John Lee Hancock's film entitled "The Blind Side" describes the struggle of a Black man to become part of the White society. Michael Oher, the main character in the story shows the audience how a black man experiences mistreatment and discrimination from his white community which is the common trend of American mainstream. However, the film also wants to deconstruct the traditional perceptions towards White Americans through the Tuohy family. In this movie, the director shows how White Americans like the Tuohy family accept Michael for who he is and what he wants to be. The Tuohys become Michael's enduring power, armor, and salvation as he faces his new path of transformation, social acceptance, and immersion. From this sense, it can be perceived that Hancock's film depicts the notion of popular culture as it emphasizes the different issues of the society such as race, racism, cultural differences, cultural interaction, and other ideas about culture and society.
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The film's goal is to show how Michael is being accepted in a social norm through his new found family. For many years, Michael has lived with different foster families, but ends up leaving them. He feels that he does not fit because of the different family situations, status, and lifestyle. However, Michael is not just a common individual, he has a unique character that leads him to popularity. In the beginning of his life with the Tuohys, he detaches himself from them. This is primarily because of the fact that he is a Black American while the Tuohys are White. Throughout the discussion of Michael's life, the film is presented with minimal flashbacks-only if there is a need, such as the depiction of Michael's mother and other important details that help establish the main character's personality. The film tries to express the situation that happens when a Black American becomes part of a White American family. The conflict of the story is, "Will Michael fit into his new found home?"
Having an extreme difference in terms of race, lifestyle, social background, and social status, the two races are combined together under one roof to describe the possible repulsion that might occur as well as the attraction that can happen between them. However, it is not only this internal repulsion or attraction that is presented as a conflict of the film, but also the people within the Tuohy's social surroundings. Since Leigh Anne and Sean are influential individuals because of their profession, people around them think that adopting Michael taints their good reputation. This is one of the major struggles of the Tuohy family along with Michael, but they stand up against their foes and prove to these people that Michael is more civilized than those who continue to criticize him.
The concept of popular culture emerges in this film in three distinct themes: racism within the football team, the lifestyle of the socialites, and when an upcoming superstar is "made," people keep an eye on this individual. According to John Storey (2009), "'race' and racism are not natural or inevitable phenomena; they have a history and are a result of human actions and interactions" (pg. 168). Logically, racism occurs in television, radio, movies, and other types of media. Most of the time, these industries use racism as a form of stereotyping. That is why common people utilize these ideals, they think that it is accepted in the society. This is what happened to Michael. He faces discrimination inside his own classroom. Even his teacher demonstrates the differences of how a White teacher interacts with a Black student like him. It is a form of stereotype that the media continues to express towards its audience.
Another example of popular culture that exists in this film is the lifestyle of the socialites. For example, Leigh Anne's lifestyle is totally extravagant. She can wear any clothes she wants. She can eat at any restaurant because she can afford it. This is a form of popular culture because it is how a rich woman is perceived in television or movies. Her lifestyle is similar with Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City. They are both perceived as extravagant women who can achieve everything they want-because they have money. Both characters share the same culture. Storey (2009) explains that "the 'social' definition of culture- culture as a particular way of life, culture as expression of a particular way of life, and cultural analysis as a method of reconstituting a particular way of life" helps us to establish an understanding of the shared values of a group or class of people (p. 45). This is a common depiction of a rich woman in every movie. A rich woman is not perceived as a sad and unhappy individual when it comes to her personal satisfaction. She is described as a flawless and sophisticated character that has special powers when it comes to her personal needs and luxuries.
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Marked to Standard
The last example of popular culture in this film is when Michael begins his football career. When the football coach, Burt Cotton sees Michael's potential, he accepts the main character as a student of Wingate Christian School. This is also the beginning of Michael's popularity. People, even the coaches and owners of different universities, want Michael to become part of their school. That is why despite Michael's academic records and race, they are interested in him. This scenario is common in American culture and it is common in Western culture to portray such situations in television and movies. People begin to keep their eyes on Michael's actions and achievements because he becomes popular and he soon becomes part of their lifestyle.
When Michael becomes popular, people suddenly start to observe and scrutinize his actions. Michael needs to prove that he is worthy to become a student of Ole Miss. Everyone starts to take an interest in his academic transformation because he needs to have a 2.50 GPA to be able to get the NCAA Division I scholarship. Some people are trying to scrutinize him, like the interviewer of Ole Miss. This interview is done to prove that his decision to attend Ole Miss is based on his personal judgments and ideologies and not by the Tuohys simply because they are alumni and members of the boosters for the university. It only proves that because of his popularity, he experiences scrutiny and sometimes immoral judgment from other people-which is part of society.
Culture plays an important role in establishing the character of a person. People have different culture, but through cultural relativism, they become connected. According to Storey (2009), cultural relativism is "the acceptance and appreciation of cultures or ways of living different from your own; not judging a culture but trying to understand it on its own terms." The Tuohys accept and appreciate Michael's culture-despite the fact that his social and family background seems unacceptable because it contains negativities. As these individuals share their thoughts and identities, they become related to one another-and soon become part of each other's lives.
There are a set of laws in the society that people can not change. This is called norm or "the rules of society based on their values; standards of behavior governing specific social situations that are established by society's values" (Storey, 2009). The Tuohy's society or community has specific sets of moral values. They believe that Black Americans are unacceptable within their community or surroundings because they are the root of negativities. This is also an example of high culture being looked at as a superior culture. The Tuohys do not change this norm, but they create their own values by accepting Michael and believe in him and his capabilities as a person.
A person's ideology makes the culture more sophisticated. According to Storey (2009), "Ideology differs from culture, in that it adds a political dimension to the discussion on culture. It suggests that relations of power and politics shape the cultural and ideological landscape." The Tuohys' ideology is different from the standard culture of the society, but because they are part of their community, they have to express their ideology. It is hard in the beginning to show their different point of view, but they win the battle against their foes because Michael shows that he is different from the stereotypic character of a Black American.