Long before a new legal fight that pits the subject of the book and movie The Blind Side against the family he once lived with, critics complained that it was a problematic, perhaps even racist, white-savior narrative that simplified the relationships between Black and white people to create a feel-good tearjerker.
But that may be far from where the story's problems end. This week, Michael Oher, the football player whose story formed the basis of the Michael Lewis book The Blind Side and the subsequent Sandra Bullock movie, took to court to dispute what many people have accepted as the truth about his story.
Oher says the couple that took him in, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, never legally adopted him and instead put him into a conservatorship (the type of arrangement that Britney Spears' family had her under) after he turned 18. He alleges that the family denied him any of the money they made from the $300-million-grossing film and that the pop culture portrayal of him as unintelligent affected his NFL career (incidentally, he made about $34 million as an NFL player).
The family shot back soon after, saying they didn't make money from the film, only from proceeds Lewis shared on the sale of the book (about $14,000 for each family member, including Oher) and that the conservatorship was required if Oher wanted to play at the University of Mississippi, which Sean Tuohy says he told Oher at the time.
But whether Oher needs the money or not and whether what the white couple did at the time can be justified, the whole situation adds a new wrinkle to the perception of a film that has not aged well along racial lines. White-savior movies have fallen out of vogue, but this one in particular always felt like a story that was too good (for whites) to be true. In fact, as news of Oher's suit made the rounds, many sports journalists I follow said they either weren't surprised or had always had suspicions about how the story came to be.
The lesson is abundantly clear: Beware of Hollywood endings based on real-life events.