The Blind Side

by Michael Lewis

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How do the book and film versions of The Blind Side differ? How do functionalist theory, hegemonic theory, and critical race theory explain race and class in the context of Michael Oher and sport?

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I am happy to help you with your essay by examining differences between the book and movie and considering why these changes might have been made.

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game is a 2006 book by Michael Lewis. There are two aspects to the book. Lewis examines a history of American football and the increasing importance of the left tackle. Given that most quarterbacks are right-handed, when they turn to throw, there is a blind spot that the left tackle must protect. This is where the title comes from. Lewis explores how the left tackle has become the second-highest-paid position on a football team. Lewis provides Michael Oher as an example of a left tackle (for the Ole Miss football team), and thus the second aspect of the book is the story of Michael.

The 2009 movie forgoes the history Lewis reviews and focuses only on Michael's impoverished upbringing and adoption by the Tuohy family. It is typical for movie adaptations to cut out parts of books, and I believe the film leaves out the historical half of Lewis's writing in order to focus on the narrative and tell Michael's story.

There are other changes in the movie as well. In the book, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy both help Michael, and Sean is the one who "first spotted Michael Oher sitting in the stands in the Briarcrest gym." However, the movie shows Leigh Anne as the main character and Michael's biggest supporter. Perhaps this change was made to feature the talents of lead actress Sandra Bullock. Perhaps it was easier to focus on Michael's relationship with one of the Tuohys instead of both of them. We can also consider why this change was made by thinking about what effect it has. What is the effect of watching the movie and seeing Leigh Anne stand up for Michael? Does it make you feel a certain way or make you think of certain things?

In the movie, Kathy Bates plays Michael's tutor. Miss Sue helps Michael get his grades up to a 2.5 GPA in order to qualify for NCAA schools. In the book, we read that the required GPA is actually 2.65, and Michael achieves this by taking short online classes that are easy for him to earn A's in. Again, this movie choice provides a stand-out role for a well-regarded actress. Furthermore, it is simpler to say 2.5 instead of 2.65. Why do you think the movie might have left out the online courses? Do you think it was easier for them to show tutoring sessions instead of Michael sitting at his computer? Do you think it is more enjoyable to watch the one-on-one tutoring? What do you think of Miss Sue's character?

The movie begins with the NCAA investigator interviewing Michael in an office. In the book, Lewis says the interview happened at home with Sean at Michael's side. The movie choice, while inaccurate, perhaps creates a more dramatic atmosphere. By choosing to open with this scene and then flashing back, the audience might be hooked in more. How did you feel when you first watched the first scene? Do you think the interview would have the same effect onscreen if it was at home? Does having a guardian present lower the stakes of the interview?

Hopefully this helps you think about why changes were made from book to film! Here are some questions to help you think about race and class: How did the wealth of the Tuohys allow them to help Michael? Why did the Tuohys take Michael in? How did Michael's race affect the way others treated him? Are there differences in the treatment of white athletes and black athletes?

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