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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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John Lee Hancock responds to right wing attacks on 'The Blind Side'

It used to be the liberals who loved to play the victim. But now it's conservatives who just can't enough of that warm and cuddly feeling of being an oppressed minority. What else could possibly explain the sudden spurt of right wing attacks on "The Blind Side," John Lee Hancock's wonderful new family drama that stars Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy, a God-fearing Memphis go-getter who becomes a surrogate mother to a homeless African American teenager who ends up being a star football player.

The-blind-side-poster The movie is a big hit, having been immediately embraced by audiences everywhere, especially in red-state America. (The film got an A-plus audience rating from CinemaScore, one of only two films this year to score that high.)

But conservative bloggers who either didn't bother to see the movie or decided to deliberately ignore the fact that the film offers a totally positive portrayal of a white Southern evangelical Christian Republican family, have attacked the movie for one small joke made at the expense of George W. Bush, whose photograph, on the wall of a government office, is played for a laugh (For those who haven't seen the movie, here's the gag: frustrated by the glacial response from a dead-eyed government bureaucrat, Leigh Anne demands to know who is in charge. The civil servant points to a framed photo of a smiling George W.)

Big Hollywood's John Nolte, for example, used the joke as a launching pad for a furious attack on leftist Hollywood, calling it "the single most intolerant industry in America today" and an industry "engaged in an ideological war with traditional conservative America." 

But how could Hollywood be such a snake pit of lefty lock-step America hating if it allowed a filmmaker to make a mainstream studio picture that painted such a warm, affirmative portrait of an evangelical Christian family? Nolte proposes the wildly paranoid theory that even if you are a conservative working in Hollywood, you have to placate the Bush-hating liberals by taking shots at conservatives in your movies. Or as he put it: "You had better inoculate yourself. And that's what the gratuitous, unnecessary, jarring, take-you-out-of-the-movie shot at Bush is: an inoculation. The filmmakers want to work again, they want to be invited to all the right parties....They all knew they were insulting the very audience the film was marketed at for no reason other than to insult them. But there was absolutely no way in hell this thing was going to see the light of day without something for the Hollywood bigots to snicker over."

Is that really what happened? Was it really possible that John Lee Hancock, whose last film was a stirring tribute to the men who fought at the Alamo, is an American-hating lefty or a squishy conservative willing to betray his cause with a Bush-bashing joke? I asked Hancock if he could explain why he put the joke in the film. His response is especially telling, since it reminds us that movies are made by real human beings, not ideological robots, who have the same flaws and sensitivities as the rest of us. Here's what Hancock had to say:

"This wasn't in the book. It was something I witnessed several years ago in a post office. It was not intended to represent Leigh Anne Tuohy's feelings about Bush (she's a conservative Republican) but rather the civil servant's. Given Leigh Anne's dress and demeanor I figured the civil servant would be knocking down Leigh Anne a notch by taking a slap at Bush. I always thought of it as a smile, not a laugh. After completing the movie and playing it for an audience I realized it was, for some, more of a laugh, and a cheap one to boot. I do regret not coming up with something more clever. But it wouldn't be a movie of mine if I didn't somehow figure out a way to piss off both conservatives and liberals."


Comments () | Archives (16)

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Very cool that you had the chance to talk to the director about this scene. The moment had no effect on my thoughts of the film (warm, too fuzzy, powerful in sports but way too broadly played).

But the bigger question is why? Why keep in a scene that's alienating and not funny, especially since this kind of film is made precisely to appeal to as large an audience as possible? That would be my ultimate question to him ...

But some conservatives are simply exhausted at being mocked/made fun of/taunted by movies these days. So while this particular moment is no big shakes, there is a cumulative effect at work.

Two more quick thoughts ... the right wing isn't attacking this film en masse. I've heard several right wing talkers (Hugh Hewitt and one or two others) who have been praising the movie to the hilt.

Also, the film doesn't really play up the family's religion or GOP bona fides. I have no problem with that ... but it's hardly a 2 hour advert for conservatives. It's one of the very few elements in the movie that is subtle.

So, you read one column mentioning this jab at Bush and there's an outrage amongst all conservatives? Last time I checked stereotyping is very uncool.

"But conservative bloggers who either didn't bother to see the movie or decided to deliberately ignore the fact...."

Oh no, conservative bloggers doing exactly what "liberal" bloggers like yourself do daily...Oh my.....the shame of it all.

Am I really only the 5th comment?

Just saw the movie today and loved it. Am doing research for a blog post on the decorating and came upon this page. As a moderate Republican (although not of the Southern, Evangelical gun toting variety), I found this joke jarring and ultimately forgettable. It was the kind of cheap shot at Bush that is so common, not creative and quite boring that permeates the creative classes - of which I am part. But, I do appreciate the director saying he regretted not coming up with something more clever. I also appreciated the portrayal of the main family as sympathetic and kind, and the portrayal of Michael Oher's real mother as also being sympathetic and understanding. She came off not as some drugged out loser, but a woman who lost in life, but managed to give her son the gift of the "blind side" - being able to look past what was past and move on without hatred. So, if certain right wingers are blasting the movie for this one brief moment... well then, they are idiots.

I did not take the Bush reference as a slam to him...but to bureaucracy of the government itself. Too much government leads to stale workers and inefficiency no matter who is in charge. The movie was great.

I don't completely understand politics, but I do understand that there are a lot of Americans of all colors and cultures who are trying to help each other. This is a really great movie about some real people who went way outside the box to help someone they barely knew, and in the process helped themselves grow spiritually. It is also about a real man who grew up in an impossible environment and dropped like a piano out of the sky into the world of a nurturing, loving family. References in the movie to either political figures or political parties is there just to lighten the moment in a movie where some very heavy emotional issues are present. Why is no one making a big deal out of the UT - Ole Miss rivalry? That is one of the thickest peripheral issues dramatized in The Blind Side. Go see it. Take some tissue.

1 blog does not a conservative movement against this film make. & that Bush joke was wierd and did not feel like part of the REAL STORY. And this was a film about a REAL STORY. So the director even admits he added it in.

I just hope Hollywood doesnt take on the mantra of Christian Lite or Hollywood version of Christianity and lets actual Christians make films about Christians who have affected the Great Experiment called America. Like John Adams, Benjanmin Franklin, George Washing, Martin Luther King, ya know... Christians...

This is the biggest tempest in a teapot that i've seen in a long time. Seriously? A right wing attack against the movie? Where?! One person makes a comment about the DMV scene with George W. as governor, and you sense a growing tide of conservative backlash ... c'mon, people. Can the left ever report a true fact as a fact?

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