The Blind Side Essay
The Blind Side
“The Blind Side” is the story of Michael Oher, a 17-year old Black American boy who has been living like an orphan since he was young. His father was nowhere, his mother had different kids by different men, and his memories have always been of running away from foster homes. He gets to enroll in a Christian school with the help a friend’s father and the school’s coach who is impressed with his potential in sports.
At school, Michael has a difficult time being the only Black boy in the campus. His face showed only sadness and he rarely smiled. He gets to meet SJ, son of Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy, and they become good friends. One night on their way home, the Touhy family chances upon Michael walking along the road, shivering, with the same clothes he had been wearing the previous day and without any coat or jacket on. Leigh Anne takes pity on Michael and lets him stay at their house that night.
It was Thanksgiving the following day and Leigh Anne asks Michael to spend it with them since she sensed that he had no place to go, to which Michael obliged. Thus began the life of Michael with the Tuohy’s as he becomes an adopted member of their family, a better student and one of the most coveted football players in his time. The story ends with a reminder that there are other Michaels out there who need assistance, but what made the difference was the compassion of people like the Tuohy family, and Michael himself who willingly adapted to change and accepted the new life that was handed to him.
Using Kotter’s model, Step 1 or “Creating Urgency” is seen in the way that Leigh Anne Tuohy saw the need to help the boy who was walking on the road aimlessly. Ms. Tuohy perceived the exigency in the situation because the boy wouldn’t be there if he had somewhere to go, and he wouldn’t be walking at that time without any protection from the cold if he had another option. Although at first, Leigh Anne had some apprehensions because she did not know the boy well enough, she discussed the possibilities she had in mind with her husband before they retired that night. When Ms. Tuohy saw that Michael was not the kind of boy she feared him to be, her desire to help him was intensified, and slowly, she tried to make Michael comfortable in their family. Ms Tuohy saw the need and she initiated the creation of the urgency.
Step 2 or “Forming a powerful coalition” was made possible through the help of all the members of the Tuohy family. Leigh Anne was definitely the one leading the change that took place but she couldn’t have done it without the assistance of her husband and two children. Initially, it was only Leigh Anne who had the soft spot for Michael which she showed by providing him clothes, his own bed – which he never had in his entire life – and reading storybooks to him at bedtime. Collins, who at first seemed to dislike Michael, eventually realizes that the latter is a good person and that she is worth calling a brother. She leaves behind friends who look at Michael with discrimination. Sean was instrumental in making Michael part of the school’s football team. SJ was the one who trained and coached Michael outside of the team’s regular practices. Hence, the Tuohy family worked together as a team in helping Michael, although they too were changed by Michael in some way.
The 3rd and 4th steps are “Create a Vision for Change” and “Communicate the Vision”, respectively. The vision seen by Ms. Tuohy was the potential of Michael to lead a better life than what other boys his age are usually made to lead. Although Leigh Anne did not verbalize her vision to her family, she made sure that Michael felt “at home” in their house which she led by example. The communication of the vision was non-verbal in nature but definitely felt by the family; the loving nature of Ms. Tuohy was seen in the tender touch, affectionate gestures and warm reception that she freely gave to every one of them. Slowly, through Ms. Tuohy’s efforts, Michael was accepted in the family and at their school. Michael also gradually opened up, became more focused on his studies, and became more friendly and cheerful. Although Sean saw that Michael’s features would be advantageous for him if he became a football player, the Tuohy’s still asked him if he really wanted to play. Nothing was forced on Michael and he was left to decide for himself. The vision was not actually to make Michael into the football player that he became but allowing the boy to develop his fullest potential and make him into a better person. The existence of the vision guided everyone to act accordingly and to aim for its accomplishment.
Step 5 is “Removing Obstacles”. Ms. Tuohy was always quick to act on the obstacles she saw which prevented Michael from becoming what she envisioned him to be. While playing football, when she saw that Michael was not playing the game well, she told him that he should protect the team as if it were his family, and immediately, Michael’s game was transformed. When Leigh Anne saw that Michael needed assistance for him to make the grade to qualify for a football scholarship, she hired a tutor to help him, and everyone in the family also worked towards that goal. Another instance was when one of Michael’s teachers was also obstinate in giving him a D when what Michael needed was a B, but with the help of Sean, Michael was able to make a paper which pulled his grade up to pass the subject. The school coach was also able to “remove an obstacle” when in a game against a visitor team, one member of the visitor team kicked Michael on the head while he was down. The coach was furious despite Michael’s non-performance but his “speech” made the difference because he said that he will defend him “as if he were his son”. After that, Michael played better and their team won. With the obstacles removed, Michael became more empowered and challenged to aspire for more goals to tackle.
“Create Short Term Wins” is the 6th step and is depicted in the way Michael enjoyed his success after being instrumental in letting the team win in the football game. Furthermore, Michael’s steadily improving performance at school was also gaining the attention of his teachers because they always somehow labeled Michael as “stupid” or “slow”. To assess if his learning skills were truly his own, they even began to give him oral exams which he did well. The improvements in Michael also made Ms. Tuohy happy with her own accomplishments, thus giving her more reasons to smile and feel good about herself. Achieving the short-term goals enabled Michael to become more confident in himself and thus become more willing to accept new challenges related to the vision.
The 7th step is “Building on the Change” which means improving on what you already have. Michael was allowed to choose which university to go to for college. There were a lot of offers since his football prowess was already well publicized but he chose University of Mississippi. However, upon evaluation, the school investigator makes Michael realize that his choice was somehow manipulated by Leigh Anne because it was her alma mater, among other things. Feeling cheated, Michael leaves the Tuohys and gets into a fight with some of his old friends at the ‘projects’. He calls Leigh Anne who was already looking for him, they talk and she tells him that the final choice for his college school was really up to him. He pursued his original plan and told the investigator that he chose Mississippi because it was where all his family attended school and he got the scholarship. So where is the change here? Michael was changed with the upbringing he received from his new foster family that’s why he did not want to fight his old friends but he was forced to anyway. Still, upon returning to that place, he realized that he did not want to go back to that kind of life hence his call and reunion with Leigh Anne. Ms. Tuohy on the other hand was also guilty of somehow manipulating Michael’s choice of school but in the end she also realizes her mistake and lets Michael make the final choice. Both of them experienced change and tried to make improvements based on that change, which was still related to the vision made at the outset.
Step 8 is “Anchor the Changes” or making the change part of one’s core values. It implies living the changes and making them an integral part of the person, team or organization. That’s why when Ms. Tuohy was sending Michael off to college, before leaving him, she had to tell him a handful of reminders so that he won’t forget the achievements they have made especially in his academics so that all their efforts won’t just go to waste. It was just fortunate for Michael that he had a foster mother with such a big heart, and she even allowed him to have his tutor with him in the university, and their own private cubicle for their lessons. In this manner, Michael will give more priority for his studies hand-in-hand with his sports activities in the university, all of which are essential to maintaining his football scholarship.
In this movie, the most important change happened with Michael, but there are also other sub-plots dealing with change which took place like Leigh Anne telling her friends off for mocking Michael, Collins’ changing perception about her foster brother, Michael’s mom and her wanton disregard for her son, etc. Most of the changes worked positively or favorably for Michael which were all parallel with the vision which Ms. Tuohy initiated.
The learning experience from this film is essential because is speaks of hope and the possibility of rising above seemingly impossible situations. The film also upholds the importance of the family and the transforming power of love. It also shows that trust and the willingness to change will make anything and everything achievable as long as everyone is willing to work towards the same goal.
Johnson, B., Kosove, A., & Netter, G. and Hancock, J.L. 2009. The Blind Side. United States: Alcon Entertainment.