“The Blind Side” has been waylaid with controversy more than a decade after the 2009 blockbuster movie’s release.
On Monday, Michael Oher, the one-time NFL player whose story was dramatized in “The Blind Side,” asked a Tennessee court to end his legal relationship with the Tuohy family, who took him into their home as he navigated the foster care system and went on to become a football star and pro player. Oher, 37, claimed he recently learned he had never been adopted by the Tuohy family as portrayed in the film.
He also said he had been tricked into signing an agreement to make the couple his conservators, giving them authority to make his business decisions and allowing the family to profit from his life story with “The Blind Side,” which earned $309 million at the box office.
Here are some of the burning questions around “The Blind Side,” which won Sandra Bullock a best actress Oscar for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy and co-starred Tim McGraw as her husband Sean and Quinton Aaron as Oher.
‘The Blind Side’ controversy:Michael Oher is suing the Tuohy family. Many know the pain of family wounds.
Is ‘The Blind Side’ a true story?
The film is a dramatized, Hollywood account of “Moneyball” author Michael Lewis’ 2006 book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game,” written while Oher was playing college football at the University of Mississippi. The book also used Oher’s true personal story to highlight the left tackle position, which protects the “blind side” of predominantly right-handed quarterbacks from pass rushers. Hence the title.
Even understanding the movie’s liberties in storytelling, Oher called out “The Blind Side” prior to the lawsuit. In his 2011 memoir written with author Don Yaeger, “I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to ‘The Blind Side,’ and Beyond,” Oher wrote that he had problems with how the movie “portrayed me.”
“I felt like (the film) portrayed me as dumb instead of as a kid who had never had consistent academic instruction and ended up thriving once he got it,” Oher wrote.
Oher also took issue with the focus on the Tuohy family.
” ‘ The Blind Side’ is about how one family helped me reach my fullest potential, but what about the people and experiences that all added up to putting me in their path? As anyone in my family will tell you, they were just part of a complicated series of events and personalities that helped me achieve success,” he wrote. “They were a huge part of it, but it was a journey I’d started a long time before.”
Who has made money off ‘The Blind Side’ movie?
According to Oher’s petition, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy negotiated a movie deal that gave them and their two biological children $225,000 each and 2.5% of the film’s net proceeds.
In 2007, Oher signed a contract with 20th Century Fox, which unbeknownst to Oher gave away his story rights “without any payment whatsoever,” the petition alleges.
“Michael received nothing,” Oher’s petition states for a “story that would not have existed without him.”
Sean Touhy disputed Oher’s account, telling the Daily Memphian newspaper, “We didn’t make any money off the movie,” adding that Lewis “gave us half of his share” of the money the author received for the film.
“Everybody in the family got an equal share, including Michael. It was about $14,000 each,” said Touhy.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Lewis said no one involved in the story saw millions, despite the movie’s success.
“Everybody should be mad at the Hollywood studio system,” Lewis said. “Michael Oher should join the writers strike. It’s outrageous how Hollywood accounting works, but the money is not in the Tuohys’ pockets.”
Lewis said that ultimately, he and the Tuohy family received around $350,000 each in movie profits.
Could Sandra Bullock lose her Oscar over the ‘Blind Side’ controversy?
As the news of the lawsuit unfolded, calls emerged on social media for Bullock to return her 2010 best actress Oscar, which Aaron addressed during an interview with TMZ.
“To make a statement like that doesn’t make any sense,” Aaron said. “Sandra Bullock didn’t have anything to do with the real story.
“We’re all just finding out about this situation, which is heartbreaking,” Aaron tells USA TODAY. “I just feel like the people saying that are Internet trolls trying to add fuel to the fire and take away her Oscar.”
There is little chance of Bullock returning her Oscar, or of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seeking to take the the award back.
“Nothing’s going to happen,” says Joyce Eng, senior editor of awards website Gold Derby. “This is just typical Twitter outrage − and misguided outrage at that. (Bullock) is not involved in this.”
Where can you watch ‘The Blind Side’?
“The Blind Side,” which also was nominated for best picture, is available for rental or purchase on such platforms as Amazon, Apple TV and Vudu.
Should you watch ‘The Blind Side’?
The feel-good film, which has 66% positive reviews on aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, has been the subject of controversy since its release. Critics decried the film for perpetuating the “white savior” trope.
“The film is very problematic the way it celebrates this white family, and specifically this white woman, with such negative stereotypes of Black people,” says Erica Chito-Childs, a professor of sociology at Hunter College and The CUNY Graduate Center, a researcher of issues of race, gender and sexuality.
If people watch the drama again, Childs believes it should be for educational reasons.
“Go back now and watch that film and see it through a new lens and think more critically about these issues.” Childs says.
Aaron says “The Blind Side” should be watched again for its overarching message of hope, no matter who is right in the current legal conflict.
“Over the years, I’ve heard from so many people who say they were affected in a positive way by ‘The Blind Side,’ ” says Aaron. “There is so much positivity that came from that film. It has a legacy that will live on for generations to come.”