes on Hollywood
Fans of the politician are flocking to Sandra Bullock's homespun film The Blind Side, and it's heading for Oscar success
Ready to read the opening of this news essay?
If there's anything Hollywood appreciates less, or fears more, than the inexorable rise of Sarah Palin, it's the success of the movie The Blind Side. Heading into the Oscars, Avatar may be the techno-wow box-office behemoth, The Hurt Locker the critically acclaimed scrapper, but it's The Blind Side that has truly blindsided the film industry. To the head-scratching consternation of West Coast movie execs, God-fearing "red state" Americans in their millions have been storming cinemas to see it. The film cost just $35m, has taken nearly $250m since the end of November and is a shock smash hit.
Based on a true story, The Blind Side stars Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy, a wealthy supermom who saves a homeless black teenager from a life of almost certain crime and crack, turning him into a star American-football player. She does it with the ramrod power of her Christian faith, taking him into her prayerful family. There, she stuffs him with copious amounts of fast food -- her husband, Sean, played by the country singer Tim McGraw, owns a number of Taco Bell franchises -- and outsize servings of the American Dream. And just as Julia Roberts sported a push-up bra for added sexual frisson in Erin Brockovich, Bullock's bum-hugging pencil skirts and hunky husband hint that prayer may not be the only reason she gets on her knees.
Yes, you read that right.
Ready for some more political insights about this movie? Hang on. George W. Bush has a starring role in this horror story. And some terrified movie executives have decided that it's good to make risk-averse and make movies lots of people want to see.
Some fans even attribute the unlikely success of The Blind Side to the miraculous power of faith. After being rejected by two big studios, which were scared off by its badge-wearing proselytizing, The Blind Side was eventually financed by a company backed by Fred Smith, the owner of FedEx -- a Republican, a college friend of George W. Bush and a supporter of John McCain's presidential bid.
So, what's really going on here? Flummoxed film executives and hapless agents are doing their damnedest not to look too terrified at what it all portends. Where companies such as Miramax once offered moviegoers challenging alternative fare, Hollywood -- ravaged by a drastic fall in DVD revenues and the almost complete collapse of the independent distribution business -- is becoming increasingly conservative and risk-averse. Could the success of The Blind Side, they whisper, be the ultimate trumpet blast at the precarious walls of their Californian Jericho? Mrs. Palin Comes to Hollywood? "The Blind Side isn't alienating because it's a movie about an insulated conservative family -- it's alienating because it so tediously chirps their Bush-era conservative values," one reviewer snipped, echoing the feelings of many Hollywood insiders.
Pop some popcorn and read it all.
One more thing: Could someone who has seen the movie offer a specific example of a scene in which there is "proselytizing" on behalf of conservative Christianity, as in a scene that attempts to evangelize people in the audience who are part of another faith group? I'm actually curious about that line in this masterwork.
Photo: The real Michael Oher and his extended family, during his days at Ole Miss.